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Iceland's Bellby Halldor Kiljan Laxness
Synopses & Reviews
Sometimes grim, sometimes uproarious, and always captivating, Iceland's Bell by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness is at once an updating of the traditional Icelandic saga and a caustic social satire. At the close of the 17th century, Iceland is an oppressed Danish colony, suffering under extreme poverty, famine, and plague. A farmer and accused cord-thief named Jon Hreggvidsson makes a bawdy joke about the Danish king and soon after finds himself a fugitive charged with the murder of the king's hangman.
In the years that follow, the hapless but resilient rogue Hreggvidsson becomes a pawn entangled in political and personal conflicts playing out on a far grander scale. Chief among these is the star-crossed love affair between Snaefridur, known as "Iceland's Sun," a beautiful, headstrong young noblewoman, and Arnas Arnaeus, the king's antiquarian, an aristocrat whose worldly manner conceals a fierce devotion to his downtrodden countrymen. As their personal struggle plays itself out on an international stage, Iceland's Bell creates a Dickensian canvas of heroism and venality, violence and tragedy, charged with narrative enchantment on every page.
"Laxness has genuine magic as a novelist." New York Herald Tribune
"Laxness is a poet who writes to the edge of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot: He takes a Tolstoyan overview, he weaves in an Evelyn Waugh-like humor; it is not possible to be unimpressed." Daily Telegraph
"[I]f Laxness's characters preach and pontificate, their very human (and often extremely amusing) foibles imbue them with extraordinary energy. Furthermore, the intricacy with which these flinty souls are set into contrast and conflict, and the tenacity with which they cling to endangered and compromised ways of life give this a fabulistic texture quite reminiscent of the classic sagas that influenced all of their author's best books. In many ways, Iceland's Bell isn't a modern novel. And that is its great strength." Kirkus Reviews
"The new publishing season, like every season before, will no doubt bring us its share of books that are like shoe-tatters, shoe-patches, old stocking legs. Yet now we also have, brought forth into the light, this darkly magnificent novel." Brad Leithauser, The New York Times Book Review
In 18th century Iceland, a man becomes a fugitive after being wrongly accused of murder.
About the Author
Halldór Laxness was born near Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1902. His first novel was published when he was seventeen. The undisputed master of contemporary Icelandic fiction, and one of the outstanding novelists of the century, he has written more than 60 books, including novels, short stories, essays, poems, plays, and memoirs. In 1955 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 1998.
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