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Independent People
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Independent People

By Halldor Laxness
Paperback
512 pages
January 1997

 

From the Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author, a magnificent, epic novel—"funny, clever, sardonic and brilliant" (Annie Proulx)—at last available to contemporary American readers.

Set in the early twentieth century, Independent People recalls both Iceland's medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter. If Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book's protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic.

Having spent eighteen years in humiliating servitude, Bjartur wants nothing more than to raise his flocks unbeholden to any man. But Bjartur's spirited daughter wants to live unbeholden to him. What ensues is a battle of wills that is by turns harsh and touching, elemental in its emotional intensity and intimate in its homely detail. Vast in scope and deeply rewarding, Independent People is a masterpiece.

"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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