Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Independent People” as Want to Read:
Independent People
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Independent People (Sjálfstætt fólk #1-4)

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  5,582 Ratings  ·  848 Reviews
First published in 1946, this humane epic novel is set in rural Iceland in the early twentieth century. Bjartus is a sheep farmer determined to eke a living from a blighted patch of land. Nothing, not merciless weather, nor his family will come between him and his goal of financial independence. Only Asta Solillja, the child he brings up as his daughter, can pierce his stu ...more
Kindle Edition, 565 pages
Published (first published 1934)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 25, 2016 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Independent curmudgeons... and lovers of poetry
Recommended to Dolors by: Ema
Little I did I foresee that I would warm up to Bjartur, the roguish farmer, the more stubborn than a mule protagonist that Laxness chooses to construct this Icelandic epic around.
Far from the national hero the title might suggest, the reader meets a curmudgeon, an ostensibly querulous peasant who is obsessed with earning his freedom at all costs. He never indulges in kindness and expects his family to break their backs to achieve his goal: owning a farmstead and a flock of sheep that are his mea
Feb 15, 2008 Abi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves literature
"How much can one sacrifice for the sake of one's pride? Everything, of course - if one is proud enough." - Halldór Laxness, The Atom Station, 1948

No less than the best book I have read so far in my life.
Independent People (original title: Sjálfstætt Fólk) is the tragedy of a man who is proud enough to sacrifice everything. It tells the story of Bjartur of Summerhouses, his family (especially his daughter, Ásta Sóllilja) and the 'world war' they wage against the harsh Icelandic landscape in whi
Aug 03, 2015 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Way back when. My wife and went to our prominent local bookseller over the holidays in 2003. She asked me if I had read anything by Laxness and I adroitly responded, "who?" She bought something else and the following day I jogged down to the public library. My face burning with shame I checked this out from the stacks and returned home. I read such over two days. Jonsson the sheep farmer is everyman and he's screwed. Modernity arrives along with a nascent globalization. Never razor sharp, the fa ...more
Jun 10, 2012 knig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2012
It took me a little to do this thing with Independent People. 500 pages of itsy bitsy print: it requires a monogamous, long term commitment.’ But’, Brad Leithauser enthuses in the foreword,’ this is the book of my life. I have to reign in the suspicion I am its only ideal reader’. Hey ho, not a bad sell. Still, why? What is the book about?

‘Well, its a book about sheep’ says Leithauser. Well, for heavens sake. 500 pages about sheep, do I have it in me? I’m not Welsh after all, where the men are m
Nov 16, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Jonathan

Everything that one has ever created achieves reality. And soon the day dawns when one finds oneself at the mercy of the reality one has created.

There is a subtle beauty in this text - an expansive desolation that plays as canvas to Laxness' protagonist Bjartur of Summerhouses creation of an independent life. Told in the early years of the 20th century on the hard-scrabble tundra of rural Iceland, the narrative follows the course of this stubborn Bjartur and his quixotic life-long quest for comp
When you say the word 'culture', watch out. The traps within the simple word are many, a loving gaze on the self and a objectifying fascination with the other, idealization and discrimination two shafts of light within the same grimy crystal. Nothing conveys this truth so well and so thoroughly as literature, as many throughout the centuries bring up their utensil of inkish intent and lay down their views, all for the most part bound within their single subset of country, family, faith. Nothing ...more
This story of a man determined to be an independent smallholder raising sheep in the years before the first world war is a great book, for the right reader. As a book it has two principal obstacles to being universally enjoyed. Firstly sheep are among the most important characters and much like their human dependants, their hardy virtues are easier to admire than love. Secondly it is full of misery, worse yet, misery that is handled with irony and detachment. The simplest way of describing Indep ...more
What does it mean being independent? Stop for a moment and think: do you consider yourself an independent person? I've never asked myself this question seriously before reading this novel, although I've always tried to preserve my freedom by sticking to a few personal guidelines: I avoid becoming a working slave; I can't keep my mouth shut when I observe injustice or stupidity; I can't keep my head down to gain favors; I can't stand being tied to a person just out of politeness.

