Read Il concerto dei pesci by Halldór Laxness Silvia Cosimini Nicola Lecca Online


I pesci possono cantare? Si può restare fedeli alle radici quando la vocazione artistica spinge a varcare i propri confini? Alle soglie del xx secolo l’Islanda si affaccia alla modernità di un mondo globalizzato: Reykjavík si appresta a diventare una capitale dominata dai mercanti, ma ai suoi margini, nel borgo di Brekkukot, l’ipocrisia e l’arroganza della borghesia emergeI pesci possono cantare? Si può restare fedeli alle radici quando la vocazione artistica spinge a varcare i propri confini? Alle soglie del xx secolo l’Islanda si affaccia alla modernità di un mondo globalizzato: Reykjavík si appresta a diventare una capitale dominata dai mercanti, ma ai suoi margini, nel borgo di Brekkukot, l’ipocrisia e l’arroganza della borghesia emergente restano fuori dalla casupola di torba del vecchio Björn, un pescatore stagionale che resiste alla logica mercantile con illuminata testardaggine. Fedele alla ruvida, ma generosa etica tradizionale, Björn offre ospitalità a un campionario di personaggi stravaganti nel suo sottotetto: qui vedrà la luce anche il piccolo Álfgrímur, abbandonato dalla madre e destinato a seguire sul mare il “nonno adottivo”. Ma è cantando ai funerali nel cimitero sotto casa, che il giovane deciderà di dedicarsi alla musica, alla ricerca “di un’unica nota pura”, un ideale unisono fra talento artistico e limpidezza di cuore. Avviato agli studi, Álfgrímur si troverà diviso tra l’idillico microcosmo della sua infanzia e il richiamo di un mondo complesso, ambiguo e attraente, incarnato dalla enigmatica figura di Garðar Hólm, il cantante lirico celebre in tutto il mondo che in patria nessuno ha mai sentito cantare: icona nazionale dai tratti sfuggenti, cela un mi-stero che solo specchiandosi nella coscienza limpida di Álfgrímur potrà essere sciolto. Laxness guarda con ironia e nostalgia al mondo della sua infanzia, consegnandoci il romanzo di formazione di un’artista e di un’intera nazione, sospesa fra tradizione e innovazione....

Title : Il concerto dei pesci
Author :
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ISBN : 9788870911589
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 353 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Il concerto dei pesci Reviews

  • Dolors
    2019-03-28 11:27

    Laxness brings together a catalog of eccentric characters and peculiar anecdotes to tell the story of Algrimur, an orphan taken in by an elderly couple that becomes his only family in a tiny village in the outskirts of Reykyjavík. In the turf cottage where Algrimur grows up, a disparate crew of extravagant guests gathers at night. The impoverished farmers, fishermen and shepherds get transformed into vagrant-soothsayers, quack-philosophers, sea captains and specialists in cesspools, who sit by the fire to tell their life stories in an allegoric cannon of fiercely original voices.More than a delightful literary divertimento, “The fish can sing” offers a painfully accurate portrait of life and its hardships in a rural Iceland that is about to disappear engulfed by impending modernity. The motley assortment of characters orchestrated by Algrimur, who writes his own story as an omniscient narrator, reveals the classic confrontation between two opposed conceptions of the world: the yesteryear social structure, composed of hardened men, self-sufficient in dignified poverty but with great capacity for compassion; and the new emergent class of businessmen and government administrators, or “the authorities”, as Algrimur calls them employing a very fine irony that brutally denounces their treacherous dispositions; who make use of their influence and financial strength to become even more powerful, enough to rule the future.It’s with critical eye that the fish in this concert sing; in the small, almost imperceptible details - and tragedies- of the characters’ daily lives that faith in society can be restored; for the “true note” that the young protagonist searches without rest, and seemingly to no avail, is hidden in the inexhaustible wisdom of the ordinary, of the common people: in the worn-out Pastor’s chants in every funeral, in the generous hospitality of Algrimur’s foster-grandfather, in the silent suffering of his grandmother, in the disinterested kindness of a music teacher, in the truth to be found in Schubert’s “Der Erlkönig”.Laxness’ minute prose generates lucidity rather than nostalgia, but the vivid collage of folklore, myth and tradition, taken as a whole, constitutes a profound meditation on perception, life and death that brims over with philosophical implications. Algrimur might be the last witness of a world in extinction whose people belong to the past; but the prolonged exposition of their incredible lives, captured slowly, in all their austerity and artistry, achieves a paradoxical goal: to stop the passage of time through the smell, taste and color of Laxness’ fleeting snapshots.“The movements of her body were like the leisurely tail-movements of the lumpfish, and the soul in her face had the fragrance of strawberries.”

