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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique book
Under the Glacier is a comedy of errors, albeit an erudite one. The book was written in 1968 and deals with many topics in vogue at the time: Westerners taking an interest in Eastern religion; space exploration; revisions to Christian theology and unorthodox family structures, to name but a few. The book is very wide-ranging, but all the action takes place in a small...
Published on 16 Mar. 2008 by Mike Mac

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Likeable but peculiar novel, by turns uncanny and comic
My first Laxness, chosen for its beguiling oddness after I had been twitted by a very nice Icelandic lady for never having read the Nobel-winning author.

I'm sure I'll try another novel but it's only fair to say that, whatever Sontag might think, Under The Glacier is a peculiar book. It takes the form of a report, or the notes for a report written by a young...
Published on 15 Aug. 2011 by Philoctetes


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique book, 16 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original) (Paperback)
Under the Glacier is a comedy of errors, albeit an erudite one. The book was written in 1968 and deals with many topics in vogue at the time: Westerners taking an interest in Eastern religion; space exploration; revisions to Christian theology and unorthodox family structures, to name but a few. The book is very wide-ranging, but all the action takes place in a small rural parish in western Iceland.

The book both deals with these issues seriously, through the characters taking them seriously, and mocks them with gentle humour as the comedy of errors unfolds. What one character sees as a mystical event is seen as something ordinary by another. Mis-understandings and accidents of timing abound.

The humour is of the dry kind, delivered dead-pan (through the characters' words and deeds) that is popular in Iceland, Scotland and Ireland. Readers unfamiliar with this style of humour may need to pay close attention at times.

Laxness is an expert story-teller. The characters' mis-understandings of one another's actions are gradually revealed. The reader has a bit of work to do to remember what happened earlier in the book to see who got the wrong end of the stick and how. As a result, this is a book to read when you have the time to follow all the twists and turns, rather than whilst being jostled on the train into work.

Unlike some authors who receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, Laxness can actually write. The prose is fluent. The reader can get with enjoying the story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Icelandic mystery of magic realism, 17 July 2007
By 
I. Viehoff "iviehoff" (Chalfont St Giles, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original) (Paperback)
A trainee priest is sent undercover by the bishop to an Icelandic country parish to investigate the priest - whose day job is a motor mechanic - since there are disturbing rumours. He finds himself in some kind of bad dream. They all know what he is really there for. The priest's housekeeper, with whom he is lodging, has such strange routines he never knows when he will next eat. The church is so little used the door has been nailed up. The priest has a glamorous mistress who has vanished. A coffin was placed on the glacier rather than buried - who or what is inside it? What does the priest, so infrequently present, actually do? What is the mysterious ceremony that the three camp-followers have turned up for? How will it all end?

Being narrated through the trainee's report to the bishop, the style of writing is rather idiosyncratic.

I don't think there can be any other book quite like this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Likeable but peculiar novel, by turns uncanny and comic, 15 Aug. 2011
By 
Philoctetes (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original) (Paperback)
My first Laxness, chosen for its beguiling oddness after I had been twitted by a very nice Icelandic lady for never having read the Nobel-winning author.

I'm sure I'll try another novel but it's only fair to say that, whatever Sontag might think, Under The Glacier is a peculiar book. It takes the form of a report, or the notes for a report written by a young would-be priest sent to check up on a pastor who allegedly is neglecting his pastoral duties - preaching, burying the dead, that sort of thing. He arrives at Glacier and discovers a sort of character haven where nothing is quite what it seems; where no-one will provide a straight answer; where miracles might well happen.

Well, it's different. It's short, with lots of nice small chapters. Little pockets of wisdom. The narrator is agreeably modest. The inhabitants are often funny - e.g. the woman who thinks the only proper nourishment for a bishop's emissary is litres of coffee and twenty varieties of cake.

But it is all rather weird. Weirdly, it's the kind of book I could imagine reading several times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A merging of Hitch Hiker's Guide with A Hundred Years of Solitude, 8 Nov. 2010
By 
AK (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original) (Paperback)
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 - but this is a fairly lighthearted parody and in that sense not comparable to any of his other work (possibly closest in style to his The Atom Station).

The story follows the journey of a bishop's emissary (a clerk from the ministry of ecclesiastical affairs), who has been sent to investigate strange goings on in a remote parish in 1968 Iceland. The local pastor seems more at ease with mending machinery than tending to his flock, the church is boarded up and burrials are apparently not taking place.

The whole story is written more in a dramatic prose style - the majority of it is direct dialogues, which the bishop's emissary is 'recording'. This makes it more alive in a sense and allows relatively easy reading - it will not offer the page turning and the suspense of a thriller but neither is it hard to get through. However, as mentioned by one other reviewer, the humour is very deadpan and one needs to work to get the most out of the book - lots of it is fairly subtle and reading it in small chunks while commuting or just before going to bed will likely not provide much satisfaction.

On top of that I would advise believers / practitioners of the alternative religions and healing practices to stay away - while the author does not directly criticise any such practices, these form large parts of the goings on and are not exactly portrayed in a favourable light, to put it mildly. Reading it one feels like Laxness has put his brain to creating the perfect merging of Douglas Adams' The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts with Gabriel Garcia Marques' One Hundred Years of Solitude, with some Icelandic sense of humour thrown in.

In my opinion he succeeds well but it is a fairly subtle work, with limited mass appeal - probably the reason why it never inspired a cult following, as was hoped for in the review on the book's back cover.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 4 Oct. 2014
By 
Vigfus Geirdal (101 Reykjavik, Iceland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original) (Paperback)
It's simply classic. A fabulous novel!
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming for me, 11 April 2008
By 
Annabel Gaskell "gaskella2" (Nr Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original) (Paperback)
Everyone says what a great comic novel this is ... I found it to be deeply unfunny! Susan Sontag's introduction goes on about how brilliant it is but I found it turgid, clunky and slow. The very stylised writing made it hard to get into, although it did pick up in the second half.
A typical fish out of water scenario - the Bishop's aide is sent to investigate the state of Christianity in a remote Icelandic village, and encounters odd people and odder goings on. It's like a unfunny comedy version of the 'Wicker Man' without the sex and violence, and a bit of a Frankenstein/ghost story thrown in for good measure.
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Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original)
Under the Glacier (Vintage International Original) by Halldor Laxness (Paperback - 22 Jan. 2007)
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