Salka Valka


Translated from by

Published: Coming June 7th, 2022


ISBN: 9781953861245 eISBN:9781953861252
This item will be released on June 7, 2022.


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Book Description

From Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness


On a winter night, an eleven-year-old Salvör and her unmarried mother Sigurlína disembark at the remote, run-down fishing village of Óseyri, where life is “lived in fish and consists of fish.” The two struggle to make their way amidst the rough, salt-worn men of the town. After Sigurlína’s untimely death, Salvör pays for her funeral and walks home alone, precipitating her coming of age as a daring, strong-willed young woman who chops off her hair, earns her own wages, educates herself through political and philosophical texts, and soon becomes an advocate for the town’s working class, organizing a local chapter of the seamen’s union. A feminist coming-of-age tale, an elegy to the plight of the working class and the corrosive effects of social and economic inequality, and a poetic window into the arrival of modernity in a tiny industrial town, Salka Valka is a novel of epic proportions, living and breathing with its vibrant cast of characters, filled with tenderness, humor, and remarkable pathos.

This is a better novel (richer, deeper) than anything else you're likely to meet this year. Its people are as real as you or me— as are its shorebirds and its blizzards and its dreams and its cows.
Brad Leithauser, The Wall Street Journal

Laxness is a beacon in twentieth-century literature, a writer of splendid originality, wit, and feeling.
Alice Munro

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

A brooding novel of boreal discontentments by the Nobel Prize–winning Icelandic writer. Sigurlína Jónsdóttir has always been down on her luck. She decides to leave the frozen north coast of Iceland with her 11-year-old daughter, Salvör Valgerður, or Salka, whose father is unknown to her—and to Sigurlína, a sometime prostitute, as well. They get just a few miles south to a ramshackle fishing village, where they discover the manifold class divisions of early-20th-century Iceland. . . There’s a poetry to Laxness’s depiction of a frayed mother-daughter relationship . . . [Salka Valka is] full of his trademark intersections of politics and religion.
Kirkus Reviews

Laxness somehow blends epic form with the day-to-day realism of loan negotiations and herring and haircuts. He is a humorist and a visionary, a critical eye and an open heart. Salka Valka is a marvel, a pleasure, and a masterpiece.
Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

This is a remarkable achievement and will hopefully lead to a revival of interest in an oft-overlooked literary genius.
Publishers Weekly, starred review

First published in 1931-32, this freshly translated masterpiece is an Icelandic Grapes of Wrath, focusing on the plight of struggling fishing families in a tiny village, particularly on the hardships facing women like Salka, who, alone without a family, works and educates herself, becoming an effective seamen’s union organizer . . . Absorbing, inspiring, surprisingly humorous–a great read.
Lisa Howorth, Square Books

I dedicate this valedictory as I turn the page on my bookselling career to Halldór Laxness . . . Laxness won the Nobel Prize for writing books like Salka Valka, in which he brings us cheek by caring jowl with a bull-headed orphan girl in an isolated, impoverished Icelandic fishing village, about as far from Brooklyn as one can imagine. Laxness is the ideal.
Ezra Goldstein, Community Bookstore

Laxness’ small-town tale depicts a world where life is difficult, but the novel never sinks into deep gloom; there’s a variety of resilient spirit here – with Salka Valka’s particularly pronounced and strong . . . a very fine novel, and a wonderful character-portrait of a remarkable figure.
Michael Orthofer, Complete Review

Laxness is a true poet with language . . . [He] achieves a certain richness with his sublime and painterly landscapes and earnest portraits of ‘insignificant’ people living through a significant historical moment.
Hannah Weber, Words Without Borders

Praise for Wayward Heroes

A welcome, major contribution to modern Nordic literature in translation and a pleasure to read.
Kirkus, Starred Review

Brilliant, bleak, uproariously funny, and still alarmingly prescient, Wayward Heroes belongs in the pantheon of the antiwar novel alongside such touchstones as Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22.... Wayward Heroes, with its despotic kings, hypocrite Christians, and bloodthirsty mercenaries, is not merely a medieval epic ... but a trenchant critique of that timeless avaricious urge we have grown regrettably accustomed to calling 'market forces.' ... Laxness looked from the ancient literature of his homeland to the novelties and cataclysms of the modern world around him, only to discover how little had changes in a thousand years.
Justin Taylor, Harper's Magazine

Drawing on historical events, including King Olaf’s reign in Norway and the burning of Chartres Cathedral, Laxness revises and renews the bloody sagas of Icelandic tradition, producing not just a spectacular historical novel but one of coal-dark humor and psychological depth. The old-fashioned violence Porgeir and Pormóður admire is rendered in all its futility and cruelty, and readers will find that these honorable but deluded heroes become objects of pity.
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review