In my view, being
Oct 23, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: icelandic
I kept waiting, waiting, for Bjartur Jonsson to break from his character. Not about his politics, which were entirely pragmatic. And not about his essential philosophy, that a man must be independent and reliant on no one. But surely to his family. Surely there would be one wife or a child that would turn his soul - when one has a flower. There were moments, or more precisely near-moments. And you could read into the text, I suppose, and believe that he actually had a moment when he loved a daug ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 29, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2008-2012)
Shelves: 1001-core, nobel, iceland
My 109th book read this year and just the 6th time that I gave a 5-star rating.

This book truly deserves this. It feels like the Les Miserables of Iceland but the sights, smell and sound here is not the France in 19th century but the moors, the sheep, the snow of Iceland during the turn of the 20th century. Halldor Laxness (1902-1998) received the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature and the only Icelandic author who has won this prestigious price.

The story revolves around a man called Bjartur of Sum
Neal Adolph
It is hard to write about this novel, but others have managed to do so with words that make perfect sense. Perhaps, though, I'm still caught in that after-book glow, figuring out just whether or not my love for this book will condense itself into sentences with letters and words and commas and periods. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. For your sake and mine I'll keep this blathering short and encourage you, instead, to go and read reviews from others on this site. There are good ones.

It is a lovel
Aug 09, 2015 [P] rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
In 874 CE a Norwegian chieftain, Ingólfr Arnarson, became the first permanent settler on the island that came to be known as Iceland. Ah, truly an independent man! One can’t help but think that Gudbjartur of Summerhouses, the dominant character in Halldor Laxness’ Independent People, would have approved of such a state of affairs. As the novel begins, Bjartur has purchased his own piece of land, after working, for eighteen years, for the Bailiff. This is, despite the measly nature of the land an ...more
Nov 28, 2013 notgettingenough rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, pairs
Written as a pair with Pericles

Reading Smiley on the back cover of this book:

‘I can’t imagine any greater delight than coming to Independent People for the first time’ Really? I mean, REALLY????? Better than sex? Chocolate icecream??? What sort of life has Smiley lived that makes her say that. I couldn’t help thinking of this exchange on the comments of my Harry Potter review:

Brook: "I hav read every single book 14 times and i read an average of 200 books per year and have never read a better
Feb 07, 2008 Candice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of icelandic history; those who like detailed writing
Shelves: fiction, iceland
Despite the reviews below, this book is not about sheep.

Independent People is about the complex intersection of pride and poverty. It is the story of the fiercely strong and intelligent everyman who has little to show for their successes yet holds their successes with high esteem. It is also about how one's endless struggle to be self-sufficient can make one bitter, senseless, hypocritical and cold.

This book is not about sheep at all. Main character Bjartur is preoccupied with sheep because bei
Sheep saga
The power of Laxness's writing allows the reader to become truly immersed in the smells, sights and sounds of the world he has created and, for me at least, the smells seemed to predominate, the smell of damp wool especially. An amazing feat.
Ben Winch
A while back, I entered into a discussion with the friend who recommended me this book concerning the value or otherwise of literature as an exploration of culture – ie, in the mold of Grapes of Wrath or The Tree of Man or just about anything over 400 pages that wins the Booker Prize (which is, after all, given explicitly to a book that “represents a culture”). For those who don’t grasp what I mean here by “culture”, don’t worry, I’m not sure I grasp it myself, in that any book surely represents ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Lindsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emily randomly picked up this book for me in Powells a few years ago, and, after seeing it on our shelf, Brian selected it for book club. I don't know if I ever would have bumped into it on my own, which makes me understand Brad Leithauser's comment in the introduction that discovering "Independent People" makes you feel supremely lucky. What are the odds of stumbling upon an almost 500-page, densely woven, Icelandic novel from the 1940s, and further, what are the odds that it would be so incred ...more
João Carlos
Jun 10, 2016 João Carlos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Paisagem islandesa (Fotografia de David Nice)

