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The Blue Tower by Thorarinn Eldjarn

The Blue Tower (1996)

by Thorarinn Eldjarn

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English (1)  Danish (1)  All (2)
This is my Icelandic entry for Around the World for a Good Book. Set in the 16th century, The Blue Tower tells the life story of Gudmundur Andresson imprisoned in Denmark for crimes under the Great Edict against adultery and fornication (he not only violated the edict but also wrote against its legality!). Andresson narrates his own story from his prison cell, a story that basically says that the bastards will keep you down. Despite being highly intelligent, those of higher birth work to defeat Andresson at every turn. His sarcastic wit rarely wins him any friends either. After falling from the eponymous prison tower, Andresson's life changes and it is told in a short second part of letters to his friend in Iceland as he begins to have scholarly opportunities in Denmark. Don't get too happy though, because he dies shortly after in a plague. This was not the easiest book to read, but definitely a change of pace from what I usually choose to read, and educational at that.

"It is often the case with great men, that their descendants prove to be small, and all the smaller the more they try to stretch and crane themselves to the stature of their begetters." (p. 48) ( )
  Othemts | Jun 25, 2008 |
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"The Great Edict (Storidomur) was a puritan ethical code imposed by the Danish King on his Icelandic subjects in 1564, fourteen years after the Reformation. Prescribing harsh punishments for even the mildest extra-marital misdemeanour, it enabled the Danish King, and equally the Icelandic church and secular officials, to establish tyrannical rule over the farmers who eked out a living from their harsh land. Offenders were punished with brutal and humiliating sentences, the most fearsome of which was being deported for imprisonment in Copenhagen's notorious Blue Tower. In the seventeenth century the strictures of the Great Edict were ruthlessly enforced, and where the letter of the law did not suffice, witch hunts provided the authorities with whatever grounds they wanted. But ordinary Icelanders clung obstinately to their old ways, their ancient culture - and their instincts. Lore and learning were the only weapons that the poor but literate farmers had against their oppressors, the power of the word which was passed down in manuscripts, stories and poems from one generation to the next. Gudmundur Andresson (c. 1615-1654) stands out against the age he lived in as both victem and victor: impoverished farmer, poet, scholar, offender against the Great Edict, and accidental escapee from the Blue Tower. B.S."--T.p. verso."Gudmundur Andresson is incarcerated in the Blue Tower. With fine wit and rich bawdy he reflects on the calamity his talents, appetites and taste for satirical verse have brought upon him. As a poor but transparently clever boy, Gudmundur is sponsored by a kindly scholar but his desires for high office and a socially advantageous marriage are frustrated by the jealously and rank-closing of powerful Icelandic families. The birth of a child out of wedlock, counter to the Great Edict - the oppressive morality law imposed by Denmark, the occupying power - and the circulation of a scurrilous thesis seal his fate. Yet ultimately his subversive history is outweighed by his loyalty to his few friends and his intellectual integrity"--[i].… (more)

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