Aug 26, 2012

Odd Saga of the American ...

The Odd Saga of the American and a Curious Icelandic Flock, by E E Ryan. Charleston, 2010. 59 pgs.

I love books about Iceland, I love books about Icelanders in the U.S.--and elsewhere--(such as those by Olaf Olafsson), and I love books about foreigners in Iceland (anything by Bill Holm). Sometimes the authors of the "foreigners in Iceland" category haven't been to Iceland (Jules Verne), but E E Ryan has. Only Ryan (pen name) himself knows how closely the action in his novella mirrors his own experiences.

This novel details the adventures of Alex Welch, an American student who finally realizes his dream of spending a semester in Iceland. He will work with researchers, collecting and analyzing blood samples from sheep. Although his semester is cut short, Alex is in Iceland long enough to experience the misunderstandings, confusion, and humorous adventures that one can expect when traveling or living abroad on your own.

The first Icelander Alex meets is Dr. Gustafsson, Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry.  In a country where people are known by their first names, Dr. Gustafsson never shares his, indicating the size of his ego, perhaps.

Alex dines at Dr. Gustafsson's home and meets some of the people he will be working closely with. One is Snorri, the veterinarian who will help him collect blood samples. The author contrasts the personalities of remote Dr. Gustafsson and the enigmatic Snorri by describing the literature that each prefers (Snorri likes the Sagas, while Gustafsson prefers Laxness). Nice touch!

Snorri's proclivity for the Sagas foreshadows the mysterious events that are to cut short Alex's semester. Some of the events border on tragic, yet like the Sagas, humor is used in relating them.

Just like a trip to Iceland, this brief book will leave you wanting more.

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