Monday, November 29, 2004

Bjartur And Asta

In Halldór Laxness’ great novel Independent People is a scene that takes place between the protagonist, Bjartur, an Icelandic farmer and his pubescent daughter, Asta. They have gone to Reykjavík, he on business, she on her first trip to the ‘city’.

As money is tight, they share a bed in a cheap rooming house. In the middle of the night, Asta who is cold, snuggles closely to her father and is overwhelmed by a new feeling, Bjartur rejects her and leaves the room. Asta is crushed, and doesn’t understand what had happened.

When I was younger, I spent a lot of time playing with a sister who was five years younger than me. We would often wrestle, in a playful fashion, never hurting, she loved it. When I was about twelve, we were wrestling together, and I had her in a pin hold, face to face, with me on top. Suddenly a strange and powerful feeling engulfed me, I broke the hold and we never wrestled again. My sister felt rejected by this, but she always fondly remembered our roughhouse antics and was sad that they ended.

More on Halldór Laxness at Laxness in Translation

By Professor Batty


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