Tuesday 24 March 2020

Book Review: Wayward Heroes by Halldór Laxness (Historical Fiction/Classic)

Title: Wayward Heroes
Author: Halldór Laxness
Publisher: Archipelago

Publication Date: 2016 (1952)
Historical Fiction/Classic
Bought Copy

Published in 1952, Wayward Heroes is part of the body of works for which Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1955. It is a masterfully written tragicomedy about the oath-brothers Thorgeir and Thormod, inspired by the old Icelandic sagas "Saga of the Sworn Brothers "and "Saga of Saint Olaf." The brothers fight for glory, raid for treasure, and seduce women against the backdrop of a new cult of Christianity. But where the old sagas depict their heroes as glorious champions, Laxness does the opposite. As Thormod avenges Thorgeir's death, he demonstrates the senselessness of violence and the endlessly cyclical nature of obsession. 

I am a huge fan of Halldór Laxness' writing and Wayward Heroes is no exception. I had already read a translation of the original sagas upon which this is based, but Laxness' version has a wonderful flow and is a beautiful retelling, showing events in a different light from the original tales. So while it's familiar in a way, there was also something new to discover. This will be a delight for any Laxness fan, but it is also a brilliant read for saga fans looking for a different take on the classic tales. Highly recommended.

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