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, Halld r Laxness weaves an enchanting tale on the outskirts of Reykjav k, 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 the diary of a place, Brekkukot, and the portrait of a generation long gone, in a time when Reykjav k was just a bunch of houses inhabited by farmers and fishermen lfgr mur is an abandoned child who grows up at Brekkukot, surrounded by peculiar people and evening sessions of sagas and r mur 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 lfgr mur 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 lfgr mur 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 lfgr mur s adoptive grandfather, Bj rn of Brekkukot, and his companion whom lfgr mur calls his grandmother, two people that Laxness endows with unforgettable traits No matter the circumstances, fisherman Bj rn sold his fish at the same price, rejecting all the fundamental rules of economics, because he thought that people accumulated 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 happy than most lfgr mur 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 Gar ar H lm, the most famous Icelander, known all over the world for his amazing voice lfgr mur has the chance to meet him several times when the singer comes to Reykjav k, not knowing what to think of his strange and unapproachable character He can t even hear him sing, because Gar ar H lm 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 Gar ar H lm won for Iceland musical fame abroad and then a few people began to think 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 Halld r 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 Hulduf lk , 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 Hulduf lk Icelandic gardens often feature tiny wooden houses for hidden people to live in Some people claim to be able to see and interact with Hulduf lk 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 Sigur ur Gu mundsson 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 kr kfaldur I find it fascinating 3 The Great Icelanders praised in sagas and r mur, one of which was Pastor Snorri of H safell, 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 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 Ao ler Laxness, ocorreu me v rias vezes a ideia de ter sido com ele que come ou a fic o islandesa Existiram outros antes, mas isso n o interessa agora A Isl ndia tem uma matriz liter ria moderna e aqui est ela.Seguimos a vida de Alfgrimur, desde a adop o pelos av s cuja viv ncia se faz da mais genu na e aut ntica fibra humana, at ao encontro com o homem real, por tr s do cantor de pera famoso Gar ar H lm Conhecemos Reiquejavique e Alfgrimur na inf ncia at adolesc ncia, passando por Brekkukot, a casa onde a bondade faz acolher qualquer um que precise de um tecto excepto b bados e o adro da igreja onde existe uma nota e pura De facto, a hist ria forma se de pequenos epis dios que poderiam ser lidos como contos, confluindo para uma ideia de crescimento e evolu o.A inoc ncia do personagem principal e narrador ganham o seu tom na ironia e coment rio social do autor Os Peixes Tamb m Sabem Cantar l se atrav s dos olhos do jovem narrador, criado na generosidade e abnega o, lan ado ao mundo governado pelo ego smo e ast cia Neste estilo, parece ganhar um registo ntimo e uma edifica o lenta, mas nobre onde muitos reconhecem o regresso s origens, depois do Nobel ganho com Gente Independente J n o vou a tempo, contudo, est aqui um excelente ponto de partida para quem se queira iniciar na escrita islandesa N o ir o encontrar melhor A excentricidade das personagens desfaz se arrebatadoramente com a mensagem que carregam e o t tulo do livro figura numa das frases mais poderosas aqui proferidas que me deixou a pensar na globaliza o da economia Muito bom. Two years after being awarded the Nobel Prize, Laxness published this bildungsroman about the young Icelander lfgr mur whose coming of age at the beginning of the 20th century coincides with the advancement of capitalist modernity in Iceland Abandoned by his mother, lfgr mur grows up with loving fostergrandparents in a cottage named Brekkukot in Reykjavik the Icelandic original of the book is called The Annals of Brekkukot His fostergrandfather Bj rn works as a fisherman, never demanding money for his goods than he needs to survive, and lives values like integrity, humility and charity without making a show of it A recurring metaphor is the old clock in the living room at Brekkukot that chimes in harmony with the church bell, and that seems to tick a four syllable word with emphasis on alternate syllables Eternity But time passes At Brekkukot, Bj rn helps all kinds of people in turmoil, and large parts of the book deal with lfgr mur meeting Icelanders and some foreigners from all walks of life A central character is Gar ar H lm, who is allegedly a celebrated singer abroad and returns to Iceland