Tuesday 13 February 2018

Book Review: The Atom Station by Halldór Laxness

Title: The Atom Station
Author: Halldór Laxness
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 2014 (1948)
Pages: 180
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Bought Copy

When the Americans make an offer to buy Icelandic land to build an atomic war base, a storm of protest is provoked throughout the country and it is here that Laxness finds the catalyst for his story. Told by a country girl from the north, the novel follows her experiences upon taking up employment as a maid in the house of her Member of Parliament. She finds herself in a world very different to that of her upbringing and, marvelling at the customs and behaviour of the people around her, she emerges as the one obstinate reality in a world of fantasy. Her observations and experiences expose the intellectual society of the south as rootless and shallow and in stark contrast to the ancient culture of the solid and less fanciful north. The colourful, yet at times dark, cast of characters whom she meets personify the southern fantasy world. In this black comedy, Laxness has painted a masterpiece of social commentary as relevant today as when it was first written in 1948. (Goodreads Synopsis)

I am a huge fan of Halldór Laxness, and The Atom Station doesn't disappoint. Once more, drama blends effortlessly with wry humour, and the story and its characters held my interest from start to finish. You get the impression that Laxness has a deep understanding of human nature. All his characters are always so vibrant and individual. Meanwhile, he offers an intimate, nuanced portrayal of Iceland as a place, this time concentrating primarily on the divide between north and south. As a shorter work, this might be a nice one to start with for those new to his books. I am fast running out of translated works of his to read. I shall be sad once I have finished and will have to work hard to improve my Icelandic so I can read more.

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