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The Atom Station [Paperback]

Halldor Laxness
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2004

When the Americans make an offer to buy land in Iceland to build a NATO airbase after World War II, a storm of protest is provoked throughout the country. The airbase provides Laxness with the catalyst for his astonishing and powerful satire. Narrated by a country girl from the north, the novel follows her experiences after she takes up employment as a maid in the house of her Member of Parliament. Marvelling at the customs and behaviour of the people around her, she emerges as the one obstinate reality in a world of unreality. Her observations and experiences expose the bourgeois society of the south as rootless and shallow and in stark contrast to the age-old culture of the solid and less fanciful north.

A witty and moving satire on politics and politicians, Communists and anti-Communists, phoney culture fiends, big business and all the pretensions of authority, Laxness' masterpiece of social commentary is as relevant today as when it was written in 1948.

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The Atom Station + Skylark (New York Review Books Classics) + The Leopard: Revised and with new material (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099455153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099455158
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 104,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Laxness is a poet who writes to the edges of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot." (Daily Telegraph)

"To read Laxness is to discover an extra taste bud. He creates a world that belongs in another dimension."

"An extraordinary book, brimming with little wisdoms, funny episodes, sharp phrases...and a determined optimism of spirit" (The Times)

"Laxness was a genius" (New York Review of Books)

"Magnus Magnusson's translation reads smoothly and skilfully renders Laxness's dry and quirky wit" (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

'Laxness has been hailed as Iceland's John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis and Upton Sinclair combined. His is a significant voice in world literature' Magnus Magnusson

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
In the Atom Station, Halldor Laxness demonstrates the skill and complexity that led to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel tells the story of a simple lass from the north of Iceland who comes face to face with the duplicity of politicians who sell out Icelandic sovereignty for the sake of a nuclear station during the cold war. She also comes to some realizations about herself and the importance of social class and knowledge and how these interact in today's modern world. The novel will be of very special interest to those with some knowledge of Iceland and its history. For those without such knowledge, the novel will compel you to learn more about this fascinating country and its wonderful author laureate, Halldor Laxness.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Philoctetes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Do all Laxness' novels end in a mood of despair? I am beginning to wonder. Perhaps despair is wrong; instead, stoicism, since one might as well carry on in the face of hopelessness, even if the story isn't going to.

This is my fifth Laxness and, like Christianity At Glacier, I feel like reading it again right away, precisely because it is rather bizarre. The taciturnity and eccentricity of the Icelanders is a continual source of fascination, in some respects admiration. A north country girl goes to work in the house of her MP down south. She finds much that is strange and reprehensible, much that is rewarding and exhilarating, in that most extraordinary of cities, Reykjavik. Ultimately she returns home to give birth, but by then the city has changed her and a burgeoning sense of self causes her to pack her bags and go out again in search of her true place in the world.

Short and very readable, sometimes funny, as suitable a place to begin an exploration of Iceland's favourite novelist as Independent People. If you're entirely new to Icelandic literature, maybe take a look at the book most referred to in The Atom Station - Njal's Saga (also translated by M. Magnusson).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern political romp on Iceland 23 Jan 1997
By A Customer
Halldor Laxness, the prodigal son of Icelandic literature, made a distinct stylistic change with this novel, moving from long post-Naturalist tragedies of the outlying regions of Iceland to a fast-paced and often funny romp through Reykavik.

This novel tells the story of the protest surrounding the founding of an American military base in Iceland. The story is told through the eyes of a young, naive servant girl from the country, who, shortly after moving to the city, finds herself surrounded by poets, protesting Socialist students, and Icelandic and American government officials.
The girl loses her innocence but gains, not knowledge of the world, but rather entry to the modern world.

Laxness is one of the largely-ignored greats (possibly doomed to obscurity by winning the Nobel prize for literature), and this novel is a fantastic entry into the canon of postmodern literature.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's the one book I couldn't get through. 23 May 1998
By A Customer
I read Halldor Laxness' Independent People and loved it so much that I ordered all the out of print books by him I could find-- and The Atom Station, conveniently in print and available through Amazon Books. I hated "Station." I put it down 1/3 of the way through and have felt no need to pick it up. This is the first time I can remember doing this in a lifetime of compulsive reading. Laxness experimented with a new style in this one-- demonstrating that experiments sometimes fail. I found his parody obnoxious, his politics overwhelming, the characters unengaging, and the tone of the book irritating. I gave it a "3" because its not pulp-- it's intelligent. Original. Unusual. Maybe someone will like it. He's really a great writer!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Halldor Laxness will probably be more familiar to readers for his Nobel Prize winning Independent People. This book is very different in many respects - not that his strength as a writer is in any aspect missing - as it possesses aspects of a somewhat lighthearted parody and is in that sense not directly comparable to most of his other work (possibly closest in style to his Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original)).

It follows the experience of a young Northern Icelandic country lass, who makes her way to the big city (in relative terms, it is Reykjavik we are talking about) immediately after WW2 to serve in the house of the MP for her constituency. The goings on also cover the time of negotiations of whether Iceland was to become a base for the Americans during the Cold War.

The book is a subtle but excellent study of the culture clash between both classes, as well as the 'modernity' of city dwellers against the archaic countryside. With a mixture of satire and parody Laxness manages to hammer home some quite interesting points, including his pessimism regarding both communism and capitalism, his quite realistic assessment of politicians, the disenfranchisement of the youth...

It is not one for a quick read in spite of its shortness, as it tends to inspire reflection but it is a good complement to books by Sandor Marai (such as Embers) or Max Frisch (Homo Faber (Penguin Modern Classics)) and certainly one of the (less well known) classics of the 20th century literature.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
A really fantastic book. It took me a while to "get" it, but when I did I fell in love with it. A wonderful story about an Icelandic country girl moving to the city becomes a much... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dan369
2.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully written, beautifully translated
A story of very real, and very unreal people against the background of serious political shenanigans. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jane Banham
5.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Tale
The Atom Station is a highly entertaining work by the great Icelandic storyteller Halldor Laxness. The heroine of the tale is Ugla, a plain speaking country girl from the North who... Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2010 by Thormod Morrisson
5.0 out of 5 stars The world is one atom station
This book is a biting satire on world and Icelandic policies and on Capitalism and Communism. It lays bare the world's blatant immorality. Read more
Published on 5 Nov 2009 by Luc REYNAERT
2.0 out of 5 stars Patchy and Ultimately Disappointing
I had been looking forward to reading this and was sadly underwhelmed. There were some interesting and beautifully written/translated chapters but unfortunately much of what lay... Read more
Published on 13 Nov 2003 by Brian Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful satire from the master of icelandic realism
I thouroughly enjoyed this book, even more so than Laxness' masterpiece Independant People. The Atom Station is a biting parody of the pretentions and politics of a newly... Read more
Published on 24 Sep 2003 by "evilpaganoverlord"
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