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Independent People

by Halldor Laxness

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,584904,695 (4.15)3 / 421
From the Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author, a magnificent, epic novel--"funny, clever, sardonic and brilliant" (Annie Proulx)--at last available to contemporary American readers. Set in the early twentieth century, Independent People recalls both Iceland's medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter. If Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book's protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic. Having spent eighteen years in humiliating servitude, Bjartur wants nothing more than to raise his flocks unbeholden to any man. But Bjartur's spirited daughter wants to live unbeholden to him. What ensues is a battle of wills that is by turns harsh and touching, elemental in its emotional intensity and intimate in its homely detail. Vast in scope and deeply rewarding, Independent People is a masterpiece.… (more)
  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. 00
    The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg (harmen)
    harmen: Similar setting and themes.
  4. 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.
  5. 00
    Gunnar's Daughter by Sigrid Undset (DieFledermaus)
  6. 00
    The Old Man and His Sons by Heðin Brú (rrmmff2000)
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English (81)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (88)
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
"Independent' is apparently Icelandic for "stubborn and ignorant".

Unlike Growth of the Soil, this is not a dreamy vision of the romanticism of the sheep farmer. Tragedies abound, and no matter if it's the Capitalists or the Socialists in ower, the small farmer gets the short end of the stick. ( )
  mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
I picked this book up at a library sale for $2 in basically new condition. I tend not to read Nobel Prize winners; this and the Peace are essentially politically motivated decisions. But I did read it, and my impressions were again confirmed. To be a Nobel winner, it helps to write about suffering, either self-inflicted or from external sources.

If you intend to read the book, please do not read the intro by Brad Leithauser, a published but obscure poet. He essentially stuffs every spoiler he could think of into it. He is also insufferably self-congratulatory on his incredible insight into the book's merits. He says when people ask him what it is about, he says "sheep", which is facetious and misleading.

Bjartur is described on the cover in more positive terms than the text proves to be the case. In fact, he's incredibly stupid, suspicious, and unfeeling. Of course that makes it hard for the reader to root for him, so your feelings turn toward his family and in particular to his "daughter" Sola. Without giving anything away, he treats them so atrociously that I grew to despise him. I found the ending less affecting as a result. The decidedly more sensitive Brad weeped as he finished the book, and he wants us to know that he did so while sitting at a cafe in Rome while it rained outside. How appropriate.

My rating mostly reflects the quality of the writing; I can't tell you, however, if that's due to the translation by J.A. Thompson or by the author Laxness. ( )
  nog | Jun 3, 2022 |
A bleak and yet strangely uplifting novel. Stubbornness or independence?
( )
  Estragon1958 | May 23, 2022 |
Mögnuð saga. Persónurnar eru afskaplega mótaðar og eftirminnilegar. Hver sér til að mynda ekki Bjart í Sumarhúsum allt í kringum sig. Saga sem ég á eftir að lesa aftur mér til ánægju síðar meir. ( )
  SkuliSael | Apr 28, 2022 |
Norah McVeigh rec
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laxness, Halldorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Craigmyle, AntheaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kress, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leithauser, BradIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Myklebost, ToneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nix, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Otten, MarcelAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Otten, MarcelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Posthumus, AnnieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seelow, HubertAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sigureir SigurjónssonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thompson, J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
VINEA, IonTranslatorsecondary 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.
Quotations
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.
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From the Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author, a magnificent, epic novel--"funny, clever, sardonic and brilliant" (Annie Proulx)--at last available to contemporary American readers. Set in the early twentieth century, Independent People recalls both Iceland's medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter. If Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book's protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic. Having spent eighteen years in humiliating servitude, Bjartur wants nothing more than to raise his flocks unbeholden to any man. But Bjartur's spirited daughter wants to live unbeholden to him. What ensues is a battle of wills that is by turns harsh and touching, elemental in its emotional intensity and intimate in its homely detail. Vast in scope and deeply rewarding, Independent People is a masterpiece.

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