Laxness, Iceland's only Nobelist, writes of a young orphan named Alfgrim who may or may not be a relative of the great opera singer Gardar Holm, who also hails from Brekkukot, where the old lumpfisherman Bjork maintains a rambling house on the outskirts of what was to become the country's new capital, Reykjavik. This house is filled with lodgers who get to stay rent-free for no other reason than that they ask.
Alfgrim keeps crossing paths with Gardar Holm and the young woman who wants to become the singer's lover. For some reason, the singer always cancels his appointments to the chagrin of his sponsors and fans; and the young woman, Blaer Gudmunsen, is always given the slip. The unhappy Holm is in stark contrast to Alfgrim, who maintains his balance by being suspicious of fame and content with a future of gathering lumpfish.
In the end, this is an feel-good work of considerable artistry, with a masterful, rich sense of characterization. The translation by Magnus Magnusson is excellent, as befits the man who at one and the same time is both one of the best translators of Icelandic Sagas and the TV host of BBC's MASTERMIND and WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYHOW?
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