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World Light Paperback – October 8, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375727574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375727573
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Solitude and its consolations-fleeting moments of divine and earthly illumination-are the central themes of World Light, a massive novel by the Icelandic writer and Nobel laureate Halld¢r Laxness. Released in trade paperback on the 100th anniversary of Laxness's birth, the novel tells the story of Olafur, an orphan boy who yearns to write poetry. His love for books-"he had a great longing to read... all the books in the world"-consoles him for his harsh treatment at the hands of his adoptive parents and accompanies him into adulthood as he contends with socialism and communism and an unhappy marriage. A new introduction by Sven Birkerts provides much useful background information and explication; the translation by Magnus Magnusson is fluent and accomplished.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"[Laxness is] a poet who writes to the edge of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot: He takes a Tolstoyan overview, he weaves in an Evelyn Waugh-like humor: it is not possible to be unimpressed.” -- Daily Telegraph (London)

“[An author of] compassionate, scathing novels.” –Annie Dillard, The New York Times Book Review

"[Laxness is] a poet who writes to the edge of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot: He takes a Tolstoyan overview, he weaves in an Evelyn Waugh-like humor: it is not possible to be unimpressed.” -- Daily Telegraph (London)

“Laxness is a brilliant writer.” --The Washington Post

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Beautiful, engaging, utterly incredible writing.
reader
In my reading, I have always attempted at times to cross the mainstream and see what lies beyond.
James Paris
To be a poet is to view and approach this life in a very specific manner.
Daniel Myers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on April 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Of all the Nobel prizewinners in literature, the one who most elicits an uncomprehending reaction is the late Halldór Laxness, Iceland's greatest writer of the modern era. In my reading, I have always attempted at times to cross the mainstream and see what lies beyond. Iceland is as far from the mainstream as you can get and still be part of Western Culture. What we sometimes forget is that almost a thousand years ago, Iceland was a literary giant; and some of the sagas that came from that island are among the greatest works of literature ever written.
Laxness is therefore the recipient of a great tradition. Sadly, Iceland -- after discovering Greenland and North America and giving them up as a bad lot -- became a colony of Norway, and later of Denmark. The loss of hegemony coupled with the horrendous disasters of a mini ice age and catastrophic volcanic explosions led to a grinding poverty that drained the mind and spirit.
WORLD LIGHT is at one and the same time the greatest Laxness novel I have read and also the most difficult. Its hero, the poet Olaf Karason of Ljosavik, is born into poverty and spends his youth as a foster child in a home utterly lacking in love. After being kicked out, he moves to Svidinskvik, where he becomes a ward of the parish. He writes poems in support of local Danish bigwig, Peter Palsson, whose grandiloquent "Rehabilitation Company" is behind a series of mostly abortive moves to improve the town's economy and morale. The young poet is so feckless that it is difficult to identify with him, but as the story progressed, I began to see his flaws writ large over the entire landscape.
The cigar-chomping Danes go around either claiming "I'm no Icelander, s'help me!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rien van Genderen on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this book during the dark days of December and it fitted so well. I especially loved the discriptions of the relationships between the hero, Olafur Karasson, and the various women; the refined, exact ways of describing emotions like love, suffering and fear. They bring about an impressive poetic strength. I also learned al lot about the landscape and the history of Iceland, but most of all I found its plea for poetry as the hope for mankind impressive and convincing.
Compliments for the translator as well!
For all those who love to read beautiful language.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By V.C. on February 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Halldor Laxness is by far the most incredible author I've ever come across. After reading Independent People, one of his most famous novels, I decided to read World Light. And to be honest, I found World Light to be even better! Something about Halldor Laxness's novels always gets me sucked in. He elicits so much poetry and beauty into his works, paints the image of Iceland with such a stark, melancholy, and haunting light, while at the same time emersing you into a world that feels almost like a dream! And Halldor's characters, regardless of how crass, ignoble, and hardheaded that some of them are ( I believe the character of World Light has more heart than any other character in Laxness's books), somehow make you love, embrace, and envy them for all the struggles they go through and all the sacrifices they had to make to get there. Highly recommend WORLD LIGHT and INDEPENDENT PEOPLE. Honestly, reading the novels by such a masterful Icelandic storyteller and writer will be the most refreshing literary experience of your life. There are more to classic novels than Dickins, Austen, and Steinbeck. If you want to broaden your literary horizons and simply emerse your mind into a completely different world, read WORLD LIGHT, INDEPENDENT PEOPLE, and any other books by Halldor Laxness. If you take your time at reading and getting used to the settings, ideas, themes, and characters, it will truly be a worthwhile experience, trust me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on January 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pity the poor poet. And Olaf Karason, Laxness's unlikely (and sometimes unlikable) hero, commands--and even demands--our pity, for he is a most unproductive poet. "I'm the village good-for-nothing whom everyone jeers at because I stay up at night and write books about men who were just as useless as I am myself.... On the day the world becomes good, the poet will cease to suffer, and not before; but at the same time he will also cease to be a poet." Ah, yes--the familiar lament of the long-suffering artiste: poetry as martyrdom, and poetry is martyrdom. A free spirit, Olaf is not of the world, but the world--often in the form of a woman--is always grabbing him in its clutches and dragging him down in the muck.

Throughout each the four books of "World Light" (annually published as individual volumes from 1937 to 1940), Olaf plays the martyr--and his suffering is as often self-inflicted as not. We meet our scribbler as a youngster in "The Revelation of the Deity," the first and by far the best of the four books. Abandoned by his mother (who becomes an idealized muse), the boy is adopted by a family looking for someone who'll do all the chores. Caught amidst the turf wars of two unpredictably abusive brothers, he finds refuge in the folk tales told to him by his stepmother. But he spends much of his adolescence in bed with a paralyzing illness, relying for sustenance on his reluctant providers--a harbinger of his adult life's existence on the dole of whatever parish he calls home.
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