Read Gente Independente by Halldór Laxness Guðlaug Rún Margeirsdóttir Online


Este romance de Laxness, Nobel da Literatura, tem lugar na Islândia, no início do século XX, numa sociedade de servidão e num país com uma natureza inclemente. É a saga de Bjartur, um homem obstinado, inquebrável e inesquecível. Bjartur vive no limiar da auto-suficiência e conta apenas com a sua obstinação e força interior, rejeitando qualquer caridade. Vive num vale com rEste romance de Laxness, Nobel da Literatura, tem lugar na Islândia, no início do século XX, numa sociedade de servidão e num país com uma natureza inclemente. É a saga de Bjartur, um homem obstinado, inquebrável e inesquecível. Bjar­tur vive no limiar da auto-suficiência e conta apenas com a sua obstinação e força interior, rejeitando qualquer caridade. Vive num vale com reputação de assombrado, só confia no seu rebanho, no seu cão e no seu cavalo. Se alguém toca o seu coração é Asta, a sua filha, mas tudo muda quando ela o desilude e magoa os seus enraizados princípios de honra…A determinação de Bjartur e a sua luta pela independência são genuinamente heróicas, assustadoras e chegam a ser cómicas. Gente independente é uma história épica, ao mesmo tempo trágica e bela. É uma imensa viagem por um mundo onde as almas são levadas até ao precipício e só os mais duros resistem. Um romance imbuído de sentido de humor, de uma crueldade que roça o violento e de uma profunda humanidade. Um romance que continua a comover gerações de leitores....

Title : Gente Independente
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ISBN : 9789896230401
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 556 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Gente Independente Reviews

  • Dolors
    2019-03-05 21:14

    Little I did I foresee that I would warm up to Bjartur, the roguish farmer, the more stubborn than a mule protagonist that Laxness chooses to construct this Icelandic epic around.Far from the national hero the title might suggest, the reader meets a curmudgeon, an ostensibly querulous 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 independence.Dogs and cattle, he finds more reliable than people, his own kin included.He 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 exist.Ancient 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 community.Iceland, 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 story.I spent more 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 self.But 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 quatrains 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 deeply.As 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.

  • Abi
    2019-03-09 19:10

    "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 well.The 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.

  • BlackOxford
    2019-03-16 17:52

    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 unequally overgrown paths cut by the horses of the past..."But 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 politics."Laxness 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 Thurmondesque 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. “...[F]or a thousand years they have imagined that they would rise above penury..."The 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 protagonist/poet 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, consequently, recourse.Laxness 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 labour.These 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 quantities, is the stimulant and social lubricant of choice.The crofters survive socially on an infrequent diet of seasonal gossip, rumour and hearsay; and follow an agricultural routine dictated by shibboleths and superstition: "This land will not betray its flocks...Where 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 wisdom.Despite the prevailing poverty, aesthetics is a central issue among the men. Poetry is an art form that requires 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 vehemently.Children 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 more remote, America, which is further than death." This is considered a normal if not inevitable state of affairs for those who are truly independent.The 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 more convenient.The 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 make.It 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 moors.The 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 men."The 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.

  • Jonfaith
    2019-03-07 22:06

    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.

  • Hadrian
    2019-03-15 17:14

    Far and away the best book about Icelandic sheep farmers I've ever read. Guðbjartur Jónsson, or Bjartur for short, has spent nearly two decades of his life toiling away for a richer farmer, and his saved up just enough to make a payment on a barren patch of land, which he renames 'Summer houses', or Sumarhúsum. His ambition is to become an independent person - rendered in Icelandic as something like 'self-standing folk', or Sjálfstætt fólk. His aim is to be dependent on no one else for anything. It conjures up the American ideal of the Wild West or the Midwestern homesteaders, of taking what seems to be raw and empty land and cultivating it from an empty wilderness, making one's own fortune. It is tantalizing, a waking dream, it's always almost there. Bjartur is a complex and intriguing figure, and he's also a stubborn ass. He has a personality like sandpaper, and his only real companion is his dog. He's not as aloof to some of the other smallholders, but distrusts almost everything else - the stories about fairies and curses, the church, the town, dreams of America. He has the endearing habit of reciting poetry, and he treasures the old sagas. To be fair, not all of this isolation is of his own making. You could easily think this was the Iceland of the 9th century, when the Norse settlers first came, instead of the 19th. The book even begins with the legend of the fiend Kólumkilli, who made a devil's bargain with the demon Gunnvör. Bjartur lives in a sod house for most of the book. The land is hard-scrabble, poor for farming, only fit for sheep grazing, and he cannot afford a cow. Only later in the book do we see a single car. The only real improvement we see is when some noble got himself shot in some country Bjartur doesn't recognize, continental Europe is slaughtering each other, and they're buying scarce wool at higher prices. But Bjardur's distrust for all social bonds, anything like community, becomes an act of consistent self-harm in such a forbidding landscape. Indeed, he nearly dies in the early chapters of the book after nearly drowning in an icy river. There are so oblique and heady references to socialism in the later chapters of the book, but Laxness uses these, among other motifs, as a stand-in for compassion and community, which Bjartur steadfastly rejects. Laxness has given us an intriguing story, one of a different world in a land out of time, where the crofts of grass and volcanic earth are a character unto themselves, where the sheep and men and dogs fight to live, yet a world that is populated with humans only too familiar.

  • Fionnuala
    2019-03-05 17:53

    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.

  • Brian
    2019-03-18 01:00

    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 created.There 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 quixotic life-long quest for complete independence, come what may.An independent man thinks only of himself and lets others do as they please.Laxness 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 love.Through 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.

  • knig
    2019-03-04 20:15

    It took me a little to do this thing with Independent People. 500 pages of itsy bitsy print: it requires 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 investors).And 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 you.And, don't let me forget the Coffee. These people like their coffee. 30 cups a day and counting.Independent 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 300,000, coming into its own at the turn of the 20tieth century.Extremely rewarding read.

