Apr 5, 2009

Warriors next-to-last Chapter

I couldn't help myself. I read The Happy Warriors again. Writing about the book, and thinking it over allowed it to start growing in my head. On this second, more careful reading I found that I could appreciate the rhythm of the book and its subtleties. There is more character development than in the sagas, and the characters' motivations are more transparent. Those who are familiar with early English history will likely find the many historical figures in the book fascinating.

This book was quite a departure for Laxness. Was it an exercise? Was it successful? I think yes, on both counts. It takes the saga structure, or formula, and expands it. While I am partial to the bare-bones style of the sagas, I do find Laxness' version seductive. Many of the political situations and people in power have a disturbingly contemporary feel to them.

The book is more humorous than I first perceived. I found myself counting how many times Thorgeir is called "stupid" to his face--by my counting, at least five times. He should have been born in another era--you know, the earlier one--and has no conception of how obsolete he is.

One particularly delicious passage relates how Thorgeir is the only one left after a battle in Normandy. All of his fellow warriors flee. It is apparent that they cannot win, having been set upon by villagers who throw boiling piss on them and ensnare them in fishnets, among other humiliations.

...[Thorgeir] stood his ground calmly...'I am an Icelander,' said he, 'and I do not remember hearing in tales of old that true fighting-men ever fled in battle.'

(The crowd of peasants laughs at him.)

...the more he was seized with berserk rage, the merrier grew these peasants...Thorgeir Havarsson thought he had fallen into a bad dream.

(The crowd of peasants takes away his weapons.)

In the weeks since I finished my second reading, the characters continue to re-enact events in my mind. Isn't that a mark of great literature? Abstract and ambiguous writing, if it's good, tends to stick with one.

Thank you, University of Kentucky Library. And, thanks to our inter-library loan intermediary. Way to go, girl!

Next up: John reviews Happy Warriors.


9uy said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Do you know about any website where I can swap books? Getting to be expensive to order books from Amazon.

Rose said...

The place I use to swap books is: BookMooch
And, you can read all about it in this post:
Icelandic Books to Mooch?
Happy Mooching!

Rose said...

Oh, and Guy, you won't be able to buy a copy of Happy Warriors in English. Unless you are incredibly lucky!
See my husband's comment about the book in the review that I will post early tomorrow...

9uy said...

Thanks for the info Rose, it was very helpful. Right now I´m looking to put my hands on any English book I can get. English books are rare in Iceland.

Rose said...

Do you have any books to mooch? If you can find some Icelandic books in English translation that people on BookMooch want (like me!), you'll be in good shape. If you find any of the books I'm looking for I can likely find what you want here to exchange with you...there is an excellent used bookstore here that I frequent, and often find exactly what I'm looking for. On BookMooch you can designate who gets a book that you have available.
Good luck!

9uy said...

What books are you looking for?

Rose said...

Warning: it's not a short list! This includes books about Iceland by non-Icelandic authors. But you would be most likely to come across the ones by Icelandic authors:


9uy said...

I will look for it next time I'll go for a book store in Reykjavik. it should be soon.

9uy said...

Btw, I just added your blog to my blog list.

Rose said...

Thank you!