  • Ema
    2019-04-06 17:28

    The fish can sing just like a bird,And grazes on the moorland scree,While cattle in a lowing herdRoam the rolling sea.Starting from this Icelandic paradox put in verse, Halldór Laxness weaves an enchanting tale on the outskirts of Reykjavík, in a time when the price of a Bible was equal to that of a heifer and people still tried to cure headaches by smearing their faces with warm cow-dung. Some say that The Fish Can Sing is a coming-of-age novel, but I don't really see it that way; it is more the diary of a place, Brekkukot, and the portrait of a generation long gone, in a time when Reykjavík was just a bunch of houses inhabited by farmers and fishermen. Álfgrímur is an abandoned child who grows up at Brekkukot, surrounded by peculiar people and evening sessions of sagas and rímur. His childhood revolves around Brekkukot, convinced, like the eminent Candide, that the world we live in is best at home. He reminisces about a lot of things there: a clock in whose ticking he discovered eternity, a window so small that it was possible to see only one blade of grass and one star. Álfgrímur doesn't perceive himself as poor and he wants to become a fisherman, just like his adoptive grandfather. Until one day, when he hears about the one pure note and starts to indulge in dreams of becoming a singer. This is one of the details I loved most in this novel - one blade of grass and one star. Such a tiny universe and yet so grand! Because Brekkukot is an open place for the unfortunate and the poor, who bring with them strange stories and peculiar situations. All sorts of people come to live here from all over Iceland - some just in passing, others to stay for good, until their dying day. Álfgrímur shares the loft with three permanent inhabitants - a genuine saga-men who used to pilot Danish ships; a philosopher with a mysterious job whom the child believes to be descended from the Hidden People; and an occasional drunk, admirer of cesspools, who in old age was to become the first person to be run over by a car in Iceland. The household is run by Álfgrímur's adoptive grandfather, Björn of Brekkukot, and his companion - whom Álfgrímur calls his grandmother, two people that Laxness endows with unforgettable traits. No matter the circumstances, fisherman Björn sold his fish at the same price, rejecting all the fundamental rules of economics, because he thought that people accumulated more money that they actually needed. He used to read the Bible in a monotonous and solemn chant, a special manner of reading that is now lost. Wealthy people considered he had no ambition, but how much benefit could it bring to a man who was obviously more happy than most? Álfgrímur's grandmother is a mysterious character to him, because he doesn't really get to know her. She was a well of knowledge, answering people with sayings and proverbs, knowing whole ballads by heart from beginning to end. And it seemed she never had a bed of her own to sleep in. It was not until after I was fully grown that I noticed her sufficiently to feel that I really saw her. Suddenly one day I simply felt that she was probably closer to me than anyone else in the world, even though I knew less about her than anyone else and despite the fact that she had been in her grave for some time by then. And then there is the elusive Garðar Hólm, the most famous Icelander, known all over the world for his amazing voice. Álfgrímur has the chance to meet him several times when the singer comes to Reykjavík, not knowing what to think of his strange and unapproachable character. He can't even hear him sing, because Garðar Hólm always leaves unexpectedly before his due concert. Music had not been an educational subject in Iceland since the Middle Ages – indeed, it was considered an affectation or an aberration, especially among the educated – until Garðar Hólm won for Iceland musical fame abroad; and then a few people began to think more highly of it. But for a long time afterwards it was still generally considered rather odd to be famous for singing. So it was practically unthinkable in my younger days for people to let themselves in for the tedium that music involved, except in the cause of salvation; music was good when people had to be put into the ground.You know the case of the studious pupil that makes a good impression with teachers and, even if later he becomes lazy and uninterested, they still give him good grades? I know this, as I've been there. Well, the same thing happened with me and Halldór Laxness: I fell in love with his Under the Glacier and thus I tend to project this elated feeling upon his other novels and Icelandic literature in general. But the truth is that Laxness's novels are wonderful just the same and I can't praise his writing enough: it is warm, mysterious, poetic, full of humor, but also with an undercurrent of sadness. He makes me experience a sort of happiness.I'll share with you what I've learnt about Iceland while reading The Fish Can Sing:1. The Hidden People (Huldufólk), a sort of elves in Icelandic folklore, but not quite. They are believed to live under rocks, so many Icelanders try not to disturb the environment when building their houses. Also, they refrain from throwing stones, for fear they might hit the Huldufólk. Icelandic gardens often feature tiny wooden houses for hidden people to live in. Some people claim to be able to see and interact with Huldufólk and almost everybody has a story to tell. I find this heart-warming, even if the Hidden People are blamed for every object that gets lost.A wonderful illustration by John Bauer (1882–1918), a less-known Swedish painter.2. The interesting Icelandic national costume. There are several types of folk costumes in Iceland, some that were designed by the artist Sigurður Guðmundsson in the 19th century. I found it strange that such an outfit could be designed, but it turns out that this practice is quite common - it also happened with the Swedish National Costume, the Amalia Costume of Greece or the Nestor Costume of the Canary Islands. I don't want to post too many pictures here, so I've chosen my favorite traditional costume from Iceland, popular in the 18th century:The large white headpiece that curves forward is called krókfaldur (I find it fascinating)3. The Great Icelanders praised in sagas and rímur, one of which was Pastor Snorri of Húsafell, a Latin erudite immensely quick at composing verses, a powerfully built and strong man, so good at Icelandic wrestling that it is believed that for more than fifty years there was no clergyman in the whole synod who could stand up against him (you have to admire the subtle humor here). To this day there remains the legendary Husafell Stone, used by the Pastor as a door to his sheep pen. The stone weighs 190 kg and is popular even today as a test of strength. It is said that a man has acquired "full strength" if he can lift the stone up and carry it the 50 meters around the perimeter of the goat pen. I hope these guys managed to prove their strength

  • Luís Miguel
    2019-04-10 15:42

    Ao ler Laxness, ocorreu-me várias vezes a ideia de ter sido com ele que começou a ficção islandesa. Existiram outros antes, mas isso não interessa agora. A Islândia tem uma matriz literária moderna e aqui está ela.Seguimos a vida de Alfgrimur, desde a adopção pelos “avós” cuja vivência se faz da mais genuína e autêntica fibra humana, até ao encontro com o homem real, por trás do cantor de ópera famoso Garðar Hólm. Conhecemos Reiquejavique e Alfgrimur na infância até à adolescência, passando por Brekkukot, a casa onde a bondade faz acolher qualquer um que precise de um tecto (excepto bêbados) e o adro da igreja onde existe uma nota e é pura. De facto, a história forma-se de pequenos episódios que poderiam ser lidos como contos, confluindo para uma ideia de crescimento e evolução.A inocência do personagem principal e narrador ganham o seu tom na ironia e comentário social do autor. Os Peixes Também Sabem Cantar lê-se através dos olhos do jovem narrador, criado na generosidade e abnegação, lançado ao mundo governado pelo egoísmo e astúcia. Neste estilo, parece ganhar um registo íntimo e uma edificação lenta, mas nobre onde muitos reconhecem o regresso às origens, depois do Nobel ganho com Gente Independente. Já não vou a tempo, contudo, está aqui um excelente ponto de partida para quem se queira iniciar na escrita islandesa. Não irão encontrar melhor. A excentricidade das personagens desfaz-se arrebatadoramente com a mensagem que carregam e o título do livro figura numa das frases mais poderosas aqui proferidas (que me deixou a pensar na globalização da economia). Muito bom.

  • Ray
    2019-04-03 11:42

    A gentle comedy set in pre independence Iceland. Alfgrimur is abandoned as a baby and is brought up in a run down shack on the outskirts of Reykjavik. Passing through the house are a motley bunch of deadbeat lodgers and wacky characters. Most intriguing of all is Gardar Holm, the son of a neighbour. He is a local boy made good overseas as a world renowned singer ....... or is he.Gardar flits in and out of the boys life during fleeting return trips home, almost but not quite giving a concert to his adoring home town. One day the saga finally comes to a conclusion as a date for the big concert is set. Unwittingly the boy is sucked into the maelstrom and his path for life is set.There is a sense of a country in transition as the old Iceland is changing, moving towards independence and with modern industry starting to take hold. A whimsical affectionate book, amusing rather than laugh out loud funny.

  • Dagný
    2019-04-17 15:41

    This is the same book as, in the English version, is called The Fish Can SingThis is very possibly the best book ever written. Forgive my fretting about translations, I didn't want people to miss a thing. Then I realized that the books' tone, that true tone, will reach through all human languages.The story is set in Reykjavik in the beginning of the 20th century. These are reminiscences about a boyhood spent with an old couple who adopt this abandoned baby in the same manner they welcome several strange characters who end up living in their tiny turf-house. Beyond their home there is the burgeoning town with its Danish influenced pretensions, and there are the mysterious comings and goings of a relative of sorts, a purportedly world famous singer. The sheer beauty and peculiarity of this life is caught with perfectly pitched humor and sensitivity. The humor permeates everything-almost, because although one might most often be laughing out loud, caught by a fresh surprise, in the end the sorrow and the sympathy, or some sort of love for the characters, is overwhelming.Oh, if only some of the sufficiency and modesty of the Brekkukot inhabitants had prevailed better in Halldór Laxness's beloved land. A fancier house has long since replaced Brekkukot, it says so in the story, it was so in the real life world. Yet Brekkukot is eternally there for all of us.