  • Aubrey
    2019-02-28 20:03

    When you say the word 'culture', watch out. The traps within the simple word are many, a loving gaze on the self and a objectifying fascination with the other, idealization and discrimination two shafts of light within the same grimy crystal. Nothing conveys this truth so well and so thoroughly as literature, as many throughout the centuries bring up their utensil of inkish intent and lay down their views, all for the most part bound within their single subset of country, family, faith. Nothing sells a turn of phrase like the simplicity of a forthright declaration, adulation and condemnation downright refusing to coexist in any measure, each shying away from the other as if the smallest admittance to the other would be the phrase that broke the novel's back. We have had our reactions to all this, true. Modernism, post-modernism, a straining towards the truth that is often only as effective as its level of readerly defibrillation, which I have applauded many times in the past and will continue to do so in the future, but. This is not the only way.For, no matter how confabulated the methodologies, no matter how esoteric the means and ends by which the words display their worth in full, still there may remain the subtle divide between outright embracing and downright rejection, an implicit answer of no to the question of, is it possible to love, and still critique? Hate, and still recognize as valid? To accept the facts for what they are, and bring them to a plain more beautiful without an instance of warp and waiving over?Laxness can.Now, I know the dangers of first encounters, and this book exemplified so many. My first Icelandic author, my first experience of Iceland as conveyed in literature, my first acknowledgement of this Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature, the final category littered with so many pompous landmines as to make a catastrophic debacle of its own right. And yet, I say, if you must choose a first, or for some tragic reason an only, piece of Icelandic literature to root around in a fervent search for whatever you read for, choose this one. Some say this would ruin the a large portion of future choices, to enjoy something of this supreme caliber as an initial course rather than a triumphant conclusion, but to that I say, life is short, and time is an awful thing to stretch and sap through other works, sustained by only lack of experience. For independence is all very well, but when it comes to living, I will never forgo the chance for change. I have enough confidence in my personal quirks to risk them in something new.For here, you will find the piece of literature that others unconsciously grasp for when they decry the lack of reality of The Lord of the Rings. Here, you will soak in the bliss of gorgeous sights of nature and shudder at the fearful legends of heritage, but do not think you will be left to ride out the course of history in an icy land without the slightest glimpse of the morbid grip it has on its inhabitants. Does the biological workings of shit and parasites in sheep and other creatures make you turn up your nose? Do you frown on the turnings of politics as matters of little concern, disengaged as they seem from the livelihood you attempt to chase? Do you drown yourself in bucolic meanderings, flee from the slightest turn of horrors wreaked by the elements in all their gorgeous lashes against the alive, only take the idealized pieces of a single collective people of epic and landscape and curious traditions and leave the rest as not worth your readerly time? If so, this is not for you, for while it is heartbreakingly obvious that Laxness loved his people, here he does not coddle their faults, nor does he use them as an excuse to excise all the wonder generated in such a harsh world. You will love, and you will hate, and at the end you will be left with the accumulation of this one story of a man, an independent man, and it is for you to decide whether to cry on his shoulder or tear him to pieces with your teeth. The great workings of the world beyond continue to wheel through the many cultures and the countless souls bred upon each and every one, and there is both singing and sorrow to be found within the lands and tongues and vibrancy of this turning sphere of ours. In this piece of work, you will discover one that you may have only heard trickles of tales, of Vikings, of bank failures, of volcanoes and of a small, cold land, where it is reported that one in ten will publish a book. If you are intrigued, don't hesitate for a moment. Love or hate, you will feel, and learn, and perhaps even appreciate this wide plain of existence we live and die upon, and all that comes out of the throes to be shared with those who follow.

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-03-06 00:06

    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 Quixote. 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 grass.The quixotic 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 others.Typical 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 people.This leads me to see Bjartur and his quixotic 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 nights.The 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 sheep.At 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.

  • Ema
    2019-03-14 17:15

    What does it mean being independent? Stop for a moment and think: do you consider yourself an independent person? I've never asked myself this question seriously before reading this novel, although I've always tried to preserve my freedom by sticking to a few personal guidelines: I avoid becoming a working slave; I can't keep my mouth shut when I observe injustice or stupidity; I can't keep my head down to gain favors; I can't stand being tied to a person just out of politeness.In my view, being independent means doing what you want to the farthest extent without obeying, humiliating yourself or giving up on your principles. Complete freedom is an illusion, because this world we are living in is not allowing us to be truly independent, unless we flee to the mountains and live a hermit's life. In the end, we need money, we need things, we need people. But we can be smart and find ways to do what we actually want; push the boundaries and gain as much freedom as we can; live for ourselves and not for the others. In Bjartur's view, being independent means that he doesn't rely upon anybody and he is prepared to fight till the very end to preserve his independence. Through sickness, poverty, hunger and death, he relies upon himself only and does not ask for help. He does not flee and hide, he stays put and stubbornly fights every force that wants to kneel him down, be it nature, people, systems or supernatural forces. He may be stronger and tougher than most, but he is merely a human being in the end. He doesn't have the limitless powers of a God and the world tries to crush him with its iron fist.Maybe you are wondering what is the outcome of Bjartur's fight for independence. I can only tell you that his strong will is not enough when confronted with the powerful tide of economic and political changes. It is a battle between unequal forces, but is his struggle worthless, like an ant's bite to an elephant foot? The masses hold the power, but it takes one individual to ignite the spark of change. He is a mere disposable human being and he might be defeated in the end, but this doesn't mean he can't rise again and find new ways of striving for his independence. As human beings, our weakness will always be attachment and love. We lose some of our freedom because we enjoy doing something or we are crazy in love. We become dependent. Like I've became dependent on a certain community; I can't imagine my future reading life without being able to share my thoughts and receiving answers in return. I'm addicted and this is compromising my independence, but it's an addiction I don't want to be cured of. I'll never be a truly independent person unless I give up caring.Bjartur owns his land and, still, he is in peril of losing it. Economic interests will always find a way to crush him. Our problem is that we don't own a parcel, we only own our thoughts and ideas. We could take them with us and leave an empty shell which will become worthless. We can't be fighting for our place here because we are mere tenants, and not even that; we can be kicked out any time. But we want to fight because of our attachment to a world of thought and ideas that we have created. We could close our computers, step in the real world and forget that this beautiful realm of though ever existed. But what do we find in the world outside, are we actually free there? Because what's happening here is only a recreation of the real world, at a smaller scale. There are rules upon rules everywhere and we actually obey many of them. It's not possible to create a perfect, truly independent world. Only, this situation is more sarcastic because it's happening in the land of books, where freedom of speech (in the limits of decency) should be present in the same way as a book, whether good or bad, has the right to be present. So we could deal with this situation in the same way we are dealing with our lives. We could do what we want and what we love to the farthest extent without obeying, humiliating ourselves or giving up on our principles. Take the good parts, ignore the bad parts. I know this is harder because we are tenants on somebody else's land and the new rules are in conflict with our principles. Maybe it's one of those moments when we need to be smart and earn our independence bit my bit, without fleeing to the mountains.I wonder what Bjartur would do if he were in our shoes. We should not fool ourselves the way he did, indulging in ideals of limitless independence. (view spoiler)[This novel is simply amazing. I urge you to leave everything that you're doing right now and read it. You won't regret it, even though you might die of laughter or drown in your own tears. Because, if your heart is not cold as stone, you'll laugh and cry and laugh some more and cry some more. (hide spoiler)]Go ahead and flag my review if you think it's off-topic, but you have to read the novel first (although it's so easy to pretend around here!). I still have to figure out how to present my reviews from now on, but first I have to regain the pleasure of writing them.

