Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Salka Valka and deer

I just finished reading Salka Valka yesterday, one of Laxness' earlier novels. It is a story of so many things like poverty, politics, religion, passion, and strength of spirit. Written as two books in the early 1930's it begins with Salka, a tough, independent 11 year old girl, and her mother arriving by ship at an insignificant fishing village somewhere south from where they came. Salka finds work in the local fish processing business and her mother finds Jesus at the Salvation Army. They are dependent on each other for so much, yet very independent in their behavior in day to day living. The dire poverty that encompasses everyone's life in the village is taken as matter of fact with little prospect of improvement. Later in her life Salka does a little better from sheer determination and a bit of financial help and becomes involved in the politics of the day. This is a time when Marxisn (Karl, not Groucho) is giving some hope to the downtrodden of the world and is even making inroads in Iceland. Anything looks good to people who have nothing, but the Icelanders are a practical lot and they do what they need to in order to survive. Salka is looked up to for her determination and strength and is finally able to come to terms with her lifelong attachment to a more worldly man she has known since her arrival in the village. Their love is intense, but his weaknesses will ultimately doom the relationship. The ending is very touching and totally right for her.
This is a book I will have to read again someday to appreciate the nuances of the characters even more. The translation is old and could probably be done somewhat better as the relationships between the characters range from the simple to the very complex showing so much of what it is to be human in a harsh world. I also need to read a good biography of Laxness to better understand how the different phases of his life affected the stories he wrote. I need to thank my roomie for getting the local library to find this book and borrow it from a Big City library. It has been photocopied and rebound and I feel fortunate to have been able to read it as it is rare in the English version.

On a lighter note, I have repositioned our critter cam near our lower pond. Firearms deer season is over now and I got a nice nighttime picture of Bambi and her mother. I am also cheating by putting out a little snack of corn to see what comes by. Just does so far, but the bucks should be a bit less spooky now that no one is shooting at them. Here is a photo from last night.


  1. At my independent bookseller last night looking for a good read. Browsing and mumbling to myself "read that, read that",etc. I googled Halldor Laxness this morning on after reading your post. Check out the introduction by Jane Smiley to his novel Fish Can Sing (Kindle edition). WOW. You did not mention he was the 1955 Noble Prize winner in 1955.
    Love the deer photo. If you do not use it for your Christmas card I want to use for my family letter!

  2. Independent People was the first of Laxness that I read. I was hooked at that point and I think The Fish Can Sing was next. A really excellent modern book is The Tricking of Freya by Christine Sunley. It was so awesome I wrote to her to thank her for it. She wrote back and I was floored. Go ahead and use the photo if you would like.

  3. I love getting recommendations for good reads. I will be checking out Laxness and Sunley here shortly. Excellent.

    Regarding the awesome photo, we have deer prints in our backyard leading to our bird feeder. I told my husband we need a motion-operated critter cam so we can see what sneaks into our yard during the wee hours.

  4. CD- Anytime on the reading material. I really have to thank Professor Batty at Flippism is the Key ( Rose( at Icelandic Fever for their guidance in my reawakening interest in great literature.
    Critter cams are very awesome entertainment. I have seen wolf tracks where the camera is currently located, but haven't seen a wolf for some time now. Coyotes, fishers, martens (not Eddie Fisher and Dean Martin) and the occasional cougar sighting occur with some regularity around here.

  5. I'd definitely want Salka Valka on my work crew.

  6. PB, she would definitely be an asset on the farm!