“Gente Independente” é um romance escrito pelo islandês Halldór Hallness laureado com o Nobel da Literatura em 1955.
Um livro que narra a vida de Bjartur, um pobre agricultor islandês que tem o desejo obsessivo de manter a sua independência financeira e sentimental, de forma a nunca criar laços de afeição ou afinidades, que entravem a sua obstinação e os seus objectivos, assentes num comportamento irredutível e numa fé inquebrável.
O seu objectivo prio
Pedro Varanda
Sep 18, 2016 Pedro Varanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magistral e arrebatador. Um dos maiores livros que eu já li. Um retrato da Islândia rural do início do século e a dura luta pela existência de um homem que tudo faz para ser independente, no meio de uma realidade que não controla, não entende e o esmaga. Obrigatório.
If you thought "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky was maddening long and depressing "Independent People" is a close runner up. It is an incredibly bleak view of rural life in Iceland concerned with the struggle of poor Icelandic farmers in the early 20th century, only freed from debt bondage in the last generation, and surviving on isolated crofts in an inhospitable landscape. Written in the 1930's originally in 2 volumes, it condemns materialism, the cost of the self-reliant spirit to relationsh ...more
Eu teria de ler este livro, nem que fosse apenas pelo título, Gente Independente...
Há anos que "vivia" na minha estante, esperando, quem sabe, o momento certo.
Porque se existe um momento ideal para conhecermos e amarmos pessoas, acredito que também existe esse momento para os livros. Se nos cruzarmos com eles no tempo errado, corremos o risco de não os desfrutarmos em toda a sua plenitude.

Foi uma leitura maravilhosa e que me encheu a alma. Cada palavra encadeada em belas e melódicas frases que m
Dhanaraj Rajan

I do not want to be very lengthy about this review. Let me try to present my view with an imagery.

If we can consider H. Laxness as a drawing artist, then this book can be considered as his ambitious project. For the canvas is very expansive and in it he wants to present everything to its last detail - the history of Iceland, the changing landscapes, the interesting culture with its various expressions, the traditional art forms and beliefs, and above all the ever int
João Fernandes
Jan 19, 2016 João Fernandes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel, favorites
Independent people are only free to be blind to their own servitude, both to the world's many facets, and to themselves.

Rodrigo Ferrao
Oct 27, 2015 Rodrigo Ferrao rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Não quero saber de tamanhos disparates, disse o pai. Não quero ouvir nada sobre um maldito mundo qualquer, pensas que estás a falar de algum mundo? O que é o mundo? Este é o mundo, o mundo está aqui, Casas de Verão, as minhas terras, é o mundo. E ainda que queiras engolir o Sol num momentâneo acesso de loucura porque estás a ver notas azuis da América, que evidentemente são falsas como toda e qualquer grande soma de dinheiro que cai nas mãos de um indivíduo sem que ele tenha trabalhado para tal ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Sinem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
İzlanda nın yaşar kemal i gibiydi sanki. konu anlatım ve dil açısından. Salka Valka ile tanıyıp sevmiştim bir kitabını daha türkçede görmek güzel
The bleakness of the Icelandic moors reflect the bleakness of one farming family's attempt to survive over the course of 25-odd years, from the early 1900s through the Great War. It all feels a bit like a medieval nordic family saga ala Kristin Lavransdatter crossed with the politics and poverty of The Grapes of Wrath. There are "trolls" and "ghosts", lice-infested crofts, sheep and sheep and more sheep, not to mention all the worms and ailments that come with them.

The story follows Bjartur of S
Feb 25, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Throughout its long history, Iceland has known periods of horrible poverty. At times, the fault was in some massive volcanic eruption. It didn't help that, for hundreds of years, the country was under the control of Denmark, that most louche of all colonial powers. Halldór Laxness, the country's only winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has in Independent People described a large swath of Iceland's history from the late 19th century to 1917 -- all from the point of view of a farmer named Gu ...more
bill greene
Jul 28, 2008 bill greene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
sort of a twentieth century Icelandic saga. so far so good although i put it down in the middle over a month ago. i will finish it however.

