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World Light

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  411 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Determined that he will someday be a great poet, Olaf Karason pursues his dream in the face of the contempt and indifference of the people around him, taking up a life of poverty, loneliness, failed love affairs, and sexual scandal as he journeys across Iceland to seek his goal. Reprint. 17,500 firs
Paperback, 605 pages
Published October 8th 2002 by Vintage Books (first published 1937)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,197)
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Abhishek Ganguly
Dec 20, 2012 Abhishek Ganguly rated it it was amazing
Halldor Laxness introduces readers to a new genre of prose, where each line is like a divine sonnet.

What makes World Light so incredible is the story of pain and the beauty it brings with it. The protagonist dreams and yearns to be a poet; the consequence of being respected or shunned is immaterial to him. Through the physical and emotional torment of life, he wages on, painting each moment with beautiful rhymes.

Halldor Laxness definitely knows how to render pain a charm that makes his readers l
...more
Scott
Feb 03, 2009 Scott rated it it was amazing
World Light is a mammoth novel, but once you start it you wouldn't want it any other way. It begins with Olafur Karason's childhood in an abusive household, basically an orphan, and spans his life till old age. He is bedridden throughout much of his childhood, and is eventually sent away to live in another part of the country. He is quickly healed and from then on leads a life of quiet simplicity, filled with troubles that affect him but never quite seem to bother him, as he (more then any other ...more
David Peters
Jan 07, 2011 David Peters rated it liked it
To read Icelandic literature means visiting the work of Laxness, considered to be their greatest writer and the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1955. It seems the strength of his writing is in making broad statements about society/life, without explicitly coming to definitive conclusions. Anotherwords it is left to the reader to mull, debate, and contemplate their own place in life through the work. On a specific note we did have the great pleasure to visit the Haldor Laxness museum ...more
Abi
May 10, 2008 Abi rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is a novel about truth, beauty and art, to put it simply. It is abstract and often bizarre in both style and content.
The story is of Ólafur of Ljósavík, an orphan mistreated by his foster family and who spends much of his childhood lying in bed immobilised by illness until he is cured by an elf. It follows his entire life from early childhood, through many love affairs, a tortured marriage, several children, struggles with poverty and a stint in prison for sleeping with his teenage student,
...more
Hburke727
Sep 22, 2012 Hburke727 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
For me a farewell, and glimmering recollection of Iceland. But more than that; a mirror. "Every transgression is a game, every grief easy to bear compared with having discovered beauty; it was at once the crime that could never be atoned, and the hurt that could never be assuaged, the tear that could never be dried."
Corey Ryan
Dec 24, 2011 Corey Ryan rated it really liked it
Wasn't the easiest book I've ever read. I almost abandoned it many times. The Wilde like aphorisms on love and poetry and politics started weighing me down. At some points it was one of those books that every line screams to be placed on the front of a quote card for someone like my fiancée to place upon her wall and ponder countless times. And that's all and good for a couple of lines, but there were millions. It became almost too witty. But that aside, I loved the book. The Icelandic allusions ...more
Dave
Oct 23, 2013 Dave rated it it was ok
Read this introduction in this paperback edition (first!): It says a lot about this very long and mostly somber book, in which 'not a lot happens.' It is difficult to say that the main character even has 'the strength of his own convictions' because fairly baseless moods seem to affect his inner life a lot, and strongly so, when they take hold of his mind and drive his actions (which are few, and not heroic ones. Example: as a teenage invalid, many of the first 200 pages of the book take place a ...more
Marissa
Jul 08, 2010 Marissa rated it really liked it
This novel is SO bizarre and requires patience but two months later I'm still thinking about it. If you're new to Laxness, I recommended reading Independent People first. But my god, the man can write. Every character gets in my head and stays there--permanently. I was inspired to write this review after scanning the last ten books I've read and realizing that this is one my mind keeps returning to. Unlike Wolf Hall, for example, which was a great read, but one I haven't thought about once since ...more
Eric Hinkle
Oct 17, 2015 Eric Hinkle rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans
This is the 2nd-best book I've read this year. The first was Independent People, by the same author, which is easily one of the 5 or 10 best books I've ever read. If you want to discover a truly phenomenal writer, one with as much pathos and humanity as tenderness and good humor, with some of the most stunningly beautiful passages imaginable... I would suggest Mr Laxness to you! No, I would almost demand that you let this saint into your life. These two books are something on another level altog ...more
Dan Plonsey
Oct 10, 2015 Dan Plonsey rated it it was amazing
Laxness has become one of my favorite authors, on the basis of this book and Independent People and Iceland's Bell. World Light has as its central character a Poet/Writer who both is and is not of this world. (I capitalize Poet, because in this book people are often referred to by their noblest attribute rather than name.) Among other things, this is a book about love vs. justice, obligation vs. desire, metaphysical vs. real, and the nature of beauty. The poet endures great sadness and injustice ...more
Valerie
Aug 13, 2007 Valerie rated it really liked it
When I run out of the Laxness works that are available in English, I will have to learn Icelandic.
Cigdem
Mar 01, 2015 Cigdem rated it liked it
Strange... As the introduction says. Following the life of the poet called Olafur Karason, in its different stages, the book opens up different views and stages of Iceland too. And never in another book, one feels this much culture shock. Karason's life is presented with all its clashing ingredients: endurance, sainthood but human frailty, love, philosophy, pride, nationalism, socialism, physical and spiritual needs, women and men, friendship... And Laxness writes with a certain level of cynicis ...more
Kathryn  Bullen
Jan 10, 2016 Kathryn Bullen rated it liked it
One of the most perplexing novels I've read - sometimes intriguing, sometimes dull, often truly sad. It describes the life of one man, Olaf Karason, from his austere beginnings as a baby being left in a sack by his mother with foster parents in rural Iceland, through a series of unfortunate events towards his ultimate self realisation of the creative spirit.

