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Sjálfstætt fólk [Ebook] ➠ Sjálfstætt fólk By Halldór Laxness – Amid the bleak frozen wastes of an Icelandic winter Bjartur of Summerhouses tends his sheep A proud stubborn man who ekes out his humble living in a constant battle against nature he has at last acuir Amid the bleak frozen wastes of an Icelandic winter Bjartur of Summerhouses tends his sheep A proud stubborn man who ekes out his humble living in a constant battle against nature he has at last acuired his own small holding after eighteen years as a hired hand Halldór Laxness's splendid achievement in this timeless elemental masterpiece which was one of the works for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in is to have evoked the mood and rhythm of life in an isolated community in a remote corner of Europe as no other writer has done since the time of the great Icelandic sagas Richly lyrical often humorous conceived on a grand scale and with a cast of memorable characters Independent People is one of the truly great poetic novels of our century.

  • Paperback
  • 544 pages
  • Sjálfstætt fólk
  • Halldór Laxness
  • English
  • 06 October 2014
  • 9780099527121

10 thoughts on “Sjálfstætt fólk

  1. BlackOxford BlackOxford says:

    Better Red Than DeadEntering into Independent People with no introduction one could be forgiven for thinking it a merely charming review of early 20th century Icelandic culture an update of the sagas and a chronicle of the rugged life of the North Laxness apparently promotes this in his opening paragraphs with his references to local legends of Norse colonisers Celtic demons and the various Icelandic myths of national origin He describes a timeless scene “the centuries lie side by side in uneually overgrown paths cut by the horses of the pastBut Laxness is not unlike the late US Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina generally acknowledged as the most powerful congressman of his day When asked by a reporter his view about a particular issue he responded Aw shucks I'm just a country boy; I don't know nuthin' about politicsLaxness uses just this tone of rural naïveté to superb dramatic effect Independent People is an acknowledged masterpiece It helped Laxness win the Nobel Prize Yet it presents itself in a dead pan Thurmondesue way that offers no clue about the book's subtlety or profundity The first hint comes when Icelandic timelessness is suggested as other than desirable The tradition alluded to is interminable rather than merely long “For a thousand years they have imagined that they would rise above penuryThe title it turns out is of course ironic indeed only the tip of an iceberg of irony The independence of the people involved sheep crofters in the 'up country' moorlands of Iceland is imaginary Debt and drudgery is what they can look forward to Add to this the irony of even poetry being used to justify virtual enslavement rather than to commemorate freedom the male protagonistpoet himself is an ignorant bully and what is presented is a profoundly self deceptive culture This is the generalizable subject of the book the social illusions that we adopt without awareness or conseuently recourseLaxness describes a destructive yet self satisfied Icelandic culture in remarkable and absorbing detail The life of moorland crofters is brutal tedious and lonely especially for the women who have fewer chances for social interaction and of course must tend the menfolk as well as share in their heavy labourThese country folk survive physically if they do on 'refuse fish' rye biscuits and oatmeal For some reason sugar and coffee is in plentiful supply but neither milk nor meat even mutton is not to be had except on the large estates or in the cities And whether for religious or economic reasons neither spirits nor beer are generally available something particularly odd for a sea faring nation Coffee consumed in obviously unhealthy uantities is the stimulant and social lubricant of choiceThe crofters survive socially on an infreuent diet of seasonal gossip rumour and hearsay; and follow an agricultural routine dictated by shibboleths and superstition This land will not betray its flocksWhere the sheep lives there lives man Independence is better than meat Conformity of opinion could hardly be greater in a totalitarian state but each perceives himself as wisely free in assimilating these treasures of conventional wisdomDespite the prevailing poverty aesthetics is a central issue among the men Poetry is an art form that reuires no resources except thought not even paper since the oral tradition is taught from birth However the issues are of form not content What arrangement of metre and rhyme is best? Independence in this domain means adopting an opinion without reasons other than personal preference and proclaiming it vehementlyChildren are plentiful but die off readily for all the usual reasons of malnourishment disease and accident Those who survive often leave by taking up the sea usually never to be heard from again because living in “a land even remote America which is further than death This is considered a normal if not inevitable state of affairs for those who are truly independentThe social structure is curiously egalitarian; class distinctions are grounded on wealth not birth Hereditary wealth isn't institutionalised into permanent titles of nobility Nonetheless there is a medieval system of obligation formalised through debt relations to the large land owners who hold mortgages augment cash flows in bad times and administer the markets for sheep and fish In theory the smallholders are able to drive their sheep over the moors for days to get a better price But of course they ‘choose’ to deal with the local merchant at a severe discount because its convenientThe church is tolerated as an inevitable burden which would clearly go unsupported and unattended if not for a national mandate Its social role is the solemnisation of life events birth death marriage but weekly gatherings are infeasible given distances and the intensity of agrarian work schedules The connection between their ‘rates’ and the cost of the local pastor is not one they seem to makeIt is not religion therefore that creates social cohesion What religious awareness there is seems a mixture of Lutheran piety pagan habit and residual anti papal sentiment Rather the core of Icelandic identity is portrayed as centred on the idea of independence a condition universally valued in the country and gradually revealed as an ideology Independence is the most important thing of all in life the newly wed husband says to his wife with obvious irony as she commences her virtual slavery in their croft on the moorsThe ideology of independence no matter how contradictory to experience is shared because it meets everyone's needs It gives the impoverished crofters some vague hope of improvement as well as an ideal for which their suffering may be justified It gives the gentry a rationale for their success and an image to be admired and emulated by the striving crofters It gives the city born local lady of the manor a reason to live in the bleakness of the Icelandic outback Mainly the ideology of independence ensures social peace while encouraging maximum productive and exploitative effort by all concerned Independence is therefore a pyrrhic reward since even Elves are much happier than menThe continuing tales of the protagonist’s search for independence hardly lead to a surprising denouement The ideology of independence is a chimera a monster hybrid of myth illusion stubbornness and ignorance In the form Laxness gives it independence is a decadent form of patriotism that consumes not just its adherents but their families and children as well When taken seriously this book is not easy to take at all by those who adopt a similar idolatry of abstract formulae Laxness was a socialist who was not only creating an artistic work he was also justifying the emerging politics of Iceland after WW II For this he was condemned by the FBI as a Communist agitator and despite his Nobel award was banned from the United States One suspects the real reason for the ban was that by portraying the Icelandic ideology of independence Laxness was just a little to accurate in describing its American variant