  • Antonomasia
    2019-03-27 16:15

    Loved the earlier part of the book, an Icelandic Cider with Rosie, not so much the latter. That could have had something to do with struggling through the second half in the haze of a seemingly random, day-long migraine-like headache and aftermath. I could see the story was *good*, but wasn't on board with its particular brand of bittersweet illusion-shattering enterprise. It's going to be easiest to discuss this after quoting the blurb:Abandoned as a baby, Álfgrímur is content to spend his days as a fisherman living in the turf cottage outside Reykjavik with the elderly couple he calls grandmother and grandfather. There he shares the mid-loft with a motley bunch of eccentrics and philosophers who find refuge in the simple respect for their fellow men that is the ethos at Brekkukot. But the narrow horizons of Álfgrímur's idyllic childhood are challenged when he starts school and meets Iceland's most famous singer, the mysterious Garðar Holm. Garðar encourages him to aim for the "one true note", but how can he attain it without leaving behind the world that he loves? Rural idyll? Household of eccentric, tolerant people? Musicians? Obviously it sounds like something I'd like - I first bought this 12 years ago after finding it in a bookshop. (Long before all you non-hipsters were into Nordic stuff...)What was most interesting was a sense of Icelandic-ness, which is building up through some other books I've started recently (not yet finished or reviewed). To describe it as a blend of liberality and harshness sounds all wrong, as if it's conflicted - it's more that qualities combine in ways which aren't quite usual in English culture; it makes sense as part of the physical environment and isn't easy to explain in words. This old couple provide an unquestioning refuge for people in various predicaments, yet aspects of their own emotional world would look excessively reticent and restrained to the most stiff-upper-lipped of Brits: with their boy, love and especially falling-in are barely talked of, or as something in "hysterical" imported (Danish) novels, people who are dying are described as "off their food" and so forth. (But in a way it fits as in my own experience, the most supportive people are those who are just quietly, solidly there and let you get on with being however you are at the time, not fussing or being strongly emotional themselves. Or perhaps that's closer to the Millsian / Rogerian philosophy of one visitor to the household: I reckon one should help all creatures to live as they want to live. Even if a mouse came to me and said that it was going to fly over the ocean, and an eagle said it was thinking of digging itself a hole in the ground, I would say 'Go ahead'. One should at least allow everyone to live as he himself wants to live as long as he does not prevent others from living as they want to live.) However the foster-grandparents' emotional buttoned-up-ness filters through later in inconvenient ways as Álfgrímur finds himself more tongue-tied than the average teenage male narrator when he's confronted with attractive girls.There is a cosiness about the book, but Álfgrímur's lack of interior reflection about his teenage years and schooling, which he found unenjoyable though seemingly not awful, (contrasting with the vibrant descriptions of the childhood he still evidently misses) made him less appealing a narrator as he grew older; his lack of reflectiveness and not-very-rich memory here is at least true to psychological type. The story is well-structured but the later parts didn't give as much insight into the characters (especially Garðar), or even atmosphere and sense of place as the beginnings promised, although it's possible I missed things given the circumstances of reading. Still, the book has the romance of an idyll and its perhaps-inevitable loss.

  • david
    2019-03-31 16:28

    ...and swim underwater, for a really long time.Great stuff from this Icelander.

  • João Carlos
    2019-04-14 11:30

    Reykjavik início séc. XXHalldór Laxness (1902 – 1998) é o mais famoso escritor islandês, laureado com o Prémio Nobel da Literatura em 1955.Álfgrímur, o narrador de “Os Peixes Também Sabem Cantar”, foi um bebé abandonado pela sua mãe, uma jovem rapariga que partiu para a América, que acaba adoptado pelo pescador Björn de Brekkukot e pela sua mulher, um casal de idosos, um avô e uma avó, que vivem numa pobre casa tradicional, com o telhado de erva/relva/turfa, um refúgio que alberga no seu sótão um grupo de personagens peculiares e excêntricas – o reformado capitão naval Hogensen, o superintendente de Reykjavik e filósofo Jón de Skaggi e o homem que espalha estrume na cidade Runólfur Jónsson – três habitantes permanentes a que se juntam outros de passagem, com histórias dramáticas de doença e morte. A idílica infância de Álfgrímur - que pretende “apenas” ser pescador de peixes-lapas, tal como o seu “avô” Björn de Brekkukot, que tem uma peculiar e original relação com o dinheiro ”… completamente diferente da dos valores bancários normais.” (Pág. 22) e com o preço de venda do peixe, mantendo sempre o mesmo valor, não enquadrado com a lei económica da oferta e da procura, considerando que: ”o preço certo para um peixe-lapa, por exemplo, seria aquele que impedisse um pescador de acumular mais dinheiro do que aquele que necessitasse para viver.” (Pág. 23) – é interrompida pelo início da escola…”Até àquele dia, o Mundo em que eu vivia tinha-me parecido suficiente para os meus desejos, de tal maneira que eu nunca tinha ambicionado outro. Eu tinha tudo. Aos meus olhos, tudo no Mundo era, à sua maneira, perfeito e completo.” (Pág. 147)E eis que surge Garðar Holm, um famoso cantor lírico islandês, um homem misterioso e enigmático, um “parente” de Álfgrímur, ora presente ora ausente; e o dia em que ouve o som da “Nota Pura”. Mas nem tudo o que parece é… Halldór Laxness escreve um excelente romance – sem a intensidade dramática de ”Gente Independente” e sem a qualidade da reconstituição histórica de ”O Sino da Islândia” - um retrato intimista de uma família, na pequena cidade de Reykjavik, Islândia, no início do séc. XX, numa narrativa reflexiva e perspicaz de Álfgrímur, desde a infância até à idade adulta, com descrições inesquecíveis de uma pequena comunidade rural e piscatória, numa luta pela subsistência, sempre de uma forma pacífica e harmoniosa, com uma escrita primorosa, com recurso a quarenta e um capítulos, curtos, sempre com um título temático, com notáveis descrições dos cenários envolventes, bem estruturado, com muita emoção e ironia, conjugando de uma forma surpreendente a tradição e a modernidade, a lealdade e a traição, a pobreza e a riqueza, a obscuridade e a celebridade. ”Os Peixes Também Sabem Cantar” pode ser uma excelente primeira abordagem à obra do premiado escritor islandês Halldór Laxness.Casa tradicional com telhado de erva/relva/turfa - Islândia ”Para falarmos na nossa casa acerca de fazer “caridade”, usávamos a expressão “ter bom coração”, e uma pessoa caridosa, como se diz numa linguagem espiritual, era simplesmente uma pessoa com “bom coração” ou ”boa”. A palavra ”amor” também nunca se ouvia na nossa casa, excepto se algum bêbado ou uma criada solteira particularmente estúpida vinda do campo se lembrasse de criar alguns versos de um poeta moderno qualquer; e, ainda por cima, o vocabulário desses poemas era de tal maneira indecente que se acontecesse ouvi-los, desciam-nos arrepios gelados pela espinha abaixo, e o meu avô sentar-se-ia sobre as mãos, por vezes inclusivamente lá fora, no muro do jardim, fazendo caretas, encolhendo os ombros e contorcendo-se como se tivesse piolhos, e diria: ”Toc, toc!” e ”Francamente!”. Globalmente, a poesia moderna tinha em nós o mesmo efeito da lona a ser raspada.” (Pág. 68)”A curiosidade pode ser uma virtude ou um vício, dependendo do tipo de ética elementar que se defenda.” (Pág. 111) ”- Sussurrar os segredos das pessoas ao vento é considerado insensato. (Pág. 307)”Finalmente, agora conseguia compreender as pessoas que recorriam ao suicídio para roubar a iniciativa à morte. (Pág. 319)

