Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Stones Speak

The Stones Speak

By Þórbergur Þórðarson, Mál og menning, Reykjavik, 2012

Originally published 1956 as Steinarnir tala

This book is a marvelous time machine. It transports the reader back to rural life in 19th century Iceland with a chronicle of events and scenes as seen from a child's perspective. That the child/narrator would be nowadays be considered quite obsessive-compulsive only adds to the fantastic amount of detail it contains about a life-style which was rapidly disappearing in the 1890's. Every aspect of life on a farm in the Suðursveit area of Southeastern Iceland is covered in almost microscopic detail; it can really help the reader achieve deeper understanding of other books about rural life in Iceland (e.g., Independent People, Paradise Regained.)

Þórbergur was a prolific writer, his multi-volume biography of Árni Þórarinsson was one of the sources for the character Jon Primus, the reluctant pastor in Halldór Laxness' Under the Glacier. Hopefully this is only the first of many new English translations of his work to come. Þórbergur's In Search of My Beloved was published in English 1967, but it is not a common book. Stones does show up used in the U.S. from time to time, but the paperback is readily available in Iceland. The translation, by Julian Meldon D'Arcy, is lively and the research he conducted in Suðursveit really makes Þórbergur's descriptions of the geography of the place ring true.

Many thanks to Darien, for insisting that I pick up this great little book for her when I was in Iceland last October.

By Professor Batty


Anonymous I'd Rather Be In Iceland said...

I just saw this book in Iceland, but thought I'd wait and buy it cheaper from here if it was any good. Thanks for the review!

Blogger Professor Batty said...

When I was in Reykjavík last October I had coffee with Silja Aðalsteinsdóttir, the publishing director for Mals og menning. She was thrilled with the translation, and after reading it I can see why. I hope this is only the beginning of more books from this little known (outside of Iceland) author. I hope it does get released outside of Iceland, I haven't seen it on Amazon or ABE.

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