  2. Dolors Dolors says:

    Little did I foresee that I would warm up to Bjartur the roguish farmer the stubborn than a mule protagonist that Laxness chooses to construct this Icelandic epic aroundFar from the national hero the title might suggest the reader meets a curmudgeon an ostensibly uerulous peasant who is obsessed with earning his freedom at all costs He never indulges in kindness and expects his family to break their backs to achieve his goal owning a farmstead and a flock of sheep that are his means towards economic emancipation towards complete independenceDogs and cattle he finds reliable than people his own kin includedHe distrusts politics hates the bailiff for whom he worked eighteen years before he became master of his own estate and mocks those who put their trust in a God he is sure doesn’t existAncient myths and legends are no concerns of his Bjartur remains skeptical about the supernatural curse that is said to haunt the moors he intends to cultivate and ignores the advice of fellow farmers swimming against the currents of a modern era that is slowly changing the dynamics of their rural communityIceland with its eerie rugged landscape its glaciers glacial rivers with black sand volcanoes and newly formed lava fields arises as the mute protagonist at the backdrop of Bjartur’s storyI spent than half of the book begrudging him the many disgraces that befell his impoverished family Starvation sickness dismal working conditions in a treacherous land where nature is man’s nemesis the harshness of life he willingly imposed on his wife and children for the sake of his dream of self sufficiency seemed inexcusably ruthless even cruel to my gaping selfBut then in the arched descend of the narration as the echoes of WWI rage silently in the backdrop of the storytelling Laxness works his magic and starts peeling off the layers of Bjartur’s thick skin to slowly reveal the softer tissue that constitutes his inner being As all his belief system gradually collapses the farmer’s mind whispers in rhymed uatrains and his heart bursts with an irresistible force that he has trouble acknowledging when his daughter Asta Sollilja or “Beloved Sun lily” when his one flower the flower of his life is concerned Bjartur’s fight for independence is not against the world but against the part of himself that doesn’t want to accept that he loves that he loves and aches deeplyAs the morose peasant surreptitiously becomes the stoic poet everything Bjardur fought for disintegrates amidst the muddle of impending modernity but the telluric energy that emanates from Laxness’ low keyed subversive prose transforms brutish reality into timeless hope; the merciless cynic into a loving father; the little boy’s dreams into an everlasting song; and the incredulous reader finally understands that the beauty of this stony hearted but young country remains in its independent people who cherish love in order to survive in a Godless world

