Under the Glacier
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Under the Glacier

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  829 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness's Under the Glacier is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, a wryly provocative novel at once earthy and otherworldly. At its outset, the Bishop of Iceland dispatches a young emissary to investigate certain charges against the pastor at Snæfells Glacier, who, among other things, appears to have given up burying the dead. But once he arrives, the emis...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 8th 2005 by Vintage (first published 1968)
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Ema
Here's an Icelandic writer of which I've heard nothing about, despite the fact that he won the Nobel prize for literature. I found the book by chance, the synopsis sounded interesting enough, so I began reading and... helplessly fell in love with the novel.
This is Halldór Laxness' only book translated into Romanian, but I'm anxious to read some of his other works, especially Independent People.

Under the Glacier is truly an amazing book, which made me laugh (or at least giggle), think and wonder...more
Marissa
I couldn't find Independent People in my library (which I had only read half of and really wanted to finish) so I picked of this book of Laxness's instead and I am glad I did. I was expecting something slightly more magical realist so I was maybe a bit disappointed that it was not but was glad the "crazy" beliefs, stories, people, etc. became what they did.
The first 3/4ths of the book seem to be filled with silliness. The pastor isn't doing his job and the women don't sleep or eat. The church is...more
Jan-Maat
Four Laxness novels read so far and his style and approach has been different in each one so far. This is to be expected. At various points in his life Laxness was a Catholic priest, a Communist, the boy from the backwoods (or rather the icelandic equivalent thereof).

In Independent People we have the ironic homage to the nineteenth century realist novel or fulfilment of it in the light of Marxism, in The Atom Station a comedy of morality as Iceland steals itself, Paradise Reclaimed - something o...more
Mark
It's not that I hated "Under the Glacier" or didn't get a chuckle from it occasionally (OK, more like a wan smile). But to call it, as Susan Sontag did, “a marvelous novel about the most ambitious questions" and "one of the funniest books ever written," is a stretch. (And btw, I'm glad I was never invited to comedy night at the Sontags).

Written by Icelandic Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness, "Under the Glacier" is the story (using the term loosely) of a bishop's emissary who hunts for the truth...more
emily
glaciers and absurdity

who doesn't judge books by their covers? i was in kramerbooks, soon to be headed to iceland, when this one called to me. i reached past the reds and blues and modern arts for a lovely green book with a title that pulled at my heartstrings. even though it was "ordinary people" that won halldór laxness the nobel prize, i went with "under the glacier" because of its title and because the subject matter seemed so fascinating.

how do i describe it? there's an intro by susan sonta...more
Jim
This last novel by the Icelandic Nobel-prize-winning Halldór Laxness is more than a little difficult to classify. In a way, it is similar to the same author's Paradise Reclaimed. In both books, Icelanders are lured away from their beliefs by, in one case Mormon missionaries from Utah, and in the other, a group of New Agers and quasi-Buddhists from California and other points of the compass.

Under the Glacier was originally called Christianity at Glacier. It tells of the Bishop of Iceland sending...more
John David
The other day, I was looking for something out of the ordinary to read and, on opening Susan Sontag’s collection “Reborn,” saw an essay on Haldor Laxness’ “Under the Glacier.” Not wanting to give away too much to myself, I read only the first couple of paragraphs, was intrigued enough to pick it up, and set the rest of the essay aside for later.

The novel tells the story of a nameless bishop’s emissary (he is referred to only as “Embi,” short for “emissary of the bishop”). Embi is sent to a dista...more
Lydia
It's not fair for me to give this book a low score. It's the kind of book that you would like, if you liked this kind of book. It's deconstructed and strange and has lots of digressions. There's religion and Icelandic myth and lots of descriptions of the glacier. Mysterious people come and go, and are not as they seem. My linear and lumpen brain struggles to be patient with creative structures so after 90 pages i had to put it down. But give it a whirl if you enjoy being confused!
Christopher Kelsey
Unlike anything else I've read. Quick, witty, and very strange. The story is ostensibly a face-value report of a clergy investigation in a rural Icelandic town...where the slow approach of the Glacier seems to have replaced religion. There, life has become more practical but truth less important, and, ultimately, life more mysterious.
Christy
Found it hard to condense my still tangled senses of this book to a staff pick card, since I only truly enjoyed the last part, when Ua returned. But here was my (very boring) try:

"Following a host of strange rumors, a young man is sent as an emissary of the Bishop of Iceland to investigate the parish at Snaefells Glacier, a landscape which profoundly roots and underlines the novel. Written by Iceland's premier author, Under the Glacier is a novel both comic and metaphysical, mythic and odd."