  • Tony
    2019-02-26 18:11

    I kept waiting, waiting, for Bjartur Jonsson to break from his character. Not about his politics, which were entirely pragmatic. And not about his essential philosophy, that a man must be independent and reliant on no one. But surely to his family. Surely there would be one wife or a child that would turn his soul - when one has a flower. There were moments, or more precisely near-moments. And you could read into the text, I suppose, and believe that he actually had a moment when he loved a daughter or a son. But Bjartur spoke only in insults; and, given a choice between a family member or one of his sheep, well, can you say baaaaaa?It would have been a lesser book, though, if he had ever warmed. Through two wives, more children than Laxness could count, some stillborn, but all dying in one way or another, Laxness assures us. Bjartur remains resolute in his beliefs. And so we learn about Iceland's winters, and her nascent politics. Life and government are reduced to their simplest terms. Hardscrabble, brutal. There are lessons learned:-- Someone, somewhere, will benefit from a war.-- Never forego a pre-paid trip to America because of some girl. -- Sooner or later, all sheep get worms.-- And this, from a deathbed:"There are two things I want to ask you to remember when you've gone," she said, the wrinkled old face trembling much more than usual. "I want to ask you never to be insolent to those who hold a lowly position in the world. And never ill-treat any animal."There are discourses within about politics, religion, and the nature of war. This is a land where people read about Noah and sniff, having experienced 200 days of steady rain without a flood. A land where the World War was the most bountiful blessing that God has sent our country. There is plot here, too, but in one vignette after another. You get invested. Bjartur, don't kill the cow. Bjartur, don't kill the cow! Bjartur............!!!!Bjartur, as I said, does not stray from character, even as you grip the seat and beg him to.----- ----- ----- ----- -----There is an old woman here, Bjartur's second mother-in-law. She is mostly bedridden, but as she asks for little, Bjartur is not overtly annoyed with her. She has her oracle moments, which I like in my female octogenarians. In Bjartur's hovel, with diminishing children, and a dog and a cat, she remains.When the bitch had gone, the cat would spring down on the old woman's bed and, after washing himself with meticulous care, would lie down to sleep with his head across his hind legs. The old woman never called him anything but that scum of a cat or that brute of a tom, and yet he liked her best, for he valued not vocabulary but disposition. She had never been known to hurt any animal. It is strange what a great liking cats have for old people. They appreciate the lack of inventiveness, rich in security, which is the chief virtue of old age; or was it that they understood the grey in each other, that which lies behind Christianity and behind the soul?Such a place.

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-03-16 18:48

    My 109th book read this year and just the 6th time that I gave a 5-star rating.This book truly deserves this. It feels like the Les Miserables of Iceland but the sights, smell and sound here is not the France in 19th century but the moors, the sheep, the snow of Iceland during the turn of the 20th century.Halldor Laxness (1902-1998) received the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature and the only Icelandic author who has won this prestigious price.The story revolves around a man called Bjartur of Summerhouses who fights for the independence (not being beholden to any man) of the sheep farmers in his community. Yes, this book is about sheep. Everything about sheep. The book is 483 pages long and the font size is small that could be eye-straining and yet I read this with gusto. I just had to refer to my dictionary once-in-a-while because I did not know anything about sheep except the things about flukes and tapeworms that I studied in Parasitory during my Medical Technology days in college. It also incorporates the Icelandic mythology like a snow demon Grimur who can creep into your dream and what Bjartur could do was not to fall asleep by reciting verses, poems and singing similar to the teenagers keeping awake otherwise when they fall asleep they'll have Jimmy Krueger with his five razors as his fingers.The book is divided into three parts: Part I is Icelandic Pioneers that introduces the main characters of the story as well as the history of the place. It is very interesting to know for example that there are also gods and goddesses in the place and even if it the people were later converted to Catholicism, they still believe in the gods of their ancestors and this reminded me of the people in our province who still believe in faith healers. Bjartur here just left his job for 18-years as a sheep farmer and decides to marry Rosa and vowed that they will leave independently. Part II is called Free of Debt and this is basically about Bjartur trying not to be free of any debts. Rosa dies when she gives birth to Asta Sollilja who is the son not of Bjartur but of Ingólfur Arnarson Jónsson, a bailiff's son. The rest of the chapter is about Arna's being clingy to her father who just like any daughter would try to be as close to her dad so that he would be proud of her and in Arna's case, not blame her for the lost of his wife (Arna's mother). This feeling of Arna is even compounded when Bjartur remarries and has three other children. The way the relationship of the father and daughter is so complex but it basically because of Arna's guilt and Bjartur's knowledge that Arna is not his own.Part III is about the conclusion and the onset of World War II and its effect on the community. I never dreamed of Iceland being affected by war as Hitler did not go to Iceland as far as I know. However, the prices of their commodities like mutton and wool increased and the farmer begin to dream about better lives. Here also, the anti-war message of Laxness is very evident particularly the discussions of the farmers towards the end of this part.One of the most memorable reads that I have this year. If money is no matter, I want to go to Iceland! Whew, especially with this kind of weather in Manila. Scorching summer heat!

  • Neal Adolph
    2019-03-20 19:51

    It is hard to write about this novel, but others have managed to do so with words that make perfect sense. Perhaps, though, I'm still caught in that after-book glow, figuring out just whether or not my love for this book will condense itself into sentences with letters and words and commas and periods. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. For your sake and mine I'll keep this blathering short and encourage you, instead, to go and read reviews from others on this site. There are good ones.It is a lovely work, which I have loved and will love again. It isn't often I say that I love books, though I often admit that I love reading. No, to actually love a book - to feel that kind of connection to the pages - is rare for me. But, well, I love this book. I love its writing, its compassion, its characters, its sadness, its connections to humanity. I love how it illumines the soul. I love how it talks about our shared condition. I love how it doesn't attempt to go over-the-top, I love that it is gentle without being genteel. I love this book. Is that a sufficient endorsement for you? I hope so. Independent People is one of the great books I will read in a life filled with great books.