  3. Paul Bryant Paul Bryant says:

    I see a number of my GR friends have read this but A BILLION MORE of them have this listed as To Read Yes I see why Every single person who has read this thinks this is a masterpiece but you stroke your chin and you think do I really need a 600 page novel about Icelandic sheep farmers in my life? Even if it is a Nobel prize winning all time masterpiece?Maybe you are like me you live in a city and think the countryside is very pretty to visit for an afternoon what with all the moo cows and baa lambs and horsies and piggy wiggies and goatsies and the less domesticated animals like spiny echidnas and bush babies and alpacas and okapi which I assume all live out in the country since I never see them strolling the boulevards of London or Paris or New York never mind here in NottinghamWell Mr Laxness does mention several times that the countryside is very beautiful but then he strongly implies that you’re not really going to notice it if your whole body is wracked with convulsions and your left leg is turning black because of the unrelenting poverty and lack of vitamins to the point of starvation where you are now contemplating which of your 15 children should go in the cooking pot nextThe alternate title for this novel would be Stupid People That sounds a little bit harsh but check it out – our fiercely independent crofter Bjartur of Summerhouses owns a farm where there are rivers with jolly edible fish in them and fields with game birds in them but neither he nor his wasting away to nothing family eat any of them not a single one If you’re an idiot from Iceland you just don’t The five starry reviews of this long ass book must be written by people who love maximum wordage and minimum action There are actual things that happen in this book but mainly they’re hurried past Eg one of Bjartur of Summerhouses’ children dies and he barely notices You might think he would be pretty annoyed – one less slave to look after my sheep – but no the kid is simply not mentioned again For those still unsure if you really want to make a space for the world’s grumpiest sheep farmer in your heart here is a scientific analysis of the whole novelWHAT HAPPENS IN INDEPENDENT PEOPLEDescription of countryside summer8 scription of countryside winter12%Drinking coffee9%Talking about sheep15%Talking about elves and ghosties8%Talking about not joining the new co operative5%Insulting all and sundry11%People dying4%Tramping through snow solo9%Tramping through snow with sheep19%Ninja fighting0%Hot sex scenes0%Hot tub scenes0%I could see this was some kind of achievement but on balance I think I would rather have a large dead sheep dropped on me from a second storey window than have to read anything by Mr Laxness

