Independent People is a novel of contrasts, especially in its nuanced exploration of character: isolation and family, socialist ideals and the guilt of betrayal, symbol and dream against the brutal truth of nature. Though Laxness's prose is lucid and smooth, his development and depth of image can be as complex as Joyce's or Woolf's. Unusually for epics, especially one in which man's undoing waits in every change of weather, Independent People is also awfully funny. Laxness has a wonderful sense of irony; the reader knows much more than any one character can see. Independent People exalts in the idea of sympathy as one of the only ways that vastly different people — dreamer and realist, socialist and independent, parent and child — can truly touch each other's lives. It is one of the great novels of the 20th century. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
This magnificent novel which secured for its author the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature is at last available to contemporary American readers. Although it is set in the early twentieth century, it recalls both Iceland's medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter
. And if Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book's protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic.
Having spent eighteen years in humiliating servitude, Bjartur wants nothing more than to raise his flocks unbeholden to any man. But Bjartur's spirited daughter wants to live unbeholden to him. What ensues is a battle of wills that is by turns harsh and touching, elemental in its emotional intensity and intimate in its homely detail. Vast in scope and deeply rewarding, Independent People is a masterpiece.
"Reader, rejoice! At last this funny, clever, sardonic and brilliant book is back in print. Independent People is one of my Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time." E. Annie Proulx
"[A] huge, skaldic treat filled with satire, humor, pathos, cold weather and sheep." Publishers Weekly
"I love this book. It is an unfolding wonder of artistic vision and skill one of the best books of the twentieth century. I can't imagine any greater delight than coming to Independent People for the first time." Jane Smiley
About the Author
Halldór Laxness was born near Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1902. His first novel was published when he wsa seventeen. The undisputed master of contemporary Icelandic fiction, and one of the outstanding novelists of the century, he has written more than sixty books, including novels, short stories, essays, poems, plays, and memoirs. In 1955 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 1998.