  • Susana
    2019-03-15 18:11

    (review in English below)1ª parte - O Colonizador da IslândiaMuito bom. Demorei algum tempo a "entrar", na forma de escrita (a fazer-me lembrar Saramago) mas sobretudo no ambiente, uma sociedade rural islandesa no início do século XX. Mas depois comecei a ficar encantada com a riqueza das descrições e o humor fabuloso dos diálogos.Para já, uma bela surpresa e altamente recomendável....Já terminei e a primeira impressão manteve-se. Gostei um pouco menos da última parte, mais centrada em questões sociais e políticas, mas no conjunto é uma excelente história, um pouco chocante para a nossa mentalidade urbana e actual mas contada duma forma por vezes quase mágica e que se torna viciante.A tradução, feita directamente do islandês, parece-me boa, embora por vezes tenha estranhado as escolhas feitas relativamente aos tempos verbais, mas pode ser opção do escritor e característico da língua islandesa, que me é totalmente estranha (só sei que os apelidos são formado a partir do nome do pai, terminando os das mulheres em dóttir, que significa "filha" e os dos homens em son, que significa "filho", e que portanto variam de geração para geração, ao contrário do que acontece em Portugal e na maioria dos países ocidentais). As gralhas estão praticamente ausentes, mas ainda encontrei um ou outro erro ("enublado" em vez de "nublado", "eminente" em vez de "iminente", "querer" em vez de "crer") que deveriam ter sido eliminados na revisão.Vou seguramente tentar ler outras obras deste autor.Part I - Very good. I took a while to get into it, the writing (reminding me of Saramago) but mostly the ambiance, an Icelandic rural society in the beginning of the 20th century. But then I began to feel delighted with the rich descriptions and the fabulous humor of the dialogues. For now, it's a nice surprise, highly recommended....I've finished it and the first impression persisted. I enjoyed the last part a little less, which was more focused on social and political issues, but on the whole it's a great story, a bit shocking to our urban and modern mentality, but sometimes told in an almost magical way that becomes addictive.The translation, straight from Icelandic, seems OK, although at times some choices of verb tenses sounded a bit weird, but that could be the writers's option or a characteristic of the Icelandic language, which is completely alien to me (all I know is that last names originate from the father's name, with women's last names ending with dóttir, meaning daughter, and men's in son, meaning... that's right... son, unlike what happens in Portugal and in most Western countries).I'll certainly be reading other books by this author.

