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Reply to a Letter from Helga by Bergsveinn…
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Reply to a Letter from Helga

by Bergsveinn Birgisson

Other authors: Kjartan Hallur (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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788154,388 (3.92)6

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» See also 6 mentions

English (5)  French (2)  Norwegian (1)  All (8)
Showing 5 of 5
Today was a day I am happy I chose rural living. A harsh occurance in our family's life would have been hellish in my beloved urban centre. And the poetic rendering of the choice made by our protagonist, not to follow his beloved to Reckivik [sp?] is the core of this deeply emotional "letter". Life goes on & you live in both the joys & despairs of choices you've made and those you didn't.
Best bit: his rural Book Club's down to earth analyses of various philosophers & those that follow them. So real, so funny. Strip away the nonsense & live a deep, simple life within the natural world. ( )
  c_why | Jun 18, 2015 |
This novella is essentially a love song -- not to Helga -- but to Iceland, the older, simpler Iceland (pre-WWII). The time before radios and television when neighbors relied on each other because there was no one else to help.

Birgisson is clearly a poet who paints with words and fills your mind with wonderful pictures of the animals, land, sea, and sky. The story here is very secondary to the evocative feeling he brings to you. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Mar 2, 2014 |
Den moderne roman i et nøtteskall; Meg, meg, meg, meg og atter hovedpersonens meg og eventuelt megets sexliv. Ikke rart det blir vanskelige liv med så små - og dødelige horisonter......
Ufattelig trist at dette er nok til å bli nominert til nordisk råds litteraturpris.
  Mikalina | May 28, 2013 |
A reflective and introspective book about the choices one makes in life and the reasons why these choices were made. Beautiful sentence constructs and wonderfully flowing prose as a man, at the age of 90, living in a nursing home tries to explain his reasons for not pursuing the love of his life. Reminds me quite a bit of the writing of Linda Olsson, which is a very good thing. ( )
1 vote Beamis12 | Apr 10, 2013 |
This is a novella that I would consider to be literary fiction; there is a meditative, philosophical, and almost poetic quality to the writing. The translation is excellent and reads like it was originally written in English. The novella is a quick read, but deep and somewhat dark; the narrator is replying to a letter from his love, and themes of loss and regret are prominent.

I would have given this five stars, but for a particular scene toward the end of the novel, which I will not share so as to avoid spoilers. This scene was fairly disgusting and seemed so suddenly thrown in and not in keeping with the narrator’s character, that it felt more included for shock value than to further the story, and this was quite off-putting. It was a jarring feeling in the middle of what had been a lyrically written story. Following this, things seemed to get back on track, but it did leave something of a bad taste.

In addition to exploring lost love and “the road not taken,” the novella is also an ode to Icelandic literature, with several allusions to epics. In this way it is almost a celebration of Iceland’s love of literature and its deep connection to story and legend. Iceland itself comes alive in the pages of the story, sometimes harsh and always beautiful. A short, but gorgeously written read with many layers. ( )
  Litfan | Jan 26, 2013 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bergsveinn Birgissonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hallur, KjartanIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roughton, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 161218717X, Paperback)

Bjarni has long held onto a letter from former lover Helga, with whom he shared an illicit, impassioned love and whom invited him to leave his wife and his farm and follow her to the city. Years later, as he reflects on a long and simple life shepherding in the Icelandic hillsides, he finally finds himself ready to explain why.

With retrospective clarity and poetic affection, Bjarni pens his Reply to a Letter from Helga, weaving a life of longing for Helga’s sensual presence and the visceral pleasures of daily exposure to the elements. He has knowingly avoided the glamorous choices of modern living and taken comfort in the measured cadence of nature’s cycles—and thus he reduces the human condition to a series of mating seasons, passed on the land toiled by his forefathers.

Nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize, this story of unrequited love has been shared among readers in Europe, and now makes its English debut.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:57 -0400)

"Bjarni has long held on to a letter from former lover Helga, with whom he shared an illicit, impassioned love. Her letter invited him to leave his wife and his farm and pursue prosperity in the city, where World War II had brought an influx of American marines and opportunities for work. But he chose not to reply. Years later, as he reflects on a long and simple life among the sheep in the Icelandic hillsides, he finally finds himself ready to explain why."--Cover, p. [4].… (more)

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