  4. Abi Abi says:

    How much can one sacrifice for the sake of one's pride? Everything of course if one is proud enough Halldór Laxness The Atom Station 1948No less than the best book I have read so far in my life Independent People original title Sjálfstætt Fólk is the tragedy of a man who is proud enough to sacrifice everything It tells the story of Bjartur of Summerhouses his family especially his daughter Ásta Sóllilja and the 'world war' they wage against the harsh Icelandic landscape in which they live and the demons imaginary or otherwise that inhabit it Bjartur has spent 18 years scraping together enough money to buy his own croft a croft that is supposedly haunted by a ghost destined to bring failure to all who try and farm there and is determined at all costs that he and his new wife Rósa will live as independent people He is stoical beyond belief often frustrating the reader to tears with his stubborn refusal to deviate from his principles to the detriment of his wives and children He is callous to the point of cruelty and yet not unloving and this for me was the most heart wrenching strand in the novel portrayed most clearly in his relationship with Ásta Sóllilja but present throughout It isn't at all that Bjartur doesn't experience love; it's that his misguided desperation for independence forces him to suppress his own humanity And in fairness clinging to his principles must have been the only thing that prevented him from being crushed He simply cannot allow himself to feel otherwise he would sink beneath all that death and poverty Set in the late 19th and early 20th century superficially this is a book about sheep farming and drinking coffee but in reality it is a journey into the 'labyrinth of the human soul' With a good dose of sheep as wellThe writing is simply first class Laxness' voice is simple and wry and filled with black humour weaving Icelandic folklore and child like imagination into a world of grim hardship He is a true poet The rest of the Laxness I've read has been translated by Magnus Magnusson but I prefer J A Thompson The vocabulary is richer and the style is smoother I haven't read the original so I can't really comment on whether Magnusson's or Thompson's is closer to the spirit of Laxness but I suspect or hope the latter is Independent People is an epic tragedy filled with melancholic despair and great suffering physical and emotional but to me the book was not depressing despite the fact that it did and still does make me cry The story and the writing are beautiful and contain moments of great joy humour and love alongside the tragedy The characters are just perfect and Bjartur must be one of the most interesting and complicated protagonists I've ever encountered Every time I read it I am overwhelmed Literature at its best I can't believe that anyone could come away from this untouched I have read several other Laxness novels but this is undoubtedly his masterpiece It is a travesty that it is so little known; Independent People is one of the great modern classics and to paraphrase Leithauser this novel genuinely is not just good not just great but the book of my life