  • [P]
    2019-03-10 20:16

    In 874 CE a Norwegian chieftain, Ingólfr Arnarson, became the first permanent settler on the island that came to be known as Iceland. Ah, truly an independent man! One can’t help but think that Gudbjartur of Summerhouses, the dominant character in Halldor Laxness’ Independent People, would have approved of such a state of affairs. As the novel begins, Bjartur has purchased his own piece of land, after working, for eighteen years, for the Bailiff. This is, despite the measly nature of the land and the shabby dwelling upon it, a momentous occasion for him; he is, at last, a free and independent person. Indeed, Bjartur prizes this independence above all else, so that it becomes almost a mania with him. For example, in the opening chapter there is told the story of the witch Gunnvor, out of which has grown a kind of superstition that one must, when passing her so-called resting place, ‘give her a stone.’ Bjartur, however, refuses, even when his new wife begs him out of a fear of bad luck. He would, it is clear, rather make her unhappy than compromise his principles, than for one moment sacrifice the smallest amount of his freedom [i.e. his freedom to act as he pleases]. Likewise, when she later yearns for some milk, he makes it clear that he will not countenance it because he cannot produce it himself. Bjartur will not ask for anything from anyone else, as he sees this as begging; nor will he accept gifts either.[Iceland on the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus]One might wonder then how one is to approach Bjartur, what one is to make of him, for there are elements of his personality and behaviour that are agreeable and elements that are, in contrast, entirely disagreeable. First of all, we instinctively root for those who strive for freedom; as we do those who live in accordance with their principles, and those who are prepared to work hard. However, his behaviour has disastrous results for his family. Hard work, principles, ideals, freedom, all that is well and good, but if the result is overwhelming misery then one must question whether it is worth it, whether the man who brings down this misery upon his family [if one wants to say that he does – and you do not want to blame economic conditions] is not actually a good person. This, for me, is one of the key questions that the novel raises: just how important are principles? Are they worth sacrificing your health and happiness for? I must admit that I was never really sure how I felt about Gudbjartur of Summerhouses. He has many admirable qualities, and he is capable of tenderness, but he is equally capable of monstrous behaviour.“It was pretty miserable wretches that minded at all whether they were wet or dry. He could not understand why such people had been born. “It’s nothing but damned eccentricity to want to be dry” he would say. “I’ve been wet more than half my life and never been a whit the worse for it.””It is interesting in light of all this to consider that Laxness was, by all accounts, a Maxist. Indeed, he is said to have visited Russia prior to commencing work on Independent People and was very impressed. Even without this knowledge it is clear that with the novel Laxness was, to some extent, making a political statement. Throughout characters engage in political discussions, pass comment on the governing of the country, and wax philosophical about the status of the working man. Moreover, it is significant that the title is plural; Laxness is clearly not, therefore, only concerned with one resolute man, but, rather, an entire country or class. It is worth noting, in this regard, that from 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and then Denmark, and that the country itself only became independent in 1918, shortly before the novel was written.Yet if you accept that Laxness was concerned with an entire class or country, and one considers the Maxist sympathies, then his message seems somewhat obscure [although this may have much to do with my own ignorance]. Marx was himself concerned with labour, production, and the proletariat, all of which obviously play such a big part in the narrative of Independent People. For the German, giving up the ownership of one’s labour is to be alienated from one’s own nature, resulting in a kind of spiritual loss. This seems somewhat in line with how Bjartur is presented, a man who certainly does own his own labour. However, Marx also advocated that the proletariat should have class consciousness, that they ought to organise, and ultimately challenge the prevailing system, which is not at all in keeping with Bjartur’s behaviour and opinions, as he is suspicious of political engagement and, well, men-at-large. For example, when the Bailiff’s son, Ingolfur, broaches the idea of a Co-operative Society for farmers, which would, he claims, prevent exploitation, Bjartur isn’t at all interested.If Bjartur was intended as some kind of anti-capitalist hero then the book fails, because he is not necessarily against capitalism [he defends the merchant], he is simply against anything, or anyone, he deems to be in some way attempting to deny him freedom or independence. For Bjartur, one can be as ruthless and money-grubbing as one likes as long as you don’t interfere with him. Moreover, this free man, this man who owns his own labour, only ends up exacerbating the suffering of innocent people. As the novel progresses, the reader may legitimately ask if he, or certainly his family, wouldn’t have been better off remaining in the pay of a wealthier employer, if that wouldn’t be a more comfortable and therefore rational way of living. In fact, while one might look to the Bailiff and his wife – who periodically appears in the text in order to make glib and patronising statements about the working class, about how only poor people are truly happy, and how much she envies them. She contrasts this, of course, with the hard life of being a bourgeois employer, where all your money goes on paying wages and one cannot [the horror!] afford that dress you’ve had your eye on for a while – as the capitalist villains of the piece, the more I thought about it the more I realised that Bjartur himself could be called a capitalist, just not in the way that we tend to understand that term these days.When someone says capitalist we [or certainly I] tend to imagine someone rich, with at least one thriving business, which is run on the toil of hired workers. Well, Bjartur is categorically not rich; nor does he own a thriving business; and the only workers he has are his own family. Yet his situation is a capitalist model; his farm, although not at all flourishing, is a private enterprise and his family are absolutely exploited as a means of production. The kids, the wife, all are expected to put in extremely long hours, and far from being rewarded commensurate to their efforts are actually given very little to eat, live in wretched circumstances [a small, foul-smelling, leaky hut] and have only rags to wear; indeed, these workers are actually sacrificed in order to protect the business’ assets [i.e. the sheep, which are given preferential treatment]. It is likely that I am wrong about all this, as I am admittedly no expert on Marxism and so on, but It was only when this interpretation came to me that the politics of the novel started to make more sense. Marx wrote about the “despotism of capital,” and that phrase could be seen to sum up this book.I worry that so far I have made Laxness’ work seem horribly dry and grim and unapproachable. I mean, it is grim, there’s no way of getting around that, but it is not without warmth and humour and beauty either. Bjartur, although a kind of tyrant, is also a funny character, particularly in the opening stages of the novel; and even when things are at their blackest there are still moments of absurd comedy, for example, when Bjartur says, “A free man can live on fish. Independence is better than meat.” Furthermore, there is some fine nature writing which acts as a contrast to the unrelenting drudgery. In fact, Laxness’ prose is what makes the novel bearable. While I dislike throwing the word poetic around, because I think it is often used merely as a way of describing so-called superior or flowery writing, it is apt in this case; the Icelander was, I believe, actually a poet; and, well, it shows.“Shortly afterwards it started raining, very innocently at first, but the sky was packed tight with cloud and gradually the drops grew bigger and heavier, until it was autumn’s dismal rain that was falling—rain that seemed to fill the entire world with its leaden beat, rain suggestive in its dreariness of everlasting waterfalls between the planets, rain that thatched the heavens with drabness and brooded oppressively over the whole countryside, like a disease, strong in the power of its flat, unvarying monotony, its smothering heaviness, its cold, unrelenting cruelty. Smoothly, smoothly it fell, over the whole shire, over the fallen marsh grass, over the troubled lake, the iron-grey gravel flats, the sombre mountain above the croft, smudging out every prospect. And the heavy, hopeless, interminable beat wormed its way into every crevice in the house, lay like a pad of cotton wool over the ears, and embraced everything, both near and far, in its compass, like an unromantic story from life itself that has no rhythm and no crescendo, no climax, but which is nevertheless overwhelming in its scope, terrifying in its significance. And at the bottom of this unfathomed ocean of teeming rain sat the little house and its one neurotic woman.”Moreover, as with all great novels of some heft, there are certain scenes in Independent People that will likely stay with you long after reading the book. For me, there are two in particular. First of all, there is the chapter when Bjartur leaves his wife Rosa on her own over night with his favourite gimmer [one of the Rev. Gudmundur’s breed, no less!] as company. Rosa, who has been on edge ever since not being allowed to give Gunnvor a stone, sees in the sheep’s frightened bleating some kind of evil omen. Laxness takes this potentially ridiculous set-up and manages to imbue it with a creeping tension and horror, until Rosa finally snaps and executes the gimmer. It is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful descriptions of madness in literature. The other big favourite of mine is when Bjartur goes in search of the sheep, for he doesn’t know it is dead, and spots a group of reindeer. He decides, being a strong-willed independent man, that he is going to capture the buck for meat. This is no easy feat, of course. During the struggle he climbs upon its back and the buck takes him into the river Glacier in an effort to throw him.When I read another of Laxness’ most well-known works, World Light, last year I felt as though the characters lacked depth; it struck me that they had a signature mood or quirk, and that is all. As I reread Independent People I was starting to get the same feeling about Bjartur; yes, he has mania for independence and freedom…I get all that, I enjoy it, but one reaches a stage where this point has been hammered home so frequently in the first one hundred pages that you start to worry about another four hundred of it. What sets this book apart from World Light, and many other lesser novels, is that Laxness knew when to change it up. So when Bjartur’s one-man-show [he has a wife, of course, but she’s only really there for him to harangue about independence] starts to creak a bit, when it’s becoming repetitive, the author introduces a number of interesting new characters. In a way, one could criticise this move, for it is so abrupt, but providing Bjartur with a new wife, mother-in-law, and children gives the book fresh impetus. Moreover, this family is more finely crafted, have a greater emotional range and a more sophisticated inner life; this is particularly true of the children, Nonni and Asta, who are wonderful creations.I’ve never been one for child worship, for finding a child’s misfortune worse than any other; I find that attitude quite odd, in fact; but Asta, Bjartur’s daughter from his first marriage, ruined me. She was born in extraordinary circumstances, tragic circumstances, and her life at Summerhouses proceeds in a manner no less tragic. There are numerous books that have moved me, many that have needled my personal sore spots [which this one does too, actually – anything to do with poverty tends to affect me emotionally], but this, as far as I can remember, is the only book ever to make me cry, to provoke a tear into dribbling miserably down my cheek. And it is all Asta’s fault. I’m not even sure why she got to me so much; she’s a sensitive, trusting slip of a girl, who, in her naivety or innocence, wants so little [her joy at being given an old worn dress of her mother’s all but finished me off], but, crucially, unlike her father, she does want; she is inquisitive, eager to learn. Maybe it is that: desiring such meagre or basic things, and being denied them. Or perhaps it is simply that having been brought up by a struggling single mother I just can’t bear to see women unhappy. I don’t know.It is worth noting, in conclusion, that, after all the exhausting and frequently oppressive bleakness, there is, towards the end, a tiny shaft of light, a few whispered comforting words that suggest that love, at least, will endure. Ah, hold onto those words, store them in your heart, because a little hope, even blind hope, is the most precious thing of all.

  • notgettingenough
    2019-03-01 18:59

    Written as a pair with PericlesReading Smiley on the back cover of this book:‘I can’t imagine any greater delight than coming to Independent People for the first time’ Really? I mean, REALLY????? Better than sex? Chocolate icecream??? What sort of life has Smiley lived that makes her say that. I couldn’t help thinking of this exchange on the comments of my Harry Potter review:Brook: "I hav read every single book 14 times and i read an average of 200 books per year and have never read a better written book."Manny: "Hey, talk about a run of bad luck! My commiserations."And how on earth, of all the words to use of this book could you come up with ‘delight’? Conversation with Manny last week:For the rest, here: http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres...