Then...more
Abigail
A novel ostensibly about an emissary of the Bishop of Iceland, who is sent to the remote town of 'Glacier' to investigate the rumour that Pastor Jon is not burying the dead, that the church is boarded up, and that in general Christianity is being 'tampered with'. The investigation leaves the emissary moiled in confusion and improbability as he discovers that the church being boarded up is one of the least strange things about Glacier. One of the characters is a woman named Ua who may or may not...more
Jim Elkins
This novel comes with impeccable credentials: Laxness, a Nobel laureate, is one of Iceland's major twentieth-century novelists; the translator is Magnus Magnusson, "Mastermind" television presenter, and authority on the Icelandic sagas; and the book has a late introduction by Susan Sontag (2004). For me, it had the additional attraction that it's set at Snaeffelsj�kull, an Icelandic volcano I had just visited, and one of the characters comes from Hafnarfj�r�ur, where I was staying in Iceland. [r...more
Art
I'm not sure what to think on this book, about a young lay assistant to the Bishop who has to travel to a remote parish in Iceland and report on a pastor who's appeared to have gone off the rails. The quirkiness and 1960s prose and ideas really didn't connect with me very well. I'm not sure if it's me, if it's dated or if it's something lost in translation. I might revisit this book sometime in the future and see it it works better.
Erika
My experience with this book:
This is supposed to be funny?
What's going on here?
Am I getting it?
This is supposed to be funny.
What's going on here?
Am I getting it?
This is sort of funny.
What's understanding?
On some level, I am getting it.
This book is funny, absurd funny.
What's up with the effing fish and the yogis from Los Angeles?
Ok.

My reaction upon finishing the book:
It was amazing. I think I got it. It was hilarious. It's unlike anything I've ever read. Check back with me in 5 years w...more
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
Under the Glacier is one of the strangest novels I've ever read. So strange in fact that I'm having a hard time figuring out how to review it. On the surface this is the story of a young man sent by the bishop of Iceland to observe and report on the pastor, and the state of Christianity in general, at the Snaefells glacier. Our narrator (henceforth Embi, short for emissary of the bishop) is explicitly told not to try to interpret or draw conclusions from anything he sees. He is there to record,...more
Dejan Comassi
A beautiful kafkaesque novel, that asks some important questions about life, but is at the same time a parody. It's not like anything I've read before; a unique satyric novel, beautifully written. He deserved the Nobel-prize in literature like few of the laureates did. It left me speechless, and it's a shame that so few people have read it.
Deborah
This one stands out as the most quirky, macap, utterly brilliant novels that I have ever read. I searched all over trying to find another copy since I thought the one I had was missing the last 20 pages. But no, that was all part of the the way this book undoes all of those formulaic conventions that novels are usually known for. Fun.
Dergrossest
This book received glowing reviews in the NYT. The glow must have emanated from the reviewer's crack-pipe because the book completely sucked (I swear that I will never pick up another "modern Candide" as long as I live). I am contemplating filing suit to get my $16.95 back.
Hareton Linton
ყველაზე მნიშვნელოვანი რამ, წიგნში ხორცშესხმული პერსონაჟი ქალი უაა. თითქოს, სხვა მიზნები და საკითხებია პირველ პლანზე წამოწეული, მაგრამ სინამდვილეში ყველაფერი ამ ქალთან მიდის. ეს ის ქალია, რომელიც ბორდელს ფლობდა, მერე მონაზვნად აღიკვეცა, ერთდროულად ოთხ ქვეყანაში ცხოვრობდა, რამდენი ქმარი ყავდა, თვითონაც არ უწყოდა და თან, შესანიშნავი ქსოვა იცოდა.
უას გამოისობით, დეტერმინანტების კანონი მოქმედებაში იყო შესული: კოსმობიოლოგიამ და ეპაგოგიკამ წარმოაჩინეს საკუთარი თავი, ხოლო წიგნის პერსონაჟებს მუდმივად ახას...more
Aimee
Too bad I have to give it any star. As my friend Sharon said "friends don't let friends read 'Under the Glacier'". It was bad & didn't make any sense to me. Blah
Mark
Sep 13, 2007 Mark added it
Shelves: fiction
Hilarious tale of Christianity at the Snaefellsjökull glacier (where Verne's heroes descend to the center of the Earth) by Icelandic Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness.
Patrick Broadwick
The combination of mystery and realism (i.e., to me, "The Sublime") in this work enthralled me. Wondrous work of surrealism.
Joseph
If you read one book on Icelandic Mormons this year, make sure it's Under the Glacier. Laxness writes with such beauty and grace.
Charlie
oh my god this book was awesome
Elizabeth Adams
Glacier The first book by Halldor Laxness that I read, Independent People, is his most famous: the story of the unimaginably grim lives of Icelandic peasant sheep-herders. In spite of its grimness (and length - it goes on for some 512 pages) I loved the book, and was anxious to read another by the same author.