  5. Jan-Maat Jan-Maat says:

    This story of a man determined to be an independent smallholder raising sheep in the years before the first world war is a great book for the right reader As a book it has two principal obstacles to being universally enjoyed Firstly sheep are among the most important characters and much like their human dependants their hardy virtues are easier to admire than love Secondly it is full of misery worse yet misery that is handled with irony and detachment The simplest way of describing Independent People it that is an Icelandic Don uixote The hero's broken down old nag twenty six years in his service at the end of this novel would nod at Rocinante if it wasn't so busy slowly cropping the grassThe uixotic notion here is that of the independent man His notion of independence involves dependence on world markets on sheep on fair dealing The independence of a man who lives off imported coffee and wheat flour Repeatedly we are shown that the lake by his croft is full of fish while the marsh is full of fowl Repeatedly the mouth watering trout and fat geese are dismissed as mere famine food in favour of dried stock fish Bjartur's independence is then independence from sense independence from a natural world which if not abundant does have tasty proteins and vitamins there for the taking An independence that denies independence to his wives for the sake of his own pride These small time crofters live in a state of perpetual world war not helpless in the face of ravaging armies but helpless in the face of the weather the lung worm the foxes the whole of the world natural and unnatural allied against them The novel is built up of contrasts Peace was poverty war is prosperity Like the prosperity in The Atom Station it is an alien intrusion something criminal and bringing an insanity to Icelandic life In the light of the Icelandic banking crisis in 2008 what else can one say but Plus ca change Discussing the First World War Bjartur unconscious of the irony says Nowadays they fight just from sheer stupidity and obstinacy But as I've said before stupidity is all right as long as other people can turn it to account As the novel progresses we realise that all his independence is the result not of his own efforts but of other people taking his stupidity into account Whether that be the marshy valley brought to be his kingdom the medicines the Doctor gives him or the account he holds with the merchant Bjartur is fleeced while the other party holds the sheers this is a novel written when Laxness was still in his Communist phase but after his time in Catholic monastery Debt as creating a network of social obligations reminded me of Stone Age Economics But this Iceland is no longer in the stone age but in an age of sheep and steamships Here the rich can only grow richer if they they take advantage of the stupidity of others The semi starvation of Bjartur's family contrasted with the girth and sleekness of the Bailiff's family who rise and rise in the world on the backs of the misfortunes of othersTypical of the ironic outlook of the novel it is the Bailiff's town born wife who champions a rural culture of steadfast crofters that stands in contrast to the rural culture we actually see in which the home made whisk to froth up the dribble of milk from the starving cow was Jesus' gift to the Icelandic peopleThis leads me to see Bjartur and his uixotic struggle as a stand in for Iceland in this book published before Icelandic independence was achieved achieved as it happened as a by product of another world war Bjartur is as independent as his country can be dependent as he is on world markets He is as open to abuse as his country is The issues of faith that Laxness picked up again in Under the Glacier are but spring lambs here Christianity is chiefly a form of social propriety in a country that after a thousand years is still in a stalled process of conversion and accommodation with trolls spirits elves and rains that fall unceasing for longer than a mere forty days and nightsThe gloom is tragic comic the conversation between Bjartur and the Pastor a great comic set piece The poetry that Bjartur delights in of too complex a form to bear much meaning a cause of difference with another peasant poet who prefers to write properly Christian verse and isolates both from the Bailiff's wife whose poems idealise a rural life by leaving out the lice the hunger and the lung worm that infests the sheepAt the end of the novel the horse is aged We're on the forth generation of yellow bitches yet the hero carries on Alongside resilience the news of the death of the Tsar a portrait of one of his ancestors hung in the Bailiff's office marks a change in consciousness allowing an ending if not exactly happy at least compassionate The translationI read the Thompson translation It's noticeably richer in vocabulary than the Magnusson translations of other Laxness novels I've read If your taste is towards the laconic you might prefer the Magnusson version

  6. Jonfaith Jonfaith says:

    Way back when My wife and went to our prominent local bookseller over the holidays in 2003 She asked me if I had read anything by Laxness and I adroitly responded who? She bought something else and the following day I jogged down to the public library My face burning with shame I checked this out from the stacks and returned home I read such over two days Jonsson the sheep farmer is everyman and he's screwed Modernity arrives along with a nascent globalization Never razor sharp the farmer does possess a tradition and a rustic skill set I loved that Ultimately it may be a meditation on living in a bleak landscape such is helpful in Indiana

  7. Fionnuala Fionnuala says:

    Sheep sagaThe power of Laxness's writing allows the reader to become truly immersed in the smells sights and sounds of the world he has created and for me at least the smells seemed to predominate the smell of damp wool especially An amazing feat

  8. knig knig says:

    It took me a little to do this thing with Independent People 500 pages of itsy bitsy print it reuires a monogamous long term commitment’ But’ Brad Leithauser enthuses in the foreword’ this is the book of my life I have to reign in the suspicion I am its only ideal reader’ Hey ho not a bad sell Still why? What is the book about?‘Well its a book about sheep’ says Leithauser Well for heavens sake 500 pages about sheep do I have it in me? I’m not Welsh after all where the men are men and the sheep are afraid Still Laxness won the Nobel prize for it Not that this is an iron clad guarantee These things seem to be politically motivated at times I think I mean I’m wagering no one from Iceland will win any sort of international prize after that little stunt they pulled in 2008 when Landsbanski collapsed and the Icelandic government wouldn’t honour the international debt All across Europe we were treated to well cushioned Icelanders wallowing in steaming mineral water holes in the ice guzzling brandy belching and shouting to the TV camera’s how their tax payers money wasn’t gonna pay up for the folly of already bloated up European investorsAnd yet I’m a sucker for foreign lit I like to see how the other half lives Even if it is sheep Which I can now say is a little misleading Because in fact in amidst all those Icelandic sheep there was also a cow In fact it was the cow I posit which was the star of the show Laxness spends over 100 pages building up this cow and when Bjartur slaughters her one day his wife died of grief and I started bawling myself But I didn’t shed a tear over the sheep I can tell youAnd don't let me forget the Coffee These people like their coffee 30 cups a day and countingIndependent People is the Icelandic version of a family saga I don’t read many of those so my references are rather pedestrian but here goes ‘The grapes of wrath’ ‘Giant’ ‘Thorn birds’ ‘’ insert your own favourite Except devoid of sentimentality and liberally endowed with historical references to the Icelandic struggle for Independence not fully achieved until 1944 as well intelligent and sensitive discourse on Christianity The narrative unfolds languorously a morass trickling in slow motion buoyed by the driest wittiest most understated humour I’ve ever come across Main protag Bjartur’s family life serves as the canvass on which Iceland’s mantle is pared back vivisected and the core of the nation its beating heart and hot pulse strewn forth for microscopic examination a true epic More than anything its a book about Iceland an enigmatic little known very cold North European and climatically inhospitable country with a population of scarcely 300000 coming into its own at the turn of the 20tieth centuryExtremely rewarding read

  9. Lyn Lyn says:

    Like World War Z An Oral History of the Zombie War is not just enough zombie story but also a well written book; so too Independent People by Halldor Laxness is not just another book about Icelandic sheep crofters and separates itself from that crowded genre of literature by the uality of writingThe Nobel laureate from Reykjavik tells an engrossing and damn near hypnotic story about poor Icelandic farmers And sheepNo kidding SPOILER ALERT this is about a sheep crofter in early twentieth century rural IcelandAnd it’s a good book masterfully written and crafted to poetically describe a time and place A small farm on the moors of Iceland comes alive with colorful dialogue family dynamics and subtle political intrigue While we follow the exploits and stubborn misadventures of Bjartur of Summerhouses the real hero here is Laxness for his beautifully descriptive and inspired writingBjartur had worked for years to afford to own his own piece of land and poor as it is the farm is his without debt and he is rich in his own mind as any tycoon His daughter from his first marriage Ásta Sóllilja and he are two peas in a pod and her obstinate independence from Bjartur is both a source of ironic humor in the narrative and a vehicle by which the author examines and explores family isolation community and poverty The haves and have nots even in this poverty stricken place is a particularly captivating theme in the book and Laxness’ superb writing makes the most of the subject Some readers will draw comparisons to John Steinbeck’s work particularly The Grapes of Wrath or In Dubious Battle as Laxness describes early socialist movements amongst the poverty and disparity in economic distributionA well written and entertaining book of a uniue setting

  10. Brian Brian says:

    Everything that one has ever created achieves reality And soon the day dawns when one finds oneself at the mercy of the reality one has createdThere is a subtle beauty in this text an expansive desolation that plays as canvas to Laxness' protagonist Bjartur of Summerhouses creation of an independent life Told in the early years of the 20th century on the hard scrabble tundra of rural Iceland the narrative follows the course of this stubborn Bjartur and his uixotic life long uest for complete independence come what may An independent man thinks only of himself and lets others do as they pleaseLaxness surrounds Bjartur with a panoply of well imagined characters They are in his orbit regardless of his desire for them to be there Time and again he will shatter the worlds of his family his own and will pick up those pieces wet and cold to arrange in an increasingly fragile independence of his own defining Time effaces everything crime and sorrow no less than loveThrough Bjartur I learned that in order to be independent one is completely reliant on other people And that no seemingly how far gone redemption is always a possibility Bjartur of Summerhouses is in you; as he is in me even though we may not be related at all

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