  • Amanda
    2019-03-09 21:50

    4.5 stars - This was a really fantastic book to finish off the year. This book is beautiful and heartbreaking and my writing skills could never do it justice. If you are at all interested in Iceland and Scandinavian lit this is a must read. It is a slow burn and takes some patience. It is a book I would like to revisit at least parts of in the future. I will be thinking about these characters and what it really means to be an independent person for a long time.

  • Petra
    2019-03-01 19:15

    An odd, yet intriguing story. Bjartur's drive for independence affects his entire life and family. Their world is bleak and hard. Buried in this story is the story of Iceland. It's the farmers being exploited, the rich being rewarded. It's a hard scrabble life.The prose is rich and deep. This isn't a book to read quickly. It requires a bit of commitment. The richness of the prose is the reward. The story of Bjartur and his family roles out in an interesting pattern. The landscape of Iceland comes alive. Bjartur works for 18 years in order to purchase a tract of land. For the next (approx.) 25 years, we read his story of how he works to keep this land and thrive. He's not an open person. He's complex, yet what the world sees is a stingy, stubborn goat. He keeps his feelings inside, where no one, not even the reader, can see them. I'm glad I read this book. This seems to be the first of a series of 4. I would give the second book a read to find out how Bjartur's family endures but the rest of the series has not been translated, it seems.

  • Candice
    2019-03-08 19:58

    Despite the reviews below, this book is not about sheep. Independent People is about the complex intersection of pride and poverty. It is the story of the fiercely strong and intelligent everyman who has little to show for their successes yet holds their successes with high esteem. It is also about how one's endless struggle to be self-sufficient can make one bitter, senseless, hypocritical and cold.This book is not about sheep at all. Main character Bjartur is preoccupied with sheep because being a sheep farmer is what helps him remain self-sufficient and independent. He defines himself as an independent man who has worked off all his debts to have a small farmhouse and a flock of sheep.Laxness' writing is incredibly detailed, making this Icelandic saga-styled novel a bit arduous to read at times; but all the same, it is this detail is what makes the story so rich. Take this quote, for instance:"And when the spring breezes blow up the valley; when the spring sun shines on last year's withered grass on the river banks; and on the lake; and on the lake's two white swans; and coaxes the new grass out of the spongy soil in the marshes - who could believe on such a day that this peaceful, grassy valley brooded over the story of our past; and over its spectres?"As someone previously wrote in their review, every sentence is like a new story, full of lush imagery and genuine meaning. Absolutely lovely.

  • Ben Winch
    2019-02-28 20:49

    A while back, I entered into a discussion with the friend who recommended me this book concerning the value or otherwise of literature as an exploration of culture – ie, in the mold of Grapes of Wrath or The Tree of Man or just about anything over 400 pages that wins the Booker Prize (which is, after all, given explicitly to a book that “represents a culture”). For those who don’t grasp what I mean here by “culture”, don’t worry, I’m not sure I grasp it myself, in that any book surely represents a culture, if indirectly, through its language, or the other books or beliefs or experiences it derives from. But let’s just say that clause in the Booker Prize conditions (and in the conditions of my country’s – Australia’s – richest literary prize, the Miles Franklin, along with just about any grant for literature offered by its various Arts boards) riles me. Why? A passage I found by fellow Australian Gerald Murnane in the introduction to his novel Tamarisk Row, something I picked up by chance the other day, may help clarify:I cannot recall having believed, even as a child, that the purpose of reading fiction was to learn about the place commonly called the real world. I seem to have sensed from the first that to read fiction was to make available for myself a new kind of space. In that space, a version of myself was free to move among places and personages the distinguishing features of which were the feelings they caused to arise in me rather than their seeming appearance, much less their possible resemblance to places or persons in the world where I sat reading.And yet, true to form, the back-cover blurb of that same edition of Tamarisk Row claims, as its punchline, that the book offers “a truly original view of mid-twentieth century Australia”, as if that external (for want of a better word) “cultural” concern were its primary focus. And this is normal. To the Lighthouse, another book close at hand, is praised for being “at its most trenchant when it is exploring adult relationships, marriage and, indeed, the changing class-structure of its time.” Huh? I missed that bit about class-structure completely! As to marriage and “adult relationships”, I actually read that aspect only superficially, being far more interested in what the blurb doesn’t mention at all: the swooping technique of third-person yet subjective narration that juxtaposes many viewpoints all focussed on the abstract (and virtually undescribed) image of the lighthouse. In other words, a “new kind of space”, in which “possible resemblance to places or persons in the world where I sit reading” are irrelevant (despite that To the Lighthouse, apparently, is the most autobiographical of Woolf’s books, an observation that could only serve to dull my appetite if I paid any attention to it at all).So to Independent People... It’s a big book. Monumental. Not like a Diego Rivera mural or a Steinbeck novel; more like a cliff beaten and scoured by storms, smoothed till its scars seem integral to its make-up. On the surface, it’s monotonous, dreary, claustrophobic. As I read it I’d sometimes tell my wife, incredulous, what had happened in it: scarcely credible feats of survival at the absolute nadir of poverty; a life so barren and lonely that when a cow appears on the wide mountain pasture one winter it might as well be a miracle. “Ugh, why read that?” she’d sometimes say, as if it could only depress me. But I’d sold it short. It wasn’t depressing, but thrilling in its hulking hereness. It was here with me! I was there! In that tiny cabin-doubling-as-stable on that frigid plateau, with the gnarled aching old woman blowing and blowing on the damp wood to light it every morning, the room choked with smoke but the smell of coffee and tallow imminent, the meagre reward for all this hardship. More, it was hilarious. Absolutely. In the driest way possible. The meeting of stubborn frontiersman Bartjur with the cynical priest (fuelled by multiple jolts of coffee) was a showstopper. Bartjur’s struggle to stay alive in the snow while tracking a lost sheep was mindblowing – a dark expressionist adventure – and what he found when he got home days later was a kicker. On one level a straightforward realist (even social-realist) piece bemoaning the grinding poverty of its characters, this is, on another level, black otherworldly comedy, set in the most vividly realised otherworld since Middle Earth. “Exploration of a culture”? Sure, maybe. It’s got that. But me, I don’t read for that, or rarely. When the boy hears his mother (resurrected from chronic illness by the miraculous cow’s arrival) sing in the sunny heath in summer, that’s what I read for:And when later in life he thought of those days, and of the face that reigned over them, then he felt that he too, no less than the blue mountains, had been fortunate enough to experience the holiness of religious contemplation. His being had rested full of adoration for the glory which unifies all distances in such beauty and sorrow that one no longer wishes for anything – in unconquerable adversity, in unquenchable longing he felt that life had nevertheless been worth while living. […] In her song dwelt the most precious and the most incomprehensible dreams of mankind. The heath grew into the heavens in those days. The songbirds listened in wonder to this song, the most beautiful song in life.It’s not easy going (I’ve stopped halfway through, at Book 2, to take a breather) but it’s about as alive as literature gets. Raw and beautiful. A classic, social-realist or otherwise.