  • Friederike Knabe
    2019-04-05 19:41

    Halldór Laxness is undoubtedly Iceland's most famous writer. The story goes that he was in the middle of writing "Brekkukotsannall" - translated (surprisingly) as The Fish Can Sing - when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature (in 1955). Did this recognition change the way he completed the novel? May be, maybe not. Still, reading it with that knowledge in the back of my mind, the novel turns for me into much more that the intimate portrait of a "family", a small village community at the turn of the last century and a coming-of-age story of a young orphan boy, Alfgrimur. Couched in the narrator's stream of consciousness, gracefully integrating the child's view of his world with that of his older, reflective self, we discover the narrator/author's insightful musings on tradition and modernity, loyalty and betrayal, poverty and wealth, obscurity and celebrity. In his descriptions of people and place, Laxness's affecting sense of irony often makes light of the precarious situation in which most of the traditionally-minded locals in the "village" find themselves. The closely-knit community - fishermen, former navy men, the local priest, and the "old women" who look after them all - at the outskirts of what will eventually become Iceland's capital, Reykjavik - are lovingly portrayed and contrasted with the up-and-coming, wealthier merchant class that threatens the perceived peaceful and harmonious life of the community. The latter also represent the pro-Danes group as well as the influence of the wider world; a world that will threaten the livelihood of the local fishermen, like Bjorn of Brekkukot, Alfgrimur's grandfather...Young Alfgrimur lives, in his own words, a happy childhood, despite the fact that he was abandoned by his mother and left at Brekkukot shortly after birth... He is happiest when fishing with his grandfather; closest to the old woman he calls "grandmother", even though he knows "nothing about her". Brekkukot, an old turf cottage, is an unofficial guesthouse where various short- or long-term visitors are staying: some come to die and are buried in the nearby church yard, others live out their retirement and others are just transients. All share the cramped place and even beds in the "midloft"; it is the social centre of Alfgrimur's odd "family".The novel starts with a series of short, unconnected chapters, more like vignettes, through which the older narrator introduces the odd collection of "guests" in Brekkukot and some of the neighbours; all of them appear totally normal to young Alfgrimur and fill his notion of his "world". His and the wider world come together, in a way, for Alfgrimur at least, in the person of Gardar Holm, the famous son of the village, turned world-traveling opera singer. He returns from time to time to Reykjavik and, surprisingly or maybe not, strikes some kind of friendship with young Alfgrimur. In turn, the boy admires the older man, even embarks on teaching himself to sing the funeral hymn as well as Schubert's "Der Erlkönig". However, his idol is not all that he seems to be and Alfgrimur over time learns more lessons from their encounters than he realizes for a long time.I must admit that I took quite some time before I was able to engage with the novel and its characters. Its richness and beauty only really came together for me after I finished the last page and went back, picking out sections and chapters, reflecting on the underlying themes of the novel, exploring its depth and wisdom.

  • Lorenzo Berardi
    2019-04-07 16:41

    Reykjavik today is such an interesting place. Half spartan northern outpost, half ambitious capital of a scarcely populated but not diminutive country, the biggest (and some say only) town in Iceland welcomed your humble reviewer in style. Bygone the hectic days of the financial and real estate bubble followed by the economic crisis that lead the local currency to lose a good deal of its value overnight and the national government to fall, Reykjavik is slowly recovering. Quite reluctantly, many Icelanders have to reckon that tourism turned out to be a damn good goldmine for the country. According to the Visitor's Guide handed over by the Tourism Office in Ingolfstorg (a main square shaped by burger joints and marauded by skateboarders), 278,000 people visited Iceland in 2002, while 672,000 did it ten years later. Given the importance and the position of the capital - not to mention the proximity of Keflavik, the only international airport - I have reasons to believe that 9 out of 10 of these tourists passed through Reykjavik (sorry Akureyri folks!).When I visited the place - at the end of the summer of 2013 - I couldn't help but finding the wonderful Harpa a shiny blackish convention centre cum opera house straight on the waterfront, slightly overdimensioned for a town the size of Reykjavik. Especially considering how, the capital of Iceland already had a Opera House. Ok, the building has just won the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Award 2013 which is to say the Nobel Prize for Architecture and is labelled as 'Reykjavik Latest Landmark'. But still. Personally, I've found the building bearing many a resemblance with the new Royal Library in Copenhagen (aka The Black Diamond) and the Utrecht University Library. But I'm no architect, indeed.Some Icelanders would have rather preferred, say, a new hospital for their capital - the one I saw looked in a pretty bad shape - or those 164 million Euros to be invested elsewhere. Completed and open to cultural business on 2011, two years later the building does still look like the proverbial cathedral in the desert as no money were left for a development project including a 400-room hotel, luxury apartments, retail units, a car park and the new headquarters of an Icelandic bank (ironically). Which, your reviewer believes, it's a positive thing. One must not forget that Reykjavik is still administred by a comedian playing the mayor. And sometimes it shows. Formerly a misdiagnosed retarded child, a punk rocker, a cab driver and founder of the self proclaimed Best Party (Besti flokkurinn), Jon Gnarr was dismissed as 'not very entertaining' and a disgrace by all the locals I spoke with. I mean, where else in the world you have the most popular weekly flea market in town being hosted in the ground floor of the National Customs House? Isn't that ironic? I mean not even the bohemian likes of former playwright and Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel could have made it better.(For some additional awe-inspiring fun, just check the Icelandic phonebook which is one for all the country and has people listed on it alphabetically but by their first name).Anyways, the Reykjavik that you can find in 'The Fish Can Sing' looks centuries away from the one I saw. And yet, merely one hundred years have passed by as Laxness set his novel at the beginning of 20th century. At that time, Reykjavik was the capital of a poor, remote and backwardish Danish province with none of the cultural, technological and environmental zest of contemporary Iceland. The town itself gravitated around a couple of long streets, the church, a main square and the Danish Government building (formerly a prison). A bunch of shopkeepers with Danishised surnames and toying with Latin mottoes were the bourgeoisie. The price of jet-set commodities such as books and cream cakes was compared to the one of sheep and cows. Cottages still had turf-made roofs. And all that came from Copenhagen - save preachers - was fashionable. This is the Reykjavik were the orphan Alfgrimur Hansson (a surname meaning the son of Him and thus given to children with no parents) grows up fishing lumpfish with his adoptive 'grandad' Bjoern of Brekkukot, being chased by the plump daughter of the greatest shopkeeper in town and wearing the shoes of the opera singer Gardar Holm, the man who sung for the Pope and made Iceland known worldwide. Holm is a masterfully built and elusive fictional character who is suddenly appearing and disappearing in town baffling the local authorities and bourgeoisie who always try to give him a kingly welcome. When reading about Holm and his idiosyncrasies, I thought that Laxness was partially talking about himself - just change the profession of singer with the one of writer - and that could be true. At the same time, this Gardar Holm who is reluctantly playing the ambassador of Iceland in Paris, Rome and New York is exactly what Bjork became for her country in the 1990s (and Sigur Ros in the 2000s): a celebrity detached by his/her homecountry due to their talent, but later pining for a return back home with world weary eyes hoping to be left in peace by the media. To be honest, not that much happens in 'The Fish Can Sing', but for those who are interested in how people lived, thought - and what they dreamed - in Reykjavik one century ago this novel has a historic significance. The coming of age of the protagonist is not that compelling, but it works as well.Laxness himself was a communist (but driving a Jaguar) who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 due to his portrayal of rural Iceland - go and read 'Independent People'! - and hated any foreign influence in his homecountry. If he were still alive, I'm not sure the author would have liked the fact that all of his books in their English translation are easily avaialble in every bookstore, duty free shop and fuel station of Iceland today. Including 'The Atom Station' where Laxness attacks the presence of a Nato base in Keflavik which is exactly what has recently been converted into the only international airport in Iceland.'The Fish Can Sing' is not Laxness at his best. But this novel does have its charm, includes some decent Icelandic-like humour and I would go for it if you went or are planning to take the next flight to this magnificent and crazy country. Perhaps, if you are lucky, you could get a ticket to see Bjork or Gardar Holm performing at the Harpa seeking for the one note, the same note Alfgrimur Hansson was looking for.

