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The Ultimate "Picaresque" biography
on 12 June 2010
What can one say of "Egil's Saga"? Journeying in 10th Century Scandinavia and Iceland must have resembled a walk through a field with unexploded mines. Danger and violence were ever present, even if dormant. The book can be read at so many levels: for the adventures, for the action, for the social and political history, for glimpses of banal features of every day life at that time.
The only other books which come to my mind when considering "Egil's Saga", are the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey", for all three have a distinctive world view. There are no prizes for guessing which I prefer! The feeling that "Egil's Saga" promotes more than anything, is Skirnir's comment to the herdsman in "Skirnir's Saga": "Fearlessness is better than a faint heart for any man who puts his nose out of doors. The length of my life and the day of my death were fated long ago".
As for Egil, love him (unlikely), loathe him (most probably), the man was a hero of his world in his time. He was also, probably, the best poet of his age.
Ignore the ever present genealogical recitals. This is a magnificent work. A book that one feels better, uplifted and encouraged in the battle of everyday life for simply having read.