UPDATE: this book was amazing, one of those books that creates a whole world you live in for the time you're reading it. one of those books where, as a friend of mine says, you get sad at the end because your friends are going away now.

not that the characters are necessarily likable. one of the novel's great achievements is creating a central character (Bjart
Apr 29, 2013 Caitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are no words to accurately describe this wonderful, oppressive, brilliant novel. Laxness uses his native Iceland as the full inspiration for the novels landscape, atmosphere, characters and even plot. While it is not a saga in the traditional Icelandic saga sense, it deeply pulls from them. The things that happen to Bjartur seem to be influenced by these supernatural creatures that Icelanders recognized in their sagas. For centuries the way that people understood the primeval, violent but ...more
Hardship and frontier sagas have their own man vs. nature fan club, whose meetings I rarely attend. When you overlay the whole elemental drama with an exposition of the honest, working man’s helplessness in the face of the manipulative rich people who advance capitalism and modernity, a grim sub-genre emerges. It was done perfectly with “The Grapes of Wrath” and a guild of other page-fillers have knocked out an unnecessary pile of novels that tell similar tales ad nauseum.

Certainly, Laxness’ cr
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Angels of the Universe
  • Njal's Saga
  • From the Mouth of the Whale
  • Himnaríki og helvíti
  • بوستان سعدی
  • The Recognition of Śakuntalā
  • Grande Sertão: Veredas
  • The Pets
  • Diary of a Madman and Other Stories
  • Gunnar's Daughter
  • The Old Man and His Sons
  • The Swan
  • History
  • Dreamland - A Self-Help manual
  • Canti
  • Growth of the Soil
  • Svar við bréfi Helgu
  • Devil's Island
Born Halldór Guðjónsson, he adopted the surname Laxness in honour of Laxnes in Mosfellssveit where he grew up, his family having moved from Reyjavík in 1905. He published his first novel at the age of 17, the beginning of a long literary career of over 60 books, including novels, short stories, poetry, and plays. Confirmed a Catholic in 1923, he later moved away from religion and for a long time w ...more
More about Halldór Laxness...

Other Books in the Series

Sjálfstætt fólk (3 books)
  • Frie mænd (Sjálfstætt fólk #1-2)
  • Ásta Sóllilja (Sjálfstætt fólk #3-4)

Share This Book

“Shortly afterwards it started raining, very innocently at first, but the sky was packed tight with cloud and gradually the drops grew bigger and heavier, until it was autumn’s dismal rain that was falling—rain that seemed to fill the entire world with its leaden beat, rain suggestive in its dreariness of everlasting waterfalls between the planets, rain that thatched the heavens with drabness and brooded oppressively over the whole countryside, like a disease, strong in the power of its flat, unvarying monotony, its smothering heaviness, its cold, unrelenting cruelty. Smoothly, smoothly it fell, over the whole shire, over the fallen marsh grass, over the troubled lake, the iron-grey gravel flats, the sombre mountain above the croft, smudging out every prospect. And the heavy, hopeless, interminable beat wormed its way into every crevice in the house, lay like a pad of cotton wool over the ears, and embraced everything, both near and far, in its compass, like an unromantic story from life itself that has no rhythm and no crescendo, no climax, but which is nevertheless overwhelming in its scope, terrifying in its significance. And at the bottom of this unfathomed ocean of teeming rain sat the little house and its one neurotic woman.” 36 likes
“This was the first time that he has ever looked into the labyrinth of the human soul. He was very far from understanding what he saw. But what was of more value, he felt and suffered with her. In years that were yet to come, he relived this memory in song, in the most beautiful song this world has known. For the understanding of the soul's defencelessness, of the conflict between the two poles, is not the source of the greatest song. The source of the greatest song is sympathy.” 16 likes
More quotes…