  • Deea
    2019-03-12 01:07

    I felt together with Bjartur the blistering cold cutting to his bones after he let the reindeer escape, got out of the river and had to walk all wet through snow and blizzard for hours on end to find a shelter. I craved for milk and some meat together with Rosa during her pregnancy days. I discovered universes in the small space of a shabby room and discovered how time and shapes can be redefined in the mind of an innocent child together with Nonni. I felt together with Asta Solillja how it was to be confined within such narrow limitations imposed by her father, remoteness of their home and poverty, to be soaked to the skin every single day and to keep working like this during the whole summer. I daydreamed together with her about him (“him, him, him” to quote her), the charming stranger that put a mark on her imagination so.You don’t just read this book, you feel everything that’s written inside with all your senses. And the intensity of the feeling leaves you almost breathless at times.Laxness' powerful descriptions made me imagine Iceland in such detail that I hope when seeing the real one I will not be disappointed. Nature which is far from friendly, the crofts with their lack of light, the rain, the ewes all around and the people who, although not schooled much, have poetic abilities and a wisdom that cannot be learned in school, they all together made authentic idyllic landscapes whose charm cannot let one indifferent. The depth of the problems raised and Bjartur's incessant struggle to keep his independence are really touching."The poems that touched her heart most, suffusing her with exalted emotion, so that she felt she could gather everything to her, were those which tell of the sorrow that wakes in the heart whose dreams have not been fulfilled, and of the beauty of that sorrow."This book is about the most authentic of all worlds there is and it speaks about the sorrow felt when the most ardent dreams are not fullfilled. It makes you question what independence really means (what it means for the main character, what it means for you). There is so much beauty, sorrow and poetry in it that it can move anyone to tears.

  • Lindsey
    2019-02-24 00:49

    Emily randomly picked up this book for me in Powells a few years ago, and, after seeing it on our shelf, Brian selected it for book club. I don't know if I ever would have bumped into it on my own, which makes me understand Brad Leithauser's comment in the introduction that discovering "Independent People" makes you feel supremely lucky. What are the odds of stumbling upon an almost 500-page, densely woven, Icelandic novel from the 1940s, and further, what are the odds that it would be so incredible? I absolutely loved this story of stubborn sheep farmer Bjartur of Summerhouses and the myriad villagers and family members who surround him (and whom he spends most of his life ignoring, scorning, or resenting). Not only does Laxness paint a clear picture of rural Iceland in the early twentieth century, but he also invents some of the most memorable characters I've ever encountered. Most of the relationships involve misunderstandings and flawed attempts at communication, and in this way they are entirely human; the interactions between little Nonni and his grandmother, and Bjartur and his daughter, Asta Sollilja, are the ones that most affected me. I finished the book at school and actually had to stop reading it until my planning period, so I wouldn't alarm the kids by crying. Other reviews I've seen of "Independent People" say it is really about sheep; I disagree. More than anything else, this novel illustrates the cruelty humans inflict on one another--both willingly and unwillingly--and the love that can surprise and ultimately redeem even the proudest of hearts.

  • Velvetink
    2019-02-22 17:12

    If you thought "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky was maddening long and depressing "Independent People" is a close runner up. It is an incredibly bleak view of rural life in Iceland concerned with the struggle of poor Icelandic farmers in the early 20th century, only freed from debt bondage in the last generation, and surviving on isolated crofts in an inhospitable landscape. Written in the 1930's originally in 2 volumes, it condemns materialism, the cost of the self-reliant spirit to relationships, and capitalism itself. You will grow bored with talk of worms and sheep, although it was informative to read that tobacco was once used to purge sheep of parasites.The principal character the sheep farmer Guðbjartur Jónsson, aka Bjartur of "Summerhouses' is a stubborn man, seemingly unfeeling and at times simple and brutish, and emotionally hardened in his denial to change from his ideals. Though undoubtedly a principled man, his attitude leads to the death and alienation of those around him.This is at odds with his poetic aptitude in the folkloric tradition. The novel ends during the period of strikes, mutinies, street demonstrations leading to the fall of autocracy -the fall of Tsar Nicholas II while Bjartur finds himself more destitute than when he started at the beginning. The novel won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955. 15/11/13 1 of 8 books for $6 Tuggerah library chuck out

  • Josh Caporale
    2019-03-02 17:15

    3.5 starsI read Independent People as a buddy read with Janelle from The Page Turner, who is an insightful and well-spoken Booktuber that suggested that we read something by Halldor Laxness, who is the first and only Nobel Prize in Literature winner from Iceland. It is a great selection to read this, because I have never read a work of Icelandic literature before picking this up, so I was looking forward to reading something about a country I did not know so much about. After reading this, I got a bit of an understanding about the country, but I felt overall, I would declare that this novel was just pretty good. Bjartur of Summerhouses is our central character, who has spent eighteen years as a sheep herder for a higher authority before finally being able to obtain independence and being able to raise sheep the way he wishes. He marries Rosa, who is a foil in what he is trying to get accomplished. While Rosa has her obligations, including a belief in Icelandic superstitions, Bjartur refuses to be held down by this superstitions and he does not like poetry or prayers unless they rhyme, which comes off as a bit of a gripe of his. Rosa gives birth to their daughter, Asta Sollilja, whose father is the Bailiff's son. Following Asta Sollilja's birth, the next part cuts to about thirteen years later. In addition to his daughter, Bjartur now has three sons and a new wife, and while he is in the right place regarding what he sees as being independent, there is still a great amount of strain between himself and his family. Obviously enough, his children end up going into different directions of their own and there comes a point where THEY want to obtain what THEY see as freedom from a higher authority.The question of what it means to be independent is by all means the foundation of this story and it is definitely the cycle where all of us are attempting to achieve and excel. I would say that this novel definitely brings that idea across. What got me, though, was how dense this novel was written. While this novel was artistically written and the description was gritty and powerful, I felt that it would sometimes get caught up in its wordiness, which would take away from the structure of the dialogue. On some occasions, it would switch between discussion through quotations and structuring the discussion like it was a play. For instance, you would sometimes see something like this: "Bjartur: *insert line*" There were also moments where I would lose track of who was saying what and I would need to go back and read over what was being said. For the record, this is not a light read. This novel requires a great deal of commitment and there will be moments where you may need to read over things before it makes sense. It may even require a reread, which is something I may consider.If I had to compare this novel to types of cheese, it would either be Gorgonzola or Maytag Blue. Why I say this is that you can feel how earthy the novel is as you read it, plodding through the details, yet there are moments where you can feel everything going on around you. If you take things too fast, the experience will be worthless and you will clearly not be fond of it. Laxness' greatest strengths lie in his way with words and how he is so artistic in saying what he wants to say. His ability to craft characters, in my mind, is just pretty good. I felt that while Bjartur had the right sense of motivation, I wish I could have felt a greater sympathy for him and his pursuits. The fact that he is a great representative to Icelandic literature, though, is what makes him an important writer and his ability to insert a reflection of Icelandic history and culture is what is truly important. Overall, I would say this is worth reading if you are a patient reader that is willing to seize the text. This is by no means for those that want to explore classics or literary fiction, but it is for someone looking for a good read and for someone that has the mentality to keep a forward pursuit in mind at all times, no matter the circumstance.Here is my video review for Independent People:

