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Independent People Paperback – International Edition, January 14, 1997
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"There are good books and there are great books and there may be a book that is something still more: it is the book of your life. . . . My favorite book by a living novelist is Independent People." —Brad Leithauser
"This beautiful and heartbreaking novel has haunted me ever since I was lent a rare copy years ago, and I am delighted that what is clearly a masterpiece by a relatively uncelebrated genius will now be available to a wide audience of book lovers. If there is any justice in the world, the name Laxness will soon become a household word, at least in those households where timeless works of the imagination are cherished." —Joel Conarroe
"Laxness has a poet's imagination and a poet's gift for phrase and symbol. . . . Bjartur is a magnificent and complex symbol of peasant independence." —The New York Times Book Review
"A strange story, vibrant and alive. . . . There is a rare beauty in its telling, a beauty as surprising as the authentic strain of poetry that lies in the shoving, battering Icelander." —Atlantic Monthly
"A saga that somehow contrives to recapture the broad, clear air of older Icelandic tales." —The Observer (London)
"[Laxness] gives a large picture of life under primitive conditions, [he] writes vividly, using irony with vigorous effect; amid the brutality and squalor there are rich moments of humor and poetry." —The Spectator (London)
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Top Customer Reviews
On a simple level, "Independent People" deals with the lives of the poor sheep grazers in Iceland early in the 20th Century. The hero is a farmer named Bajartur of Summerhouses who, after 18 years of working for another, the baliff, earns enough money to buy his own small farm. Bajartur's goal is to be independent and self-sufficient, to take what he earns and not take or give to others. In addition to this simple economic credo for independence. Bjartur is an "independent person" emotionally in his relationships with his wives -- he is twice married in the book -- his three sons and his daughter -- actually his first wife's daughter but not Bjartur's -- whom Bjartur names Asta Sollija the "beloved sun -lily" whom he refers to as his soul's "one flower." Much of this long, multi-faceted book involves Bjartur's relationship with Asta Sollija -- their estrangement and ultimate reconciliation.
Bjartur and Asta Sollija and their relationship frames but hardly exhausts this book. There is a picture of Iceland -- or of modernizing society in general with its conflict between farmer and town. There are long discussions of poetry and literature, of war, of politics, and particularly of philosophy and religion, see below.Read more ›
This story has captured me and will not let me go. It is above all the heroic struggle of a Viking farmer to be free and his refusal to grieve in loss and defeat that grip me. He never grieves. Why then did I continually grieve for him? And why am I grieving for him still?
The answer must be that my character is weak in comparison. Laxness may have spoken for all survivors everywhere. "Never mourn what you have lost."--"rather content yourself with what you have left, when you have lost what you had."
Some people learn Russian to read Pushkin. I want to learn Icelandic to read Laxness.
As for politics and ideologies, not to worry. They are just a little dust here and there on the floor of the croft, at times a little distraction. The story unfolds outside and above and all around them and in its enormous weight little concerns them.
Could this book possibly have been written just for me? To enjoy it most, a reader should probably have lived at least a thousand years.
'Seldom had he recited so much poetry in any one night; he had recited all his father's poetry, all the ballads he could remember, all his own palindromes backwards and forwards in forty-eight different ways, whole processions of dirty poems, one hymn he learned from his mother, and all the lampoons that had been known in the Fourthing from time immemorial about baliffs, merchants, and sheriffs.'
Ultimately, the poetry keeps him alive as he finally crawls his way on all fours to safety. I found myself reading this book in short doses so that I could savor the language, and so it would not end too soon.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I could not get into it it was way to verbose for me. Icelanders are very different people in my experience and I have trouble relating to them hence my interest wains. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
A classic tale of Man versus Man and Man versus Nature. Laxness portrays the hardships of living in rural Iceland at the turn of the century through the experiences of a lowly... Read morePublished 4 months ago by William J. Tucker
I know it is a Nobel winner, it just took a bit to get into, once I did I enjoyed the book immensely! Read morePublished 5 months ago by Tamken
Independent People, by Halldór Laxness is a realist epic novel by the Icelandic author.
The novel is the engrossing story of Bjartur of Summerhouses, an... Read more
one of the finest books that I have read. It is strange that almost no one remembers his work.
The book was out of print until quite recently. Read more
This famous author wrote his first novel, Independent People, when he was 17. It's hard to believe, because Laxness shows insight into the thoughts and feelings of children, men,... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Connie and Hayseus