  • Stela
    2019-04-03 14:18

    “Where fish leaves off in Iceland, Latin takes over”I know I am unjust with my three-star rating, but The Fish Can Sing is one of those books I’ve instantly recognized the literary value of, but I couldn’t care much for. Moreover, it constantly reminded me of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (I hear some heartfelt protests here!) in a bizarre, twisted kind of way, not only because I had the same mixed feelings about that one too, but also because it is its total opposite: instead of a rich, overcrowded, overcoloured narrative, a severe, grey and angular one; instead of an aggressive magic realism an apparently naïve, primitive one; instead of a complicated, postmodern structure, the medieval form of a chronicle, instead of a chaotic, devouring city, a quiet and uneventful village. What connects them, however, is the same search of identity, be it social like in Rushdie’s novel, be it artistic, like in Laxness’s one. Whereas Satanic Verses seems to speak about alienation through immigration and loss of religion, The Fish Can Sing is supposed to illustrate (at least according to the author’s notes) the alienation through glory and uprooting. The title could thus be interpreted like a pleading for the beauty of the ordinary life, ordinary people, whose silence speaks to the soul better than any masterpiece could, like the iconic image of the grandfather: He never gave any sign of knowing that his grandchild was nearby, and I never paid much attention to him either, and yet somehow I was always involuntarily aware of him in the background. I would hear him blowing his nose with long pauses between each blow, and then taking another pinch of snuff. His constant silent presence was in every cranny and corner of Brekkukot – it was like lying snugly at anchor, one’s soul could find in him whatever security it sought. To this very day I still have the feeling from time to time that a door is standing ajar somewhere to one side of or behind me, or even right in front of me, and that my grandfather is inside there, pottering away.And indeed, there are enough memorable portraits of those “unspoilt” people, educated at the “Icelander’s university”, which was a quiet gathering around a good reader that read sagas aloud for an entire household in the evenings: people like the narrator Álfgrímur grandparents, with a grandmother who was never seen to sleep in a bed or a grandfather whose moral law concerned fish sale that was not to accumulate money, only to gain enough to live; nameless people like the woman from Landbrot who came to Brekkukot to die and who writes (through the narrator) an endless letter to her children to teach them how to take care of their cow Lykla who was about to calf, or like the man who loves his wife so much that he forgets to take care of her while preaching about her and their love all over the village; local people like little Miss Gú∂múnsen who stalks both Álfgrímur and Gar∂ar Hólm, or Pastor Jóhann who thinks that there is one single note, and it is pure, or Ebenezer Draummann, who wears no socks in order to save money to buy stamps and send letters to philosophers asking them the meaning of obscure words in Sanskrit:“For example, what does the word prana mean? Or karma? And maya?” Obviously there was no one at Brekkukot who could answer this. “And you don’t know either, young man – and you a pupil at the Grammar School?” “No,” I said. “There you are, then,” said Ebenezer Draummann. “Everyone wearing socks, and no one knows what prana is. Not even this young man from the Grammar School.”If there is an equation for happiness, all these stories seem to tell, it could be found in this simple triangle people – fish – singing, that is simple life elevated to art. This is why the narrator insists saying to whoever asks that his dream is to become a lumpfisherman, to continue to live a life unchanged from immemorial times, when the value of a Bible was, as it is now, the same as the value of a cow.However, this interpretation is only partial, since the people of Brekkukot with their stories are only the background for the complicated, strange and not in the least ironic relationship between Álfgrímur and Gar∂ar Hólm, that reveals the real theme of the novel: the artist’s condition, his continue struggle between individuality and universality, together with his obsession to find that pure, unique note that could reconcile both. As Gar∂ar Hólm teaches ÁlfgrímurAlways sing just as you sang that day. Sing as if you were singing over a sea-scorpion. Any other singing is false. God only hears that one note. Anyone who sings for other people’s entertainment is a fool, but not quite such a fool as the man who sings for his own entertainment.This relationship, reinterpreted in that irony I was talking about and that prevents both sentimentality and tragism in a very postmodern way that contradicts the apparent simplicity of the narrative, this relationship, as I said, is the novel's core and Laxness’s masterstroke, and I think that the key of lecture can be easily found by answering a simple question: what is Gar∂ar Hólm for Álfgrímur? Is he his teacher, revealing him the secrets of art, and encouraging him to find his place even though it means replacing him, like in his final public evasion? Or is he his father, who left him as his own father left him, since they are both named Hansson (His-son), like all fatherless children in Iceland? Or maybe, instead of being Álfgrímur’s spiritual or biological creator it is he who is the narrator’s creation, his artistic projection came into life and who never tires to wonder at their resemblance whenever they meet in person:“Who are you?” he asked. “Álfgrímur,” I said. “Ah, so it wasn’t a lie after all?” he said, and smiled at me out of his dark brooding. I stood nailed to the road. Finally he walked up to me very simply and stretched out his hand: “So you really exist after all. I thought I had dreamed it. The most seductive hypothesis is that they are in fact one, emphasizing the dual condition of the artist – the ephemeral human being, and the eternal genius but in a more complicated way, since neither represents only the man or only the genius, but the same artist in two timeframes: the image of maturity comes to haunt the adolescent with contradictory information about artistic and social accomplishments bewildering him even though it won’t stop his way. It is significant that Álfgrímur leaves his village and his grandparents and his past after he sang at Gar∂ar Hólm’s grave, over a body he never saw. He buries his ephemeral being for a while, knowing he will recreate it and finally return to it through his art, for he is finally aware that the voice of his grandfather’s old clock cannot be stopped:For some time no one had heard our clock, any more than if it had not existed. But for these last few days the living-room was quiet, and then I heard that it was still ticking away. It never let itself get flurried. Slowly, slowly went the seconds in my grandfather’s timepiece, and said as of old: et-ERN-it-Y, et-ERN-it-Y. And if you listened hard enough you could make out a sort of singing note in its workings; and the clear silver bell struck.

  • Katie
    2019-04-06 17:24

    I want to re-read this book already. I read it in Iceland, continuing my vow to read only local authors when I travel the world. Sitting on top of an Icelandic mountain, surrounded by sheep covered in that famous wool, looking out over the ocean, and reading this superb little book of stories, was just about the happiest I have ever been. He is beyond comparison, but Laxness can perhaps be likened to Hemingway, if Hemingway liked people. Laxness loves them. He loves the lessons they teach each other, he loves the way they act when a beautiful girl walks in ("all the light in the room arranged itself in one point"), he loves the subtle ways they grow up. This is folk writing at its best; Alfgrim, the main character, is taught lessons by his adoptive grandparents in such a way that we readers learn them at the same time, without the lens of an omniscient narrator. Alfgrim calls it like he sees it, and suddenly we´ve learned how grandmother feels about singing songs to the dog. (Not good. Dogs are beasts and deserve no songs. Sing to the cows, they do good work.) This book does not announce its novelty, much like "Gilead." But because it´s Iceland, land of sagas, even the cows are epic to me. Maybe especially the cows.

