by Halldór Laxness; F H Lyon Book : Fiction
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Salka Valka, An Icelandic Masterpiece   (2007-05-27)
This book is somewhat obscure in the USA; It was originally published in Iceland in two parts (Þú vínviður hreini and Fuglinnn í fjörunni) in the early thirties where it created a sensation in the Scandinavian countries. It was published in England in 1936 (translated from the Danish- last printed 1964.) This is one of Laxness's earlier works, written just before Independent People and covering some of the same territory, but focusing on life in a fishing village rather than on a sheep-farm.This is a novel about fish. And love. And, surprisingly, gender and feminism. Salka is an unlikely heroine, homely, coarse and ignorant; but not stupid; possessed of a vitality which cannot be defeated. Salka's struggle to find her place in a hostile world- a fickle mother, faithless lovers and lack of any real friends- is the common thread woven throughout the work. The book has a complicated mix of sub-themes: illegitimacy, incest, class, domestic abuse, infant mortality, hypocrisy, poverty, Socialism, Capitalism, and Christianity. As a novel of Social Realism, it can be ranked with the finest of Dickens, or even Zola's Germinal. Sprinkled throughout is Icelandic folk wisdom, dark humor, fatalism and a strong sense of the absurd. A tremendous book- certainly worthy of a new translation- but considering that Laxness's great Iceland's Bell wasn't translated into English at all until 2003, English readers may have to wait a while for the proper return of Salka Valka, or else trouble themselves to learn Icelandic!
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