Unloved by his foster family, the child decides to become a great poet but suffers misunderstanding and abuse. His relationships are full o
...more
Rob T
Sep 17, 2012 Rob T rated it liked it
I didn't immensely enjoy Independent People when I read it, but it's taken firm root in my memory. I like that I read it, even if I didn't totally dig it while I was mid-page. Remembering Independent People fondly, I decided to try World Light. Time will tell, but my first impression is that Independent People is a stronger exploration of many of the same ideas. If Independent People is about politics and economics, then this is its political- and art-focused accompaniment. Our protagonist is sa ...more
Carolyn
Jan 04, 2012 Carolyn rated it liked it
The appeal of this book was in the writing, not in the main character. Poor Olafur was a rather frustrating character. I could pity his condition, but so wanted to seize him and shake him! He saw beauty in nature and had a bland goodwill to all, including those least worthy of it, yet was quite oblivious of the need to support his family in any practical way.

There was a relentless bleakness in his condition. His brutal childhood is reminiscent of Dickens, or, in an Australian context, Albert Fa
...more
Nathan
Mar 10, 2015 Nathan rated it it was amazing
This book's protagonist reminds me of a combination of Joyce's Stephen Dedalus and Voltaire's Candide. Enjoyable, and at times beautiful, this book really struck a chord with me. Certainly my experience was enhanced by reading this while I was in Iceland, but I would have enjoyed it even with little knowledge of Iceland. Outstanding book that reads like Joyce and Voltaire combined with Iceland as its setting.
Jeremy
Jun 09, 2015 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A beautiful comic and tragic tale of the life of an Icelandic orphan who's love of poetry both saves him and renders him forever an outsider to his small community. I've become a great fan of Halldor Laxness in the last year, and I loved this novel, but it probably isn't the first Halldor Laxness novel I would read. Long and sometimes slow, despite the fact I basically loved it, it was still a bit of a slog. If you are beginning with Laxness, start with Under the Glacier or The Fish Can Sing. Ev ...more
Lisa
Feb 11, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
Interesting book - Halldór Laxness is never a very easy read, though always enjoyable, nevertheless. Many of the poems within the story have been beautifully set to music (in Icelandic) by contemporary Icelandic composers.

It is a good idea to have some idea of the political and social history of Iceland before embarking on reading Laxness' books, as so much of his work is satire based on these very issues and the people who found themselves tangled up in the ramifications of the times.
Kris
Feb 04, 2008 Kris rated it really liked it
Between exquisite wretchedness at the beginning and a short sweet fade at the end, this is definitely a funny book–especially the seance scene, Petur Dhrihross, Olafur clueless in Reykjavik, and great minor characters. Ljosvikingur is certainly not a likable character, but you never know what is going to come out of his mouth. All Laxness needs to be translated!
Tess Frazier
Jul 20, 2012 Tess Frazier rated it really liked it
Wow. Reading this book was a huge commitment. I felt like I had to write notes and do some fact checking on Icelandic culture to ensure I understood all of the nuances. Very interesting reading. Loved references to the "invisible friend."
Shawn
Sep 29, 2008 Shawn rated it it was amazing
William T. Vollman praised Halldor Laxness in an interview and inspired me to read World Light. I haven't enjoyed reading a book so much since reading Don Quixote almost 30 years ago. World Light is tender, tragic, sad, hilarious, humane.
Homa
Mar 09, 2014 Homa rated it it was amazing
"Soon the sun of the day of resurrection will shine on the bright paths where she awaits her poet.

And beauty shall reign alone."
Stinasig
I believe this is the best book I have ever read. What a joy to read, I reread many pages just for enjoyment, and laughed out loud a lot.
Velma
I tried, & tried, & tried to get into this, but gave up after 375 pages. Just not my cup o' tea.
Genevieve
Mar 13, 2010 Genevieve rated it really liked it
The lasting legacy of reading this book would be many uses and meanings of the word 'really'.
Errol Hess
May 27, 2009 Errol Hess rated it it was amazing
This novel, based on the life of Iceland's bumbling national poet, is delightful.
Courtney
Jan 11, 2010 Courtney rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that I could read 100 times and still miss a lot of things.
Julie
Jan 19, 2013 Julie rated it did not like it
Really hard to get in to. I really tried to like this book, but just couldn't.
Laura
Jun 21, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
fell in love then had to break up, turned out I'd married a misogynist
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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
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“He continued on, on to the glacier, towards the dawn, from ridge to ridge, in deep, new-fallen snow, paying no heed to the storms that might pursue him. As a child he had stood by the seashore at Ljósavík and watched the waves soughing in and out, but now he was heading away from the sea. "Think of me when you are in glorious sunshine." Soon the sun of the day of resurrection will shine on the bright paths where she awaits her poet.
And beauty shall reign alone.”
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“Þar sem jökulinn ber við loft hættir landið að vera jarðneskt, en jörðin fær hlutdeild í himninum, þar búa ekki framar neinar sorgir og þessvegna er gleðin ekki nauðsynleg, þar ríkir fegurðin ein, ofar hverri kröfu.” 4 likes
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