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The Atom Station

by Halldór Laxness

When the Americans make an offer to buy Icelandic land to build an atomic war base, a storm of protest is provoked throughout the country, and it is here that Laxness finds the catalyst for his story. Told by a country girl from the north, the novel follows her experiences upon taking up employment as a maid in the house of her Member of Parliament. She finds herself in a world very different to that of her upbringing and, marvelling at the customs and behaviour of the people around her, she emerges as the one obstinate reality in a world of fantasy. Her observations and experiences expose the intellectual society of the south as rootless and shallow and in stark contrast to the ancient culture of the solid and less fanciful north. The colourful, yet at times dark, cast of characters she meets personifies the southern fantasy world. In this black comedy Laxness has painted a masterpiece of social commentary as relevant today as when it was first written in 1948.

Iceland's Bell

by Halldór Laxness Philip Roughton

Sometimes grim, sometimes uproarious, and always captivating, Iceland's Bell by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness is at once an updating of the traditional Icelandic saga and a caustic social satire. At the close of the 17th century, Iceland is an oppressed Danish colony, suffering under extreme poverty, famine, and plague. A farmer and accused cord-thief named Jon Hreggvidsson makes a bawdy joke about the Danish king and soon after finds himself a fugitive charged with the murder of the king's hangman.In the years that follow, the hapless but resilient rogue Hreggvidsson becomes a pawn entangled in political and personal conflicts playing out on a far grander scale. Chief among these is the star-crossed love affair between Snaefridur, known as "Iceland's Sun," a beautiful, headstrong young noblewoman, and Arnas Arnaeus, the king's antiquarian, an aristocrat whose worldly manner conceals a fierce devotion to his downtrodden countrymen. As their personal struggle plays itself out on an international stage, Iceland's Bell creates a Dickensian canvas of heroism and venality, violence and tragedy, charged with narrative enchantment on every page.

Independent People

by Halldór Laxness

In an epic set in Iceland in the early twentieth century, Gudbjartur Jonsson buys his own croft after eighteen years of service to the local bailiff, and brings his wife and his small flock of sheep there to build a new, independent life for himself.

Paradise Reclaimed

by Halldór Laxness

An idealistic Icelandic farmer journeys to Mormon Utah and back in search of paradise in this captivating novel by Nobel Prize--winner Halldór Laxness. The quixotic hero of this long-lost classic is Steinar of Hlidar, a generous but very poor man who lives peacefully on a tiny farm in nineteenth-century Iceland with his wife and two adoring young children. But when he impulsively offers his children's beloved pure-white pony to the visiting King of Denmark, he sets in motion a chain of disastrous events that leaves his family in ruins and himself at the other end of the earth, optimistically building a home for them among the devout polygamists in the Promised Land of Utah. By the time the broken family is reunited, Laxness has spun his trademark blend of compassion and comically brutal satire into a moving and spellbinding enchantment, composed equally of elements of fable and folklore and of the most humble truths.

Under the Glacier

by Magnus Magnusson Halldór Laxness

Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness's Under the Glacier is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, a wryly provocative novel at once earthy and otherworldly. At its outset, the Bishop of Iceland dispatches a young emissary to investigate certain charges against the pastor at Sfells Glacier, who, among other things, appears to have given up burying the dead. But once he arrives, the emissary finds that this dereliction counts only as a mild eccentricity in a community that regards itself as the center of the world and where Creation itself is a work in progress. What is the emissary to make, for example, of the boarded-up church? What about the mysterious building that has sprung up alongside it? Or the fact that Pastor Primus spends most of his time shoeing horses? Or that his wife, Ua (pronounced "ooh-a," which is what men invariably sputter upon seeing her), is rumored never to have bathed, eaten, or slept? Piling improbability on top of improbability, Under the Glacier overflows with comedy both wild and deadpan as it conjures a phantasmagoria as beguiling as it is profound.

World Light

by Halldór Laxness

As an unloved foster child on a farm in rural Iceland, Olaf Karason has only one consolation: the belief that one day he will be a great poet. The indifference and contempt of most of the people around him only reinforces his sense of destiny, for in Iceland poets are as likely to be scorned as they are to be revered. Over the ensuing years, Olaf comes to lead the paradigmatic poet's life of poverty, loneliness, ruinous love affairs and sexual scandal. But he will never attain anything like greatness. As imagined by Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness in this magnificently humane novel, what might be cruel farce achieves pathos and genuine exaltation. For as Olaf's ambition drives him onward-and into the orbits of an unstable spiritualist, a shady entrepreneur, and several susceptible women-World Lightdemonstrates how the creative spirit can survive in even the most crushing environment and even the most unpromising human vessel.

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