Icelandic Epic: Independent People

Halldor Laxness’s masterpiece, Independent People, won the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature for its “vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.” Both accessible and luminously written, this book will transport you to early Twentieth Century Iceland. You will feel its biting cold, its isolation, and see the stark beauty of a land that is both friend and foe to the people who dwell there.

Bjartur of Summerhouses is a sheep farmer whose steely determination to achieve independence, despite the forces against him— nature and the economy— is both heart wrenching and darkly comic. Bjartur buys a small farmhouse and some sheep after working eighteen years as a lowly servant, and wants only to raise his family and flocks without debt or obligation to any man. He finds his stubborn match in his daughter, who seeks her own independence, and their epic battle of wills is moving and illuminating. This rewarding read will not be forgotten; it will live forever in your heart.


While thoughts exist, words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living.

– Cyril Connolly

British literary critic Cyril Connolly (born September 10, 1903) was the founder and editor of Horizon, an influential literary magazine during World War II. His journalism career began with articles in popular periodicals like the New Statesman, The Observer, and The Sunday Times. He wrote just one novel, The Rock Pool, but he is best known for his collections of essays, including Enemies of Promise, The Condemned Playground, and The Unquiet Grave.