  • Victor Hugo
    2019-04-18 14:17

    Sempre tive desejo de ler literatura fora da minha esfera de livros familiares. Para tais descobertas muito contribui conhecer pessoas com quem possamos falar sobre livros, e em tais conversas haverem sugestões para novas leituras. Foi mais ou menos assim que este livro veio parar às minhas mãos.Num primeiro momento fiquei bastante entusiasmado com a leitura, com o que estava a conhecer através do ponto de vista de um personagem, entre outros, e com a Islândia do início do século XX representada. Fui levado a conhecer hábitos e tradições numa terra bem distante e distinta da velha Europa. E penso que foi isso que o autor também quis mostrar - que o seu país tem raízes muito interessantes, mas que não escaparam à dialéctica do "progresso" que se movia na velha Europa.A Islândia e o mundo lá fora, longe e diferente.Num segundo momento, acabei por sentir que a narrativa poderia culminar noutro climax e resolução. Mas, cabe sempre ao autor esse destino fatal do livro.Recomendo este livro para quem não conhece literatura islandesa. E recomendei a mim mesmo ler mais deste autor, entre outros oriundos de outros países nórdicos. Aprende-se com esta literatura.

  • Χρήστος
    2019-04-08 16:41

    (2.5 στα 5)Μια πρώτη γνωριμία με τον Ισλανδό Νομπελίστα, μάλλον απογοητευτική. Πολύ λίγα συμβαίνουν σε αυτό το βιβλίο ενηλικίωσης (coming of age, όπως λέμε και στο χωριό) και η όχι ιδιαίτερα αξιοπρόσεχτη γραφή δεν αντισταθμίζει. Κάποιες όμορφες σελίδες για τη ζωή στην επαρχία της χώρας, μερικοί μεστοί διάλογοι κυρίως προς το τέλος, 2-3 ενδιαφέροντες φασματικοί χαρακτήρες, ωστόσο όλα διαδραματίζονται υπό ένα φίλτρο ηθικής/πνευματι(στι)κής αναζήτησης το οποίο με απωθεί μεν εγγενώς, πιστεύω όμως ότι και ευρύτερα κρατάει τον αναγνώστη σε μια απόσταση, εμποδίζοντάς τον να νοιαστεί ιδιαίτερα γι' αυτά που διαβάζει. Ήταν σαν ένα μέτριο γιαπωνέζικο μυθιστόρημα, με μια σχετικώς ιδιότυπη ατμόσφαιρα και διαφορετικής (από εμάς) συμπεριφοράς χαρακτήρες,δίχως όμως τη μαγεία.

  • Abi
    2019-04-15 19:29

    My second Laxness novel after Independent People, this is lighter in subject matter, and more lyrical in style. It is a charming novel dealing with the coming of age of Álfgrímur, an orphan brought up by his 'grandparents' in a small village in Iceland (Reykjavík, in the days when it was a small village). It is not your typical coming of age novel though; it is profoundly odd in a way that is difficult to explain but that stems mainly from the mysterious Garðar Hólm, the singer reminiscent in some ways of Nonni from Independent People. You can kind of tell it's going to be odd from the title, which is one of the things that drew me to read this after first falling in love with Laxness (even though it is not a direct translation of the original title). It refers not to singing fish, but to Garðar Hólm, an Icelandic export to carry Iceland's fame beyond her fish. This novel definitely deserves more than one reading to fully appreciate it, and is certainly not for everyone. It is definitely worth the effort though for the stunning, as always, Laxnessian descriptions and musings of childhood, and it is an 'easier' read in many ways than Independent People. It's as much about innocence and experience, expectations and disappointment as it is about Iceland. Quirky, but not in a contrived way, and possibly the book with the best opening sentence ever: 'A wise man once said that next to losing its mother, there is nothing so healthy for a child as to lose its father.' It's got a gorgeous last sentence as well, but I won't ruin that here.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-04-13 12:23

    Blasphemy, but I feel like in reading one book by Laxness I kind of have him covered. He gets repetitive in his patterns and it makes the actual plot in his novels take a long time to get to.But one of my rules in speed dating my collection is being willing to say NOPE.

  • Carolyn
    2019-04-23 12:27

    I am indulging myself by re-reading this literary gem, and what a perfect book it is. It is a gentle, humorous coming-of-age narrative written in the first person set in the early 1900s. Reykjavik was only a town of 5,000 people, and the farm Brekkukot was situated right on the edge of the current cbd.It is a simple story, beautifully told, of a young boy Alfgrimur, left by his mother on her way to America. He is fostered by Bjorn and his wife, the elderly couple whose farm is a haven and home for any amount of wayfarers: no-one, apart from drunks, is unwelcome. This couple, especially Bjorn, would have to be the most humane, perfect and moral (in the truest sense) characters ever created in literature. One feels that if the world took Bjorn's ethos as its own, we would live in an earthly paradise. On the pursuit of money, for instance, Bjorn avers that "...all great wealth was inconsistent with common sense."Even though Bjorn reads from a book of sermons each Sunday, "...references to ancient eccentrics from the far east of the Mediterranean, enhanced by the rigidly systemic theology of German peasants...", his moral code is all his own. As Alfgrimur observes,"I think my grandfather Bjorn of Brekkukot would not have been significantly different if he had lived here in Iceland in pagan times", or anywhere else, for that matter.This glorious simplicity is contrasted with the pretensions of the Danes and their local wannabes. Even the notion of celebrity, in the hero-worship of Gardur Holm, the supposedly world renowned singer, is lampooned. The Brekkukot household is immune from this, staunchly Icelandic with their respect for the old ways. The simple language and old sayings were part of daily currency. Even modern literature was suspect: "Danish novels...this was the name which applied in our house to modern literature in general, but particularly anything to do with hysteria." This is the reverse of their own traditions:"....the story-teller's own life never came into the story, let alone his opinions. The subject matter was allowed to speak for itself."Thus it was in the sagas. Indeed, even Halldor's writing reflects the ancient style in parts. Right at the beginning, when Alfgrimur's mother leaves for America, he writes, "...and she is now out of this story."However, to me it is not just the story, engaging as it is, but the sheer brilliance of the writing. So many passages are pure poetry. Captain Hogensen, an elderly resident of Brekkukot, is described thus:"...the light of the world had more or less taken leave of this man, for he was almost blind."Or this, written in the middle of winter:"Somewhere, out in the infinite distance lay the spring, at least in God's mind, like the babies that are not yet conceived in the mother's womb."In the late 17th century, during the Great Fire of Copenhagen, the scholar and great saga collector Arni Magnusson strove desperately to rescue as many of these precious writings as he could.If a fire broke out in my house, I would fight to do exactly the same with my beloved Halldor Laxness books, especially this one.

  • Michelle
    2019-04-16 11:34

    What a strange and bewildering book! I started it eagerly, then languished a bit in its digressive opening chapters. After ignoring it for a few weeks, I moved it to my 'on hold' shelf – usually the kiss of death – only to pick it up again and find myself drawn in. The story is narrated by a young boy, Alfgrímur, growing up under the care of his adoptive grandparents, who are principled, hardworking, poor, and generous to the point of recklessness. Their seaside cottage outside Reykjavik (still, at this point, a small town) is a magnet for hard up boarders, who come and go or simply settle in as part of the family. Young Alfgrímur, who shares a bed in a cramped loft with these misfits, absorbs their solemn tales and regards them all as bygone heroes. But the pattern of his life is ruled by the thrall and secrecy surrounding his elusive cousin, Gardar Hólm, a world famous singer and hero of Iceland. Every sentence in this book is thick with wryness, so thick you feel as though you are reading in another language and glimpsing only half the meaning. It's both captivating and disorienting. Even as Alfgrímur grows up and his larger-than-life heroes come into focus as flawed, frayed human beings, the childlike credulity in his narration is replaced by a tactful restraint that is just as unhelpful to you, the reader, as you try to sift truth from legend in Alfgrímur's peculiar world.Although I feel like I'd have to read it again to understand it, I couldn't help but like this book. It was puzzling and moving and beautiful. One day, I will read Independent People, and I'll go in ready for anything.

