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Independent People by Halldor Laxness

Independent People (edition 2008)

by Halldor Laxness (Author), J A Thompson (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,888623,638 (4.21)3 / 358
Title:Independent People
Authors:Halldor Laxness (Author)
Other authors:J A Thompson (Translator)
Info:Vintage Classics (2008), 576 pages
Collections:Currently reading

Work details

Independent People by Halldór Laxness

  1. 20
    Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun (chrisharpe)
  2. 31
    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (thorold)
    thorold: Icelandic peasants to English house painters might not be such an obvious leap, but these two books, one artful and structured, the other naive and direct, both do a great job of showing us capitalism from the bottom.
  3. 11
    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (rwjerome)
    rwjerome: These books share surprisingly similar main characters who both experience extreme misfortune. Interestingly enough, both books also showcase slightly misplaced political overtones.
  4. 00
    Gunnar's Daughter by Sigrid Undset (DieFledermaus)
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    The Old Man and His Sons by Heðin Brú (rrmmff2000)

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English (57)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (61)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
This is my second time attempting to read this book. The first attempt barely saw me get past page 40. I will not lie, although it's a classic worthy of it's reputation it's a slow start. This slow start seems somewhat necessary to establish the society, the conditions, history and personality traits of the main characters. The chief main character Bjartur is quite a condemnable and frustrating man. He alone makes the majority of the problems he faces. He is an overly independent, irate and and infuriating fellow who would leave most ardent libertarians shaking their heads in disbelief of his quest for self sufficiency.

He seems to not care that his actions are causing abuse, madness and malnutrition to his wife and seems to care less about everyone else. In this he reminds me of one of Camus characters but unlike Camus' protagonists he seems joyful to know that he is the cause and that his actions help continue his own hellish toil.

All this said the book does pick up significantly after about page 75-80 as the consequences of this fellows actions start catching up to him. He makes some very brazen mistakes and I'll leave it at that. More great analysis lies here: http://laxnessintranslation.blogspot.ca/2010/03/independent-people.html

Laxness does a great job of infuriating you with Bjartur. You will be literally shaking your fists at this book and I suppose that is one mark of a fine author to portray someone so realistically that inspires such intense frustration of this incredible magnitude must be the height of skill because I was literally screaming at Bjartur "No! No! NO!" so many times!

and a great blog spoofing and commenting on the book chapter by chapter lies here: https://www.tumblr.com/search/independent what

A notable Icelandic literary classic and a book that everyone should read but be warned Halldor creates this very vivid and visceral reaction from his readers in this work.

( )
  RachelRY | Aug 23, 2016 |
(19) This took me a long time to read but was indeed worth it. This is the story of Bjatur of Summerhouses, an Icelandic croft farmer with a small herd of sheep, a new wife, and a turf hut beginning his independent life on his own property he built. He starts his own life after years of indentured servitude to the Baliff of Mythri, his frenemy, a middle class farmer with an actual house, whom he bought the land from. The land is said to be cursed and we are given the old Icelandic legend behind the curse as the opening scene. A old crone who makes some sort of deal with a devil and goes on to murder the young men of the countryside and put a curse on the land. Even Bjartur's modern day new wife insists on placing a stone on her supposed grave to appease her before dwelling in Summerhouses - but Bjartur forever beholden to no one, won't let her leave the stone. Thus, begins their tragic saga.

And saga it is. It is a long novel of ~500 pages with closely spaced type. Really quite readable with many dramatic moments but occasionally veers to the impenetrable with the musings of the Icelandic sheep farmers and the epic poetry. Ultimately, Bjartur and his family know great privations and tragedy and finally during WW1 some prosperity. The theme of the novel seems to be that despite the reigning politics be it capitalism or socialism - everything is always the same for the poor, especially the poor farmer. Born in poverty, you will stay in poverty and work your fingers to the bone in the meanwhile. Depressing; and Bjartur was such a frustrating, cold man, I wanted to chop him in the throat. His actions towards his oldest son (!) and his beloved daughter were inexplicable. Even his poor housekeeper in the end who sought to bring some love and comfort to the family. I am not sure exactly what the "moral" of the story was. Certainly, Bjartur's notion of independence can't be justified.

Overall, entertaining and well-written. ~80% engaging; some parts a bit painful and perplexing. I think the novel is so not Hollywood; so not American that when one is first finishing it, it is hard to get your mind around. I can't give it my highest rating and if I have to pick a Norse saga to love it would be 'Kirsten Lavransdatter' but nevertheless, well-done. Glad I read it and I think it will stick with me - there are some scenes that are so well done - the ewe that was left with his first wife; when he went out in the storm to look for said ewe, the 'murders' of the sheep, the consumptive tutor, the mumbling grandmother . . . lasting imagery. ( )
1 vote jhowell | May 7, 2016 |
A brilliant and timeless work of literature. When I figure out how to properly review it, I'll write a review. At the moment, it remains both familiar and elusive. Independent People is in a class all its own (well, a class perhaps joined by some other works of Laxness). ( )
  wpotash | Apr 20, 2016 |
This is a deep read, it will take me awhile to get through.
  becka11y2 | Jan 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (52 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Halldór Laxnessprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baldur Ragnarsson.,Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craigmyle, AntheaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kress, BrunoÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leithauser, BradIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Myklebost, ToneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nix, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Otten, MarcelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seelow, HubertAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sigureir SigurjónssonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thompson, J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In early times, say the Icelandic chronicles, men from the Western Islands came to live in this country, and when they departed, left behind them crosses, bells, and other objects used in the practice of sorcery.
The history of the centuries in this valley is the history of an independent man who grapples barehanded with a spectre which bears a new and ever a newer name. Sometimes the spectre is some half-divine fiend who lays a curse on his land. Sometimes it breaks his bones in the guise of a norn. Sometimes it destroys his croft in the form of a monster. And yet, always, to all eternity, it is the same spectre assailing the same century after century.
"No," he said defiantly.
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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.

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