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.