Frigidly tucked between Iceland and Greenland along a volcanic archipelago, fictitious Freeland is a tiny nation trying to maintain purity through isolation from the madness infecting the rest of the world--but with little effect. At least that's the situation according to Hannibal Hannibalsson, Freeland's 20-year president, renowned orator, and a hopeless drunk. Despite having promised to give up the office, he decides to run for another term after a vision calls him to fulfill his nationalistic duty. Without the support of the populace--or even his wife--Hannibalsson must rely on his old friend Eggert Oddason, Freeland's preeminent poet turned political guru. Together, they hire spin doctors from the United States to give Hannibal an electoral edge. Against this backdrop, The Friends of Freeland
launches into a parody of the election process and its undesirable byproducts, as well as the aggressive enterprise of exporting materialism.
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From Publishers Weekly
Two wildly idealistic main characters?Eggert Oddason and Hannibal Hannibalsson?propel this grand, sprawling, satiric novel (Leithauser's fourth, after Seaward). Eggert and Hannibal are, respectively, the ad hoc minister of culture and the president of the imaginary nation of Freeland, a lava-crusted, storm-lashed cluster of islands located between Greenland and Iceland ("what green is to Ireland, gray is to Freeland"). Rivals as schoolboys, the two now tilt their lances at the same windmill, namely the creeping modernization that threatens to reduce their fellow citizens from a nation of proudly self-sufficient Norsemen to a gaggle of Walkman-wearing milksops. As Hannibal tells his countrymen, Freeland is "the one true good hope of this troubled planet" where "madness reigns, ever more brutal wars are waged, and ever more destructive forms of leisure are conceived." To preserve their country's purity, the duo has tried everything from a ban on frozen waffles to strict quotas on American pop music, but time, and the patience of the electorate, is running out. Matters come to a head as an election looms between the aging Hannibal and the bland, modernizing Nonni Karlsson. But this novel's appeal lies mostly in the pleasure of watching Leithauser's extraordinarily rich imagination at play as he conjures an entire people out of the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, ranging from the furtive narrator Eggert to the handsome, larger-than-life Hannibal, who "in his straight-shouldered, red-gold-haired, strong-jawed splendidness... is as perfect a Viking as ever navigated by instinct up a rocky, fog-clamped fjord." Leithauser's is not a subtle portrait; nor is his prose always for the fainthearted. But the novel is such good, catty, generously proportioned fun that the persevering reader will be more than inclined to forgive its missteps.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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