Monday, July 6, 2009

World Light - Book 60

World Light
by Haldor Laxness

To read Icelandic literature means visiting the work of Laxness, considered to be their greatest writer and the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1955. It seems the strength of his writing is in making broad statements about society/life, without explicitly coming to definitive conclusions. Anotherwords it is left to the reader to mull, debate, and contemplate their own place in life through the work. On a specific note we did have the great pleasure to visit the Haldor Laxness museum while in Iceland. He built a beautiful home and when he died his wife turned over the house as is with contents to the historical society. It is interesting to walk through, a life size time capsule, and see were he wrote his books and lived. Below are some pictures from our visit.
World light is the story of a young, feeble, unloved, poor, and abandoned boy who despite his circumstances gains an insight into the world of poetry and beauty. The story is broken into four sections, each detailing different points in his life, from beginning to end. While never fulfilling his truest desires, he never gives up trying to reach them. So I am of two minds; it is a sad book and yet it is a story of hope. Unfortunately the protagonist tries to stay aloof from the dull routine of the real world; the real world will not leave him alone. So we see a lot of hardship in his life as he blindly follows his passion without regard to what is considered proper, ultimately going to jail for sexually assaulting an underage girl.
What is the message to be obtained? For me, and I am open to debate on this, I see a man can pursue his vision of truth and beauty regardless of his circumstances in life. That is because beauty comes from within and it is not dictated by the world. That said, the book does provide some sobering lessons on those who chose to completely ignore the world.
Who should read it? Those of you who want to read a “classic” that is not American or English; or wants to experience Icelandic literature and culture. Having been to the country helps fill in the details that the brief descriptions provide within the text. If you only read one book by Laxness though, Independent People is considered to be his best – UNLESS –
Mormon Mentions: None. But Laxness did have great respect for the church and had many kind things to say about it. Furthermore he did visit Utah three separate occasions and spent years researching and writing another of his significant works, Paradise Reclaimed. It involves an Icelander who joins the faith and travels to Utah, only to become disillusioned and return home. It is in my to be read pile and might be a better choice if Mormon things interest you and you want the one book option.

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