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Independent People

Page history last edited by Tim 14 years, 4 months ago

Independent People

Independent People is a novel by Halldor Laxness.  He began writing while living in America in 1927.  However it was not finished until years later when he moved back to Iceland.  It was orginally published in Icelandic in two parts (Icelandic Pioneers & Hard Times).  The first part was released in 1934 and the second in 1935.  In 1946 it was released in America. Although the book was extremely popular it, along with any other English translation of Laxness's work, was out of print from sometime in the 50s until 1997 when Vintage reissued Independent People along with a handful of other books by Halldor Laxness.  While the book deals with an Icelander's desire for indepdence it was published ten years prior to Iceland gaining independence from Denmark.




The book opens with Bjartur of Summerhouses looking upon his newly purchased land.  After working for the Bailiff for 18 years Bjartur finally owns his own land, his own sheep, his own destiny.  First he renames the land from 'Winterhouses' to 'Summerhouses'.  Shortly thereafter he marries a woman named Rosa.  She is picked for Bjartur by the wife of the Bailiff.  Rosa was a servant to the Bailiff's wife, much like Bjartur was a servant to the Bailiff.  The match makes sense.  Also, Rosa is pregnant with the Bailiff's son's child.  The parents want Rosa to marry to hide the fact.  Rosa dies in childbirth.  The baby, a girl Bjartur names Asta Solilja, survives.  Bjartur goes to the local revrend, who provides him with a new wife.  With the wife comes a mother-in-law.  The new wife bears Bjartur three sons before she dies.  One son wanders out on a snowy night and dies.  The youngest son (who is most likely Laxness himself) moves to America where he will grow up and "sing to the whole world".  The third son stays with Bjartur, but eventually falls in with a group of young laborers getting ready to fight the police.  Asta Solilja gets pregnant at 15 and is driven out of Summerhouses by Bjartur, who says they do not share any blood.  The book ends with Bjartur losing Summerhouses to the bank, and having to move out and eat stolen bread.  Bjartur and Asta Solilja make amends and walk through the croft together for the last time.


The Sagas, The Eddas, The Vikings and Independent People

Here is a paper I wrote on the influence of the sagas, Eddas, and Vikings on Halldor Laxness's Independent People.  Enjoy.

Laxness vs. Vikings  





Iceland's Stoic, Sardonic, "Independent People"

A short article from NPR on the book.  An excerpt is included.


Review of Independent People

A short review of the book, by some guy on the internet with no clout that likes to review books.


Another Review of Independent People

Lengthier review from a well read blogger.


Brothers Judd Top 100 Books of The 20th Century.

Independent People made number 42, but again this is just some guy with a laptop.


Powels Books Review-A-Day

A review from the colossal Portland bookstore.


Independent People Discussed by Scandinavian Books

Another review, but good.



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