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8 Reviews
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reply to a Letter from Helga--Bergsveinn Birgisson
Bjarni and Helga are having a passionate affair,when the former
receives a letter from Helga asking him to leave his farm and wife,
to go with her to live in the city.
He does not reply to this letter until very many years later,at the
end of his life.
Beautifully written with acute observation,this novella (123 pages long),
is not only an...
Published 20 months ago by Simon Clarke

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rustic sheep based love is not for me
I really wanted to like this book. It sounded rather whimsical and lovely, and just up my street. Sadly I found it neither whimsical, nor lovely. Mostly I found it rather ridiculous and sometimes just downright horrible.

A man reaches the end of his life and decides to reply to the letter he received from a lover, many years ago, finding out that she has just...
Published 12 months ago by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reply to a Letter from Helga--Bergsveinn Birgisson, 12 Feb 2013
By 
Simon Clarke (Hackney, London) - See all my reviews
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Bjarni and Helga are having a passionate affair,when the former
receives a letter from Helga asking him to leave his farm and wife,
to go with her to live in the city.
He does not reply to this letter until very many years later,at the
end of his life.
Beautifully written with acute observation,this novella (123 pages long),
is not only an expression of love and regret,but a passionate evocation of
one man's atavistic attachment to the land.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rustic sheep based love is not for me, 14 Oct 2013
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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I really wanted to like this book. It sounded rather whimsical and lovely, and just up my street. Sadly I found it neither whimsical, nor lovely. Mostly I found it rather ridiculous and sometimes just downright horrible.

A man reaches the end of his life and decides to reply to the letter he received from a lover, many years ago, finding out that she has just died, and so he is free to say now, everything he didn't say to her in life.

I wish I could say it was worth reading, but he spends more time referring to Icelandic Sagas of yore, and how to get rid of sheep blight than he does telling her of his love. I also found the prosaic way he describes their love rather tedious and, the love making in particular, rather unpleasant. It was more like reading a farming manual on how to tup an animal, than a great hymn of love, and as for the details of his lonely hours of yearning up in the hills with the sheep. Urgh.

I am sure I am missing something here, and no doubt a comment will eventually appear to explain to me what I was stupidly unable to perceive for myself, that it was all metaphorical and wonderful and classically allusive or something. In the meantime the best thing I can find to say about this book is that it is very short.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars letter to Helga, 16 May 2013
By 
Arthur Dooley (N Wales) - See all my reviews
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Nominated for an Icelandic literature award Bergsveinn Birgisson Reply to a letter from Helga,traslated into English by English academic Philip Roughton is a love story of quiet charm and emotional depth. Although slight and more a novella,it is nevertheless,a work of quality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Short But Engrossing, 20 Feb 2014
By 
P. Stokes "Historian71" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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Everything you ever wanted to know about life as an Icelandic sheep farmer during the last century might not sound immediately appealing however this is a compelling story from beginning to end. To go into too much detail would be to spoil each little secret divulged and that would be a great shame as this does feel like reading, not so much a letter, but someone's private diary.

In places the writing is as stark as the land yet this simply adds to the story. Bjarni's life, his feelings towards his wife and towards his neighbour's wife, Helga are perhaps not to everyone's taste. Indeed there are parts of the novella that are quite startling and even off putting for some, however it is worth giving this a chance - not all Scandinavian books are of murderous intent.
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1.0 out of 5 stars I did not get into it., 16 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Reply to a Letter from Helga (Kindle Edition)
Tried to get into the book but failed miserably.
Maybe it was the characters, maybe the way it was written.
Sorry, did not get on with it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia for times ... and loves ... past, 18 Mar 2013
By 
Brian J. Cox (Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is the simple story of Bjarni, a farmer who loves his neighbour's wife yet when given the opportunity to run away with her to Reykjavik and a new life together, chooses instead to stay behind and live out a traditional rural existence. His passionate affair with Helga takes place during the Second World War, when (a friendly) occupation first by the British and then by the Americans changed traditional Icelandic life forever due to the money and modern culture it brought to the country. Bjarni is besotted with Helga, but she may be more besotted with the prospect of escape to the bright lights, and therefore represents the pull of modernity, while Bjarni's hold on his country's traditional culture in the end remains firm, although at immense cost to his personal happiness. Little more than a novella - which would be slimmer still were it not for Kjartan Hallur's atmospheric illustrations - it is chock full of references to the Icelandic sagas and more recent poetry and hymns which are the heartsprings of Icelandic culture, and also of the dehumanisation brought about by the rapid growth of Greater Reykjavík, fed by rural depopulation and farm abandonment. For this reader, Bjarni's reply, finally, on his deathbed, to Helga's letter imploring him to join her in Reykjavik, is no more and no less than a paean to a lost Icelandic rural paradise, hard paradise that it was. It's beautifully written, and worth reading if only for the wonderful chapter about the corpse of an old lady for whom Bjarni made a difficult winter journey to bring to the church for burial.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Icelandic chanson des vieux amants, 21 Feb 2013
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I guess Icelandic culture is fairly chilly, brittle and alien as its landscape. This slight novel, though I feel certain, is excellently translated it feels a long way from this reader. I found it difficult to penetrate the heart of the book and was ultimately depressed by the actual pointlessness of it. I dont want to cause a spoiler here but basically Helga doesnt get the letter.

The poetry in the language is exquisite though I did have a bit of trouble with the names, my Icelandic barely copes with early Bjork lyrics.
Birgisson presents a lovelorn and ultimately impossible love story that just has far too many wounded people in it. It is well worth persevering however as the picture revealed is one of the aching and longing of the human heart tested to the maximum
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars And now for something completely different!, 9 Feb 2013
By 
Dickie (Noth East En gland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Reply to a Letter from Helga (Kindle Edition)
I bought this book because it sounded interesting. It is the story of a icelandic sheep farmer with many regrets. I felt like i was at the theatre watching a play rather than reading a book. To be honest i was so.pleased it was short because any more pages and i would of been bored to severely depressed.
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Reply to a Letter from Helga
Reply to a Letter from Helga by Bergsveinn Birgisson
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