105 Greatest Living Authors Present the World's Best Stories, Humor, Drama, Biography, History, Essays, Poetry

By Whit Burnett | Go to book overview

HALLDÓR LAXNESS

From Iceland, Halldór Laxness agreed to be represented by a section from the saga of his native country, Independent People. This section concerns Bjartur of Summerhouses, a small freeholder, who having given eighteen years to a master in order to lay by the purchase price of a small mountain sheep farm, is now his own master and at this point in the novel, as the Icelandic winter approaches, is out in the moorland valleys attempting to find one of his lost sheep.


An Icelandic Pioneer

BJARTUR OF SUMMERHOUSES knew better than most people all those nooks and crannies of the far mountain pastures where sheep are still to be found after the last of the round-ups. It was on the eastern slopes of this extensive moorland plateau that he had spent his childhood, on its western border that he had worked as a shepherd all the years of his youth, and in one of its valleys that he now lived as a freeholder, so he knew it from spring to the end of winter, in fragrance and the song of birds, in frost and silence, through innumerable journeys in search of the sheep that bound him so closely to it. But the high heath had also a value for this man other than the practical and the economic. It was his spiritual mother, his church, his better world, as the ocean must inevitably be to the seafarer. When he walked along over the moors on the clear, frosty days of late autumn, when he ran his eyes over the desert's pathless range and felt the cold clean breeze of the mountains on his face, then he too would prove the substance of patriotic song. He would feel himself exalted above the trivial, commonplace existence of the settlements and live in that wonderful consciousness of freedom that can be likened to nothing except perhaps the love of native land shown by sheep themselves, for they would die on their own mountains were they not driven back to the farmsteads by dogs. On such autumn journeys, when he

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