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Archive for November, 2010

Iceland Episode (Click to Listen)

We spent a little time traveling to Iceland through literature.  Why?  Well J Lisa C was lucky enough to spend four days in September there.

The books we chose to take us there included two by Harold Laxness.  First, his nobel prize winning effort Independent People and a shorter novel The Fish Can Sing.

Both provide insight into Iceland’s remoteness and its culture. Independent People was originally published in 1946 and out of print for decades, this book is a huge, skaldic treat filled with satire, humor, pathos, cold weather and sheep. Gudbjartur Jonsson becomes Bjartur of Summerhouses when, after 18 years of service to the Bailiff of Myri, he is able to buy his own croft. Summerhouses is probably haunted and is certainly unprepossessing, but Bjartur is a stubborn, leathery old (whatever his age) coot, and he soon has his new bride and few head of sheep installed in a sod house. The Tale continues from there and tells of one man’s attempts for true independence.

The Fish Can Sing provides a poignant coming-of-age tale marked with a blend of light irony and dark humor. The orphan Alfgrimur has spent an idyllic childhood sheltered in the simple turf cottage of a generous and eccentric elderly couple. Alfgrimur dreams only of becoming a fisherman like his adoptive grandfather, until he meets Iceland’s biggest celebrity – opera singer Gardar Holm.

Laxness’s prose is gorgeous and the pictures he paints of Iceland are beautiful and moving.  We highly recommend his works, and are glad we found his novels.

We also both checked out Collections of the Icelandic Sagas which influence the tours of Iceland, Icelandic culture and literature all over the world.

On a “lighter” note, Lisa also read Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – a book she bought in the airport there and describes as a a thriller by an Icelandic version of  Janet Evanovich or PD James.  Last Rituals provides a mystery, insight into modern day Iceland and many references to the sagas and history of the island.

Some items to note from J Lisa’s trip:

The country is a large national park whose landscape has a bit of Scotland’s coast, Ireland’s green, Hawaii’s lava and Montana’s big sky feeling all wrapped in one location.

Crosswalk lights sport smiling and stern faces instead of a walking man or a flashing hand.

Icelanders actually wear Icelandic sweaters, they are not just for tourists.

The place inspires romance as evidenced by the young man Lisa sat next to on the plane. This man was moving that very day to be with a girlfriend he met on the very last evening of his Iceland vacation just 30 or so days before.

Sit back, relax and prepare to be seduced by the equally romantic music of Iceland. We close this episode with a song by the artist Ragenheiour Grondal (punctuation incorrect as we don’t know how to create Icelandic characters and symbols on our American keyboards!).

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