The Great Weaver from Kashmirby Halldór Laxness
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From Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness
The Great Weaver from Kashmir is Laxness’ first major novel, the book that propelled Icelandic literature into the modern world. Shortly after World War One, Steinn Elliði, a young philosopher-poet dandy, leaves the physical and cultural confines of Iceland’s shores for mainland Europe, seeking to become “the most perfect man on earth.” His journey leads us through a wide range of moral, philosophical, religious, political, and social realms, from hedonism to socialism to aestheticism to Benedictine monasticism, exploring, as Laxness puts it, “the far-ranging variety in the life of a soul, with the swings on a pendulum oscillating between angel and devil.”
Published when Laxness was only twenty-five years old, The Great Weaver from Kashmir’s radical experimentation caused a stir in Iceland, which would soon reverberate throughout Europe. Appearing in English now for the first time, The Great Weaver is much more than a first major work by a literary master—it is a groundbreaking modernist classic.
Laxness brought the Icelandic novel out from the sagas' shadow…to read Laxness is also to understand why he haunts Iceland—he writes the unearthly prose of a poet cased in the perfection of a shell of plot, wit, and clarity.
— The Guardian
Laxness is a poet who writes at the edge of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot: He takes a Tolstoyan overview, he weaves in a Waugh-like humor: it is not possible to be unimpressed.
— Daily Telegraph
Laxness is a beacon in twentieth-century literature, a writer of splendid originality, wit, and feeling.
— Alice Munro
Science fiction. Table, fable, allegory. Philosophical novel. Dream novel. Visionary novel. Literature of fantasy. Wisdom lit. Spoof. Sexual turn-on. Convention dictates that we slot many of the last centuries′ perdurable literary achievements into one or another of these categories. The only novel I know that fits into all of them is Halldór Laxness′s wildly original, morose, uproarious Under the Glacier.
— Susan Sontag
More than any other novel I know, Iceland′s Bell recreates a world Pieter Brueghel would have felt right at home, not merely in its fascination with bumblers (petty thieves, purblind watchmen) and grotesques (faceless lepers, hanging corpses), but also in its unearthly ability to find beauty in a landscape of destitution, wisdom in a congress of fools.
— The New York Times Book Review
The qualities of the sagas pervade his writing, and particularly a kind of humor – oblique, stylized and childlike – that can be found in no other contemporary writer.
— The Atlantic Monthly
One quality that makes Laxness’s novels so morally uplifting is their air of tender but urgent gratitude. While his tone can vary widely from book to book…the reader consistently feels that the books are conceived in a spirit of homage; they are some of the world’s most substantial thank-you notes.
— Brad Leithauser, The New York Review of Books
One of the world’s most unusual, skilled and visionary novelists.
— Jane Smiley
Laxness habitually combines the magical and the mundane, writing with grace and a quiet humor that takes awhile to notice but, once detected, feels ever present…[A]ll his narratives…have a strange and mesmerizing power, moving almost imperceptibly at first, then with glacial force.
— Richard Rayner, LA Times
- Halldór Laxness won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955. Read Laxness’s speech from the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1955.
- The New York Review of Books published an article on him, entitled “Laxness the Great.”
- A visit of Haldor Laxness’s home:
- The Halldór Laxness Museum website.
- Laxness In Translation blog.