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The fish can sing just like a birdAnd grazes on the moorland screeWhile cattle in a lowing herdRoam the rolling seaStarting 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 eual 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 et 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 Wie man eyn teutsches Mannsbild bey Kräfften hält 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 groundYou 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 happinessI ll share withou what I ve learnt about Iceland while reading The Fish Can Sing1 The Hidden People Hulduf lk a sort of elves in Icelandic folklore but not uite 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 stoneshouses Also they refrain from throwing stones building their houses Also they refrain from throwing stones 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 lostA wonderful illustration by John Bauer 1882 1918 a less known Swedish painter2 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 uite common it also happened with the Swedish
NATIONAL COSTUME THE AMALIA COSTUME OF GREECE OR THECostume the Amalia Costume of Greece or the 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 centuryThe large white headpiece that curves forward is called kr kfaldur I find it fascinating3 The Great Icelanders praised in sagas and r mur one of which was Pastor Snorri of H safell a Latin erudite immensely uick at composing verses a powerfully built and strong man so good at Icelandic wrestling that it is believed that for than fifty Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day: My Autobiography years there was no clergyman in the whole synod who could stand up against himou 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 acuired 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 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 uoting 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 loves Rural idyll Household of eccentric tolerant people Musicians Obviously it sounds like something I d like I first bought this 12 Representation Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices Culture Media and Identities Series years ago after finding it in a bookshop Long before allou non hipsters were into Nordic stuffWhat was most interesting was a sense of Icelandic ness which is building up through some other books I ve started recently not Five fags a day 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 ualities combine in ways which aren t uite 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 unuestioning refuge for people in various predicamentset 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 uietly solidly there and let Wicked Affairs p 2 you get on with being howeverou 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 himsel. «Os peixes também sabem cantar» é depois de «Gente independente» um dos livros mais significativos e de sucesso na carreira de Halldór Laxness Sem dúvida um dos ue melhor explica ao seu leitor a Islândia descrevendo através da história de vida do seu jovem protagonista o momento histórico da passagem da sua misteriosa e mágica sociedade ancestral à modernidade dos nossos dias O romance ue se situa em inícios do século XX acompanha a passagem da infância par. .
F tongue tied than the average teenage male narrator when he s confronted with attractive girlsThere is a cosiness about the book but lfgr mur s lack of interior reflection about his teenage Jane of Gowlands 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 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 welcomedour 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 uite 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 suare shaped by burger joints and marauded by skateboarders 278000 people visited Iceland in 2002 while 672000 did it ten The Piper in the Wind 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 folksWhen 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 indeedSome 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 twoears 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 headuarters of an Icelandic bank ironically Which The Proposal 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 worldou 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 betterFor 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 nameAnyways the Reykjavik that Prey you can find in The Fish Can Sing looks centuries away from the one I saw Andet merely one hundred ears 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 suare 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 about Holm and idiosyncrasies I thought that Laxness was partially talking about himself just change the profession of singer with "The One Of Writer And That Could "one of writer and that could 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 hisher 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 wellLaxness 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 ou went or are planning to take the next flight to this magnificent and crazy country Perhaps if Batman: Arkham Asylum - A Serious House on Serious Earth you are luckyou 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 Two Once is Never Enough years after being awarded the Nobel Prize Laxness published this bildungsroman about theoung 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 uirky 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 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 totranslations I didn t want people to a thing Then I realized that the books tone that true tone will reach through all human languagesThe 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. A a vida adulta do jovem Álfgrímur Abandonado pela mãe em Brekkukot uma propriedade rural na periferia de Reykjavík então uma peuena cidade de poucos habitantes e sob o domínio dinamaruês a infância de Álfgrímur decorre de forma idílica entre os trabalhos domésticos na uinta com a avó adoptiva ue recita os rímur e as antigas sagas islandesas a aprendizagem de latim e a audição à noite das histórias dos excêntricos habitantes de Brekkukot Álfgrímur ue so. .
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 overwhelmingOh 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 Halld r 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 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 oung 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 narratorauthor 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 grandfatherYoung 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 ard 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 familyThe novel starts with a series of short unconnected chapters 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 Vikings in Wales An Archaeological uest 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 withoung 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 Erlk nig However his idol is not all that he seems to be and Alfgrimur over time learns lessons from their encounters than he realizes for a long timeI must admit that I took uite 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 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 Reykyjav k 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 uack philosophers sea captains and specialists in cesspools who sit by the fire to tell their life stories in an allegoric cannon of fiercely original voicesMore 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 esteryear social structure composed of hardened men self sufficient in dignified but with great capacity for compassion and the new emergent class of businessmen and 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 influence and financial strength to become powerful enough to rule the futureIt 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 oung protagonist searches without rest and seemingly to no avail is hidden in the inexha 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 heGardar flits in and out of the boys life during fleeting return trips home almost but not uite 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 setThere 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 and swim underwater for a really long timeGreat stuff from this Icelander 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 5000 people and the farm Brekkukot was situated right on the edge of the current cbdIt is a simple story beautifully told of a Un amor fora ciutat 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 senseEven 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 observesI 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 matterThis 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 novelsthis 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 traditionsthe story teller s own life never came into the story let alone his opinions The subject matter was allowed to speak for itselfThus 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 storyHowever 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 thusthe light of the world had or less taken leave of this man for he was almost blindOr this written in the middle of winterSomewhere out in the infinite distance lay the spring at least in God s mind like the babies that are notet conceived in the mother s wombIn 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 couldIf a fire broke out in my house I would fight to do exactly the same with my beloved Halldor Laxness books especially this one. Nha um dia tornar se pescador tal como o seu avô vê no entanto todos os seus projectos de futuro serem abalados pelo regresso a casa do Garõar Hólm Famoso cantor lírico orgulho da Islândia a vida de Garõar está porém envolta num misterioso segredo ue caberá a Álfgrímur desvelar ligando para sempre a sua vida à desta estranha personagem Será Garõar a fazer com ue Álfgrímur se apaixone pela música incitando o a alcançar com o canto da sua voz a «Nota Pura?.