Great Passages in “Independent People”

As you read “Independent People,” it is impossible to not be impressed with Laxness’ incredible use of language and imagery, which holds true even in translation. I hold up the following passage from the J.A. Thompson translation where Bjartur of Summerhouses lays out his philosophy of life for the visitors to his humble turfhouse.

“…Bjartur wanted it to appear that his hospitality was a very minor issue. “The chief point,” he said, “and the point towards which I have always directed my course, is independence. And a man is always independent if the hut he lives in is his own. Whether he lives or dies is his concern, and his only. Otherwise, I maintain, one cannot be independent. This desire for freedom runs in a man’s blood, as anybody who has been servant to another understands.”

While this philosophy is the underpinning of Bjartur’s life at Summerhouses, I wonder if our ancestors who made the trip from Iceland to America to find their new lives in a new land would wholeheartedly understand Bjartur’s sentiment and be in complete agreement.

What passages from the novel stand out for you?

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1 Response to Great Passages in “Independent People”

  1. Eric Swanson says:

    The Wedding: It seems that Bjartur is a rather stubborn person who is set in his ways. There was not much information about why he married Rosa. The pastor does his duty but seems pressed for time and not very interested in his flock on a personal level. The Mistress of Myri is very involved in the community but seems to have a rural life ideal that does not square with the reality of life on the small farms.
    Of Thorthur of Nithurkot, Laxness wrote of two of his children “… One son and one daughter had disappeared to a land even more remote, America, which is farther than death.” I’m wondering about what Laxness really thought about America. Surely the decision to emigrate was final in those times, but emigration was often the best opportunity available to young Icelanders at that time.

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