  • Siv30
    2019-04-20 15:25

    הוצאת עם עובד, 1976, תרגום ג. אריוך (מאנגלית), 244 עמ' אם יש משהו שפועם בדייגים האיסלנדים, אם יש להם שאיפה לגיבוריו של הלדור לכסנס, זו השאיפה להוכיח לכול העולם שיש עוד משהו באיסלנד חוץ מדגים, או כפי שפזמון איסלנדי גורס: "גם הדג יודע לשיר ממש כמו ציפור// ומזון לו מוצא באדמת המלחה,// וגדי וטלה ופרה ומור// על גלי ים סוער שטים בשימחה" (201).במישור המידי, "גם הדג ישיר", היא סאגה המתארת את החברה האיסלנדית בפתח המאה ה- 20, בכפר דיגים, דרך עיניו של אלפגרים, יתום שאומץ ע"י זוג דייגים המנהלים אכסניית חינם לכל דורש. במישור העמוק יותר, זהו סיפור אנושי על חלומות שמתנפצים, על חברה שעוברת שינויים תוך שהיא דוהרת קדימה ומשאירה מאחוריה את מגדל הקלפים הקורס של החברה והעקרונות הישנים.הספר מורכב מאפיזודות אפיזודות שחלקן היו יפיפיות וחלקן היו לטעמי ארוכות, כוללות פירוט יתר ולפעמים משעממות עד כדי כך ששאלתי עצמי למה הן נמצאות שם. לא מדובר בהמון קטעים כאלה, ובאמת רוב האפיזודות מעניינות, אבל מספיקים שני קטעים כאלה כדי להטיל צל על הספר.במהלך הקריאה ניתן לאתר קו עלילה אחד הנמשך מתחילת הספר ועד סופו, סיפורו של בן הכפר, גארדר הולם, ההופך לזמר ששמו יוצא לפניו באירופה.בל יתעתעו בכם המילים שלי שאולי מתפרשות כלא. בכוונה אני לא נכנסת לפרטים כי למרות שזו סאגה המתארת כ- 20 שנים, מדובר יחסית בספר קצר שכולל 244 עמ'. הגדולה של הלדור לכסנס ניכרת רק ברבע האחרון של הספר, עת המעגלים נסגרים והאפיזודות נקשרות לכדי מיקשה אחת קוהרנטית ובעלת משמעות. אם בשליש הראשון הספר היה רק בגדר נחמד, בחלק האחרון הוא מצויין!

  • Calzean
    2019-03-30 12:20

    A Wonderful portrait of the simple life in a small village near Reykjavik in the days when bibles cost a cow, the need for a barber shop was a point of much debate, fables, little people and simplicity ruled.It traces the early life of a boy abandoned at birth and reared by two old people who share their poor abode with a great set of mad characters. There is a mysterious famous opera singer, kind people and a few ambitious people.There's a lot going on this part-saga, part-historical piece. Great writing, great stories. Humour and humanity.

  • Neal Adolph
    2019-04-14 19:34

    After having finished this novel this morning, I'm grateful for it.The Fish Can Sing is the story of a building, community, and place in Iceland that is a part of the growing city of Reykjavik. This place is changing rapidly, even though the protagonist - a young boy named Alfgrimur - is mostly unaware of the changes because his adopted grandmother and grandfather live very traditional lives. They impart a great deal of wisdom to Alfgrimur because of their traditions - morals about life, love, money, gossip, relationships. It is quite beautiful and, seemingly, plotless. But change happens, and Alfgrimur accepts it cautiously - he wants to grow up and become a Lumpfisherman, like his grandfather, even after attending school and finishing at the top of the class, and even after learning how to make music - admittedly, how to make music quite poorly - and even after meeting the world famous Gar(th)ur Holm. Unfortunately, or fortunately, that is no longer possible, and so the plot picks up once Gar(th)ur Holm returns to Iceland for his first visit. From this point onwards I found the book quite difficult to put down. Beforehand, it is a bit more challenging to stay interested in, despite the beautiful writing and the great characters. The construct the place that Laxness is so fond of remembering he tells random stories about its inhabitants and those who pass through. The reader in me wanted to ascribe some kind of moral importance to every passage, and this was not Laxness' intention. From the first paragraph to the last he had a total vision of the book (as great novelists do), and the passages and stories that fill the pages between were only part of the journey to get there rather than themselves perfectly constructed, carefully selected, and concise, precise story-telling. This is not Coetzee; this is Laxness, and he did something beautiful for it. The fullness of this place was able to breath because he did not trim his imagination down to the few pages or characters that were centrally important. This chronicle of Old Iceland is just as much about Iceland as it is about Alfgrimur. As such, the ending is all the more appropriate - sad, but just right. This novel is filled with a great deal of humour, wonderful writing, and memorable wisdom. It is a story of any place in the world that has found itself losing its traditions to the process of development over which they have little control and in which they have little interest. And for this it is beautiful. I was quite stunned by some of the observations Laxness makes in this story, and how he used humour - something I find I can rarely appreciate in a story - to push a long his ideas and themes. There were passages that were a little unclear, and moments where I was reading text that I didn't know why it was of any value, but I felt like it was important in setting up the mood and sensation of place. The important thing about tradition to Laxness, it seems, is that part of it is nonsensical - what a lovely observation that is!I look forward to reading more Laxness in the coming years. Many of his works have been translated into English, and so getting my hands of some of his more major accomplishments shouldn't be that challenging.

  • Azma
    2019-04-21 11:16

    Many reviews are very ecstatic about this coming-of-age novel, set in Iceland. That genre generally is not my first choice in reading. Nevertheless, the main character Alfgrímur is quite mature, having a firm mind and knowing the value of self-worth, just needing some guidance about the larger world. It seems that several characters speak about the "one pure note". Even the clock chimes it as the syllables of "eternity" and the old pastor is certain of it daily. The opera singer Gárdár Holm describes the pure note as characteristic of "total anonymity" more than of "fame". At birth, the main character is left with foster grandparents to raise him. Their household hosts many unrelated, live-in, longterm dwellers, who entertain evenings with stories. Each of these eccentric characters has a history, which Alfgrímur relates. Then, there's the community's shopkeepers and civic leaders, who are set apart from the activities of the community's inhabitants. There's also Alfgrímur's supposed, slightly older relation Gárdár Holm, to whom the younger boy is loyal. The older boy is catapulted into singing fame of international stature in the minds of the community. It's a myth masterminded by the owner of the general store presumably because Gárdár is not a good store clerk and is the object of his daughter's romantic interests. The community remains none the wiser on account of the singer's canceling concerts in the town. Though Icelanders in this novel are known as excellent storytellers, the ability to sing well, as a professional would sing, has not customarily been cultivated in the fishing community. Alfgrímur is the one called up to sing the funeral songs. The author leaves many unresolved details, hinting at but not definitively specifying what is unseen, such as the future. Alfgrímur's upbringing has influenced him not to seek "aggrandizement" but to cultivate "contentment". Whatever occupation he chooses will probably reflect those values.