several times is art a calling or a profession, is it about happiness or fame, is it about truth or beauty People have kept on asking me , lfgr mur recounts, did he sing well I reply, the world is a song, but we do not know wehether it s a good song because we have nothing to compare it with While lfgr mur is fascinated by the singer, he would be content to stay home in Iceland and become a fisherman like Bj rn, but the latter knows that industrialized fishing will change the profession and wants his fosterson to get an education and he is willing to sacrifice the past for his future This is a wonderfully moving tale, full of vivid imagery and quirky characters Brekkukot was modeled after the farm Melkot on which Laxness parents met, now a literature landmark in Reykjavik, UNESCO s first non English speaking City of Literature Icelandic literature is so unbelievably good Just read Laxness, and then Sj n. Eu gostei muito deste romance mas h v rios dias que o volto e revolto fa o resumos e escrevo palermices leio opini es alheias e nada Ainda estive tentada a fazer um pl gio estou em crer que ningu m dava por isso mas a minha maldita consci ncia trava me Optei pelo mal menor parasitar A opini o do Rodrigo, que muito bonitaPoucas coisas s o t o fal veis e inconstantes como o cora o que ama, e no entanto o nico lugar no mundo onde existe o sentimento de partilha Halld r LaxnessGente Independente Halld r Laxness nasceu em Reykjav k, Isl ndia, no dia 23 de Abril de 1902 e morreu em Reykjav k, Isl ndia, no dia 8 de Fevereiro de 1998 Foi galardoado com o Pr mio Nobel da Literatura em 1955. , 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. 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 Halld r 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. 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, lfgr mur 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 lfgr mur s idyllic childhood are challenged when he starts school and meets Iceland s most famous singer, the mysterious Gar ar Holm Gar ar encourages him to aim for the one true note , but how can he attain it without leaving behind the world that he lovesRural 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 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 lfgr mur finds himself tongue tied than the average teenage male narrator when he s confronted with attractive girls.There is a cosiness about the book, but lfgr mur 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 Gar ar , 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. N o exagerada a nota no fim do livro Laxness falece aos 96 anos, consagrado como um dos maiores escritores de sempre Entra, efectivamente, para o meu passeio da fama.O curioso ao ler Os peixes tamb m sabem cantar a sensa o de querer ler mais 10 livros assim Por momentos pensei na analogia com os sul americanos Laxness um romancista do mundo m gico s que vem do frio Mundo m gico ganha sentido nas descri es t o apuradas e intensas desse pa s que ningu m imagina a Isl ndia Das express es da gente e do simbolismo presente nesta maneira de falar e se uma pessoa estivesse mais morta que viva, dizia se Oh, est um bocado em baixo Se algu m estivesse a morrer devido idade avan ada, empregava se a seguinte frase Sim, tem comido menos nestes ltimos dias Acerca de algu m que estivesse no leito da morte, dizia se Sim, est a fazer as malas, o desgra ado De um jovem mortalmente doente, dizia se que n o parecia que viesse a ter alguma vez cabelos grisalhos para pentear Quando um casal se separava, usava se a seguinte frase Sim, acho que se passa algo de errado por ali esta a linguagem de lfgr mur um mi do que vai crescendo com a simplicidade de um desejo ser pescador de peixes lapa, como o av Mas o seu sonho vai sendo desviado pelo misterioso e famoso cantor o orgulho da Isl ndia Gar ar H lm o desvendar dos segredos deste personagem que vai empurrar lfgr mur para o mundo do canto, em busca da nota pura Mas ser que ele vai estudar mesmo m sica Brekkukot a terra de onde natural definitivamente marcado no meu mapa Foi abandonado pela m e e adoptado por duas pessoas a quem ele chama de av s Gente de valores muito simples, das pescas e do campo A descri o das paisagens e das gentes da Isl ndia deixou me completamente apaixonado Com vontade de ir para l e conhecer Brekkukot, de ir apanha dos peixes, de assistir aos servi os f nebres da gente pobre assegurados pelo canto de lfgr mur.Este livro uma enorme li o de simplicidade Tem v rios valores camuflados entre as met foras nas conversas dos personagens Valores tamb m vincados na beleza daqueles lugares t o in spitos Mas t o ricos e espirituais dos maiores livros que li Este faz com que mantenha a paix o pela leitura and swim underwater, for a really long time.Great stuff from this Icelander.
World Light and
- 296 pages
- Halldór Kiljan Laxness
- Greek, Modern (1453-)
- 02 September 2019 Halldór Kiljan Laxness