  • João Carlos
    2019-03-15 18:48

    Paisagem islandesa (Fotografia de David Nice)“Gente Independente” é um romance escrito pelo islandês Halldór Hallness laureado com o Nobel da Literatura em 1955.Um livro que narra a vida de Bjartur, um pobre agricultor islandês que tem o desejo obsessivo de manter a sua independência financeira e sentimental, de forma a nunca criar laços de afeição ou afinidades, que entravem a sua obstinação e os seus objectivos, assentes num comportamento irredutível e numa fé inquebrável. O seu objectivo prioritário de vida é a de que um “homem que possui a sua própria terra, é um homem independente”…Nesse contexto Bjartur e Ásta Sóllija representam duas vertentes de um enredo emocionante, em que nem sempre vislumbramos, no imediato, as suas consequências ou intenções, mas que folheadas mais umas páginas, compreendemos o seu conteúdo ou abrangência, fruto da independência e da dignidade que norteia os seus comportamentos e as suas acções. Laxness escreve um romance que oscila entre uma narrativa simultaneamente épica e trágica, com sentimentos dolorosos e comoventes, mas que mantém permanentemente um humor cruel e irónico.Determinadas sequências da narrativa de “Gente Independente” são verdadeiramente dramáticas, consequência de adversidades incontroláveis, de natureza humana e animal ou climatérica, mas que por isso mesmo de leitura exasperante e que apelam a uma atenção e uma disponibilidade imediata e duradoura. As considerações de natureza filosófica e política – com destaque para as questões relacionadas com o liberalismo capitalista e as vantagens ou desvantagens da economia comunista/socialista – são absolutamente brilhantes, enquadradas num contexto narrativo original e que revelam a intemporalidade deste romance. "Gente Independente" está repleto de sequências maravilhosamente descritas e com uma intensidade poética original, destaco cinco: a doença e morte das ovelhas de Bjartur, num sofrimento inenarrável e demolidor, e em que nunca mais vislumbramos o fim; a ingenuidade decorrente da sequência e relacionamento “amoroso” que ocorre na estalagem, protagonizada por Bjartur e Ásta; o paradoxo de Bjartur elogiar a Primeira Guerra Mundial revelando um cinismo atroz, mas verdadeiro, fruto de sentimentos primitivos, orientado exclusivamente pelos seus interesses pessoais imediatos; o modo infantil como Bjartur resolve o conflito latente e permanente que mantém com Ásta, que se revela num desfecho surpreendente e, por fim, o relacionamento “amoroso” que Ásta mantém com o poeta/professor, num período de ausência de Bjartur, numa sequência admirável, revelando um amor comovente, ingénuo e dramático. Um destaque essencial para as descrições das paisagens majestosas e agrestes, delimitadas pela imensidão da “charneca” e de vales sulcados por águas intempestivas, consequência da época do ano e da inclemência das tempestades de neve que representam um factor essencial e determinante numa narrativa irrepreensível de Laxness. "Gente Independente" é um romance admirável, simples e complexo, que exige dedicação, disponibilidade mental e espiritual para absorver toda a escrita magistral de Halldór Laxness. "A paz que reina na natureza tem subjacente um efeito calmante e alegra a disposição, a relva verdejante brilhantemente tecida com flores debaixo dos pés evoca uma sensação de beleza, quase reverência, é cómodo repousar nela, o cheiro é aromatizante, a serenidade reconfortante.”

  •  Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
    2019-03-05 23:16

    What makes Halldór Laxness’s writing looks so terrific is his ability to create and manage every plainspoken and quotidian detail of domestic life feel epic. The overall feeling is of sorrow, darkness and solitude — as if you are caught in the shack on the beach and all you can hear outside is the raging ocean waves. But when ‘o-my-god-moment’ comes, you can feel the epicness—as it happens on every page. If any book can whip your soul back like a wind off the sea, this is it.Ah. The humour and the tragedy. I cried and laughed at the same time. PS: Read it during my trip to Iceland. (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)

  • Pedro Varanda
    2019-03-09 21:50

    Magistral e arrebatador. Um dos maiores livros que eu já li. Um retrato da Islândia rural do início do século e a dura luta pela existência de um homem que tudo faz para ser independente, no meio de uma realidade que não controla, não entende e o esmaga. Obrigatório.

  • Teresa Proença
    2019-03-09 22:00

    Eu teria de ler este livro, nem que fosse apenas pelo título, Gente Independente...Há anos que "vivia" na minha estante, esperando, quem sabe, o momento certo.Porque se existe um momento ideal para conhecermos e amarmos pessoas, acredito que também existe esse momento para os livros. Se nos cruzarmos com eles no tempo errado, corremos o risco de não os desfrutarmos em toda a sua plenitude.Foi uma leitura maravilhosa e que me encheu a alma. Cada palavra encadeada em belas e melódicas frases que me arrebataram e motivaram a querer lê-las, relê-las, transcrevê-las, partilhá-lhas,...Este é um livro de vida, de amor, de liberdade. E acima de tudo, de independência do ser humano face aos outros e aos infortúnios da vida. Um hino à natureza e ao homem que a ama e defende, como um amante dedicado.Há certas passagens, de uma beleza indescritível, que se dirigiram directas ao meu coração. No entanto, há outras, que por tão densas e pormenorizadas me deixaram desertar da leitura, não me sendo permitido compreendê-las e apreciá-las.Fiquei, por isso, com a suspeita de não ter apreciado esta obra em toda a sua plenitude e beleza.Te-lo-ei lido no momento certo?

  • Ludmilla
    2019-02-26 22:01

    okunması gereken bir klasik. dil hafif, toplumsal mesaj verme kaygısı çok az, sunduğu bakış açısı önemli. konusu yaşar kemal'in dağın öte yüzü üçlemesini andırıyor hafiften. çeviri de çok iyi. franzen'ın en sevdiği kitaplar listesinden almıştım adını, sonunda okuyabildiğim için mutluyum. iletişim yayınları'na teşekkürler!