  • Guttersnipe Das
    2019-04-23 14:31

    For years now I’ve loved the work of Halldor Laxness, Iceland’s pre-eminent man of letters, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 but now is seldom read. I am forever thrusting his books upon people and begging them to read him at once. Usually I urge them to start with “Independent People”, which is regarded as his masterpiece. This does not always go well. One of my friends complained, “It’s 500 pages about sheep farming!”I said, “Yes. It is 500 UTTERLY SCINTILLATING pages about sheep farming.”She was not impressed. We’re still friends, but she views my opinions on literature with deep suspicion.I reckon there are two alternatives if you wish to explore Laxness’ world and ‘Independent People’ seems a little daunting. My personal favorite is ‘Under the Glacier’, Laxness hilarious fabulistic tale of discovery. But ‘Under the Glacier’ is an exceedingly peculiar book that will not be to everyone’s taste. (On the other hand fans of Murakami, Brautigan, and Philip K. Dick may unexpectedly find in it an entry point to Icelandic literature!) If you are looking for something more “realistic”, then ‘The Fish Can Sing’ is a beautiful book, full of brilliant characters and what appears to be a uniquely Icelandic take on life . Above all, this book is required reading for musicians, who may well resonate with its quest for “the one pure note”. An additional benefit is that the meaning of life may or may not be revealed, by the superintendent, in Chapter 16. I revere Laxness’ novels because they introduced me to an entire world that I’ve found nowhere else. And there’s something else, too, if I can find a way to express it. Laxness has his own special kind of sanity, with sad humor and compassion that never gets over-heated. In the strung-out world where we live now, his novels are a very special refuge.

  • Matt
    2019-04-02 15:29

    I gave a copy of 'Under the Glacier' by Laxness as a Christmas gift. But I would not give 'The Fish Can Sing' as a gift. For 'Fish' it takes awhile to see the merit or brilliance in it. I'm aware things went over my head to, it's easy to get lost in the paragrahs, but I think this worth reading, and I realize merit even though I had difficulty with it.'Under the Glacier' is so bizarre and funny because of how outlandish the content is. This is bizarre too, but a more subtle bizarre. For the first 100 pages or slow the plot moves slow, and they seem stuck in the same town and time frame. By the end though, the reader is interested. I would consider this book kind of like a less frustrating version or more light hearted version of Kafka's 'THe Castle.' Through out the book there is a feeling of entrapment, but instead of uncomfortable like Kafka's wall's closing in, Laxness portroys humor the character's stagnation. Also like Kafka, Laxness takes the ordinary like a phase and blows it out of proportion. There are several instances where a character says something bland about the weather, and his statement creates a shock wave through the town. I guess to repeat, this book 'The Fish Can Sing' has Kafka elements without the desperation. 'Under the Glacier' is more unique and less easy to describe.The edition I read was a different cover, and that cover had an impressionist painting of a village. I can't describe this that well, but this book does have an art quality to the prose. It's about a fishing town in Iceland, and you imagine Van Gogh paintings as you read.I tried not to put any plot line in this review, because I don't remember that well, and I recommend people read Laxness own their own to see if they like it. He's unique.

  • Sylvester
    2019-03-26 18:23

    I've been wanting to read "Independent People" for ages, but this title was much more appealing so I read this instead. It was harder to read than I expected, some bits were delightful, other times I wasn't sure what Laxness was getting at - I'm not sure if this is a translation thing or simply his style. He can be clear as a bell, and then obfuscate to the point that I want to quit. It's odd, too, leafing through the book after I finished it I saw little moments here and there that glinted at me. Almost like finding a crystal in the dirt, a flash of colour that made me catch my breath. I couldn't seem to make out the shape of the thing while I was reading it, though, and that frustrated me. I don't know what it is about this book. (Throughout the entire reading of it I had this sense of lying back in long waving grass, looking up at a cloudless blue sky, and smelling the ocean. I had the same thing while reading "Country of the Pointed Firs" by Sara Orne Jewett. The books are nothing alike. It may have to do with the setting - both are islands.) I do think it is more about the influence of environment on people than it first appears.Look at this - the turf huts they lived in!

  • Sian Lile-Pastore
    2019-04-13 18:27

    I read this because i got all icelandy after reading Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland. Laxness is 'the undisputed master of contemporary Icelandic fiction and one of the outstanding novelists of the twentieth century', so you'd have to be an idiot not to like this right?I'm that idiot.It is beautifully written and has a sweet sort of quiet feel to it, and I like reading about coffee and cake.... but... I found it so slow! and I just wanted it to end. There is a lot about lumpfish in this book too, at one point it seemed someone said the word 'lumpfish' on every page...sigh

  • Jessi
    2019-04-04 14:34

    I know that this book is very well regarded but I was bored. It's very flowery language, well-interpreted but bo-o-o-ring. The other women in the Tumbleweed bookclub liked it alot (except Lisa, she agreed with me). This is a wonderful glimpse into 1950s Icleand and, if you can slog through the entire book, a great ending but dear good in heaven, you have to work for it.

  • Νεκτάριος Καλογήρου
    2019-03-31 14:23

    Ενα ταξίδι στον τόπο του νομπελίστα με μικρές, προσωπικές του καταστάσεις, ιστορίες με εικόνες γεμάτες συναίσθημα. Δεν είναι το έργο που θα σε συναρπάσει, ούτε θα σε τραβήξει να το τελειώσεις μονορούφι. Αυτό το βιβλίο θέλει το χρόνο του και σιγά - σιγά θα σε αποζημιώσει.

  • scarlettraces
    2019-04-03 19:38

    This is funny*. Was Laxness always this funny? I don't remember Independent People and Iceland's Bell being particularly amusing, but maybe I'm developing subtlety in my middle years.*and tragic, naturally.

  • Erwin Maack
    2019-04-22 13:39

    "Por exemplo, se alguém empregasse numa conversa a palavra "caridade", achávamos que era uma espécie de citação frívola, irrelevante ou despropositada do Livro dos Sermões. Para falarmos na nossa casa acerca de fazer "caridade", usávamos a expressão "ter bom coração", ou "boa". A palavra "amor" também nunca se ouvia na nossa casa, exceto se algum bêbedo ou criada solteira particularmente estúpida vinda do campo se lembrasse de recitar alguns versos de um poeta moderno qualquer; e, ainda por cima, o vocabulário desses poemas era de tal maneira indecente que se acontecesse ouvi-los, desciam-nos arrepios gelados pela espinha abaixo, e o meu avô sentar-se-ia sobre as mãos, por vezes inclusivamente lá fora, no muro do jardim, fazendo caretas, encolhendo os ombros e contorcendo-se como se tivesse piolhos, e diria: "Toc, toc!" e "Francamente!". Globalmente, a poesia moderna tinha em nós o mesmo efeito da lona a ser raspada". pág. 68"O que é que ele cantou?, perguntaram-me as pessoas. Eu costumo responder: 'Será que isso interessa para alguma coisa?' Não, não existia nenhum programa impresso. Quais foram as canções? Talvez tivessem sido aquelas canções que se inserem num estilo novo, as quais obterão reconhecimento se o tempo continuar a andar para trás em direção à origem e a comunicação se tornar mais simples do que no presente, de maneira que as pessoas passem a contentar-se em gritar a vogal "a" para exprimir seus sentimentos acerca de tudo, em vez de articularem verbos e nomes; também é muito possível que o que ali se cantou tenha sido o que o asno e o boi cantaram aos anjos na Véspera de Natal. Porém, continuo com a sensação de que no meio daquele cantar de um tempo ainda por vir existiu uma amálgama de fragmentos incoerentes de importantes textos antigos: exultate, jubilate; si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime, se i miei sospiri." pág. 327