Under the Glacier is much shorter, not grim at all, and it's funny. Susan Sontag, in her introduction, points out that it's unlike anything else that Laxness ever wrote, and goes on to desc...more
Truehobbit
This is a really weird book. Hilarious, over-the-top, bizarre, grotesque, just plain odd - well, weird! I can't really say what it's about, but it was quite amusing, with a bit of depth here and there...I guess.

The overall topic: a young clergyman is sent by the bishop of Iceland to investigate reports of some odd goings-on at a forlorn place near a glacier - the glacier, in fact, that featured as the entrance to the centre of earth in Jules Verne's novel of that title. Accordingly, people at t...more
Orlando Fato
I wanted to read one of Laxness' books and this one, and not Independent People, caught my attention, because of its unique plot. Believe me, this book is UNIQUE. I often found myself not having a clue about what was going on, but there was always something ahead letting me know that THAT was the point: to make you feel as confused as the bishop's emissary. I agree that this is not a 5 star book, because Laxness often rambles about the same over and over to make you feel consfused, and that can...more
No Books
Halldór Laxness ha attraversato l’intero ventesimo secolo (1902-1998) ricevendo il Nobel circa a metà strada, nel 1955. Del 1968 è questo romanzo, un unicum non solo nella sua sterminata produzione (che finalmente sta avendo una diffusione anche in Italia) ma nel canone letterario tout court; tanto da meritare un saggio monografico di Susan Sontag, che Iperborea si concede il lusso di pubblicare come postfazione. La Sontag nota innanzitutto come Laxness mescoli e superi i generi letterari, in un...more
Naia
I wanted to read some modern Icelandic literature before an Icelandic visit in April. This is the only book I could quickly get my hands on, it is also rather short.

From the description: sci-fi and the church and a magical location all written by a Nobel prize author...should be interesting; and it was.

First, as the other reviewers mentioned, I highly recommend NOT reading the introduction as it gives away important points about the plot. I would have preferred to go into the story without a bac...more
Matt
I re-read this one recently, which is pretty rare for me to do with books I'm not teaching. I remember really liking this the first time I read it a couple years ago, but also feeling like I didn't quite get it, so I went back, and I'm glad I did.

The rap on this book is that it's a weird cosmic-philosophical exploration of terms of Christianity in a humorous, light-touch kind of way, with a lovable Candide-esque narrator. That's at least partly true, and I think I was able to follow the threads...more
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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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“Remember, any lie you are told, even deliberately, is often a more significant fact than a truth told in all sincerity.” 35 likes
“Like all great rationalists you believed in things that were twice as incredible as theology.” 15 likes
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