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The Great Weaver from Kashmirby Hallador Laxness
Synopses & Reviews
"[The protagonist's] grand, egotistical journey begins with art and ends with God, taking a path marked out by tormented disquisitions on all manner of existential questions."—New York Times Book Review
“Laxness brought the Icelandic novel out from the saga’s shadow. . . . To read Laxness is also to understand why he haunts Iceland—he writes the unearthly prose of a poet cased in the perfection of a shell of plot, wit, and clarity.”—Guardian
“Laxness is a poet who writes at the edge of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot: He takes a Tolstoyan overview, he weaves in a Waugh-like humor: it is not possible to be unimpressed.”—Daily Telegraph
“Laxness is a beacon in twentieth-century literature, a writer of splendid originality, wit, and feeling.”—Alice Munro
Halldór Laxness’ first major novel propels Iceland into the modern world. A young poet leaves the physical and cultural confines of Iceland’s shores for the jumbled world of post-WWI Europe. His journey leads the reader through a huge range of moral, philosophical, religious, political, and social realms, exploring, as Laxness expressed it, the “far-ranging variety in the life of a soul, with the swings of a pendulum oscillating between angel and devil.” Published when Laxness was twenty-five years old, The Great Weaver from Kashmir’s radical experimentation caused a stir in Iceland.
Halldór Laxness is the master of modern Icelandic fiction. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 for his “vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.”
Philip Roughton’s translations include Laxness’ Iceland’s Bell, for which he won the American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Prize in 2001.
"Roughton's beautiful, poetic translation of Laxness's novel tunes readers in to the frustrated genius of its principal character, far better than that character's own lengthy philosophical discourses do. Shortly after World War I, Steinn, a young Icelandic poet-philosopher, heads abroad to make himself 'the most perfect man on earth' and perceive 'glory on the visage of things.' Leaving behind his homeland and would-be sweetheart, Dilj, for Europe, Steinn proves a master of any doctrine he cares to take up, but fails to satisfy his longing for perfection. His 'aesthetic soul' leads Steinn to embrace communism while abandoning his own mother, and later to join the order of the Benedictine monks at the expense of worldly intimacy. Much of Steinn's agony stems from the fact that his quest for perfection is solipsistic; even in his most pious phase, he shows utter disregard for people, including Dilj and his own family. Though he's destined to fall from the get-go, it's intriguing to see how Laxness's antihero dives into manifold ideologies, achieving essentially the same result each time." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Laxness' first major novel, published in 1927, propelled Iceland into the modern world, but it's radical experimentation caused a stir as it told the story of a young poet who left the physical and cultural confines of Iceland's shores for the jumbled world of post-WWI Europe.
Ironic and transcendent portrait--the first major novel by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness. Magical and elemental.
The Great Weaver from Kashmir is Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness first major novel, the book that propelled Icelandic literature into the modern world. Shortly after World War One, Steinn Elliði, a young philosopher-poet dandy, leaves the physical and cultural confines of Icelands shores for mainland Europe, seeking to become "the most perfect man on earth." His journey leads us through a huge range of moral, philosophical, religious, political, and social realms, from hedonism to socialism to aestheticism to Benedictine monasticism, exploring, as Laxness puts it, "the far-ranging variety in the life of a soul, with the swings on a pendulum oscillating between angel and devil." Upon his return to Iceland, Steinn finds himself more conflicted than before, torn between love of the beauty and traditions of his homeland, longing and regret for his great adolescent love, Diljá, and his newfound monastic ideal, forcing him to make choices with fateful consequences. The Great Weaver from Kashmir is as much a domestic parlor drama as it is a novel of ideas; it can be seen as the downward spiral of an antihero or an exploration of idealism and loss; it is at once an inward-looking and daring early novel and a modern epic spun by a superior craftsman. Published when Laxness was only twenty-five years old, The Great Weaver from Kashmirs radical experimentation created a stir in Iceland. Appearing in English now for the first time, The Great Weaver is much more than a first major work by a literary master—it is a remarkable modernist classic written literally on the cultural and geographical fringes of modern Europe.
About the Author
Born in 1902, Laxness has been touted as the master of modern Icelandic fiction. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955, "for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland,"according to the committee. His work includes novels, essays, poems, plays, stories, and memoir: sixty books in all. He died in 1998.
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