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

Iceland's Bell

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,161 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
Sometimes grim, sometimes uproarious, and always captivating, Iceland’s Bell by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness is at once an updating of the traditional Icelandic saga and a caustic social satire. At the close of the 17th century, Iceland is an oppressed Danish colony, suffering under extreme poverty, famine, and plague. A farmer and accused cord-thief named Jon Hreggvidss ...more
Paperback, 425 pages
Published October 14th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1943)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Iceland's Bell, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Iceland's Bell

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,778)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 11, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
There are several Icelands in history. Best known is the Iceland of the Vikings, roughly from the time of settlement in the 9th century to the transfer of the country to the Norwegian King Haakon in the 13th century. Then we skip the better part of a millennium to come to the hip modern Iceland, land of the runtur and of bankruptcy.

In between those two extremes was the Iceland of poverty and servitude. The Danes took over Iceland from the Norwegians and installed their merchants, gifting them w
Oct 25, 2010 Jann rated it really liked it
I was recently in Iceland for a couple of days. A tour guide happened to be very literary and he strongly recommended the books by Nobel Prize winner, Halldor Laxness. He even pulled the van into a tourist stop with a tiny book shop way out in Iceland's amazingly beautiful wilderness, so that I could get a book to begin reading immediately. I am so glad he did. This was truly a brilliant novel, and a fascinating glimpse into Iceland's history---a history that I personally was completely uneducat ...more
João Carlos

Þingvellir church and Manor House - Þingvellir National Park

O escritor islandês Halldór Laxnees (1902-1998), Prémio Nobel da Literatura em 1955, publicou “O Sino da Islândia” em 1943.
No século XVII a Dinamarca exerce sobre a Islândia uma força repressiva e dominadora, oprimindo um povo e consequentemente uma população a viver na pobreza e na miséria extrema, que luta desesperadamente pela sobrevivência física e emocional.
As três personagens principais: Jón Hreggvidsson - um agricultor “ingénuo”
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is my third year with a group here in GoodReads called The World's Literature. In 2012 we read Japan, last year we read Turkey (which started me on all kinds of paths), and this year (2014), Iceland will be our theme. It is fitting that we started with a novel by Laxness, the only Icelandic citizen to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

This is the story of Iceland during the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was poverty-stricken and controlled by Denmark. The bias against Icelanders c
Jun 05, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bowe Bergdahl
Shelves: own, fiction

This was full of gallows humor, which I appreciated. Otherwise the poverty, the hardscrabbleness (the description of an old women's bed near the beginning of the book is absolutely revolting), the infanticide, the disease, the floggings, the executions, would have been a bit hard to take.

At the novel's center are several criminal and civil cases which take years to resolve, making this a sort of 17th century Icelandic Bleak House.

But I never really warmed to the characters' lack of psychological
While I admittedly learned quite a lot about Iceland and its people, I wouldn't want to read this book again, and I wouldn't recommend it either.

There is a difference between writing in great detail about hard or sad lives, and actually making the reader feel as devastated as the people in the book.
If the main characters meet other people, there is little or no impact on them at all and the conversations seem totally random.
I did have to look up a lot of things that were mentioned (and I lear
Aug 31, 2009 Kallie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in writing and European history
I've never read a better historical novel, free of anachronisms and sentimentality, witty yet never 'light history,' as are too many historical novels written these days. Laxness writes such vivid, complex characters and depiction of life in the 17th century, when Iceland was under the heel of the Danes -- scorned in every way yet unbowed. The narrative sags in places, but is well worth one's patience. Joh Hreggvissson, Snaefridur, Arnas Arnaeus, are all unforgettable. I will be reading more Lax ...more
Jul 15, 2012 McKenzie rated it it was amazing
I think I've officially become an Icelandophile, or at least obsessed with the works of Halldór Laxness. Iceland's Bell is written in the tradition of the sagas, presenting strong, stubborn, and independent characters whose paths intertwine over the course of many years as the result of seemingly innocuous occurrences. Set in the 17th and 18th centuries while Iceland suffered egregiously under the rule of Denmark, Iceland's Bell follows the actions of three main characters: Jón Hreggviðsson, a c ...more
Mario Rufino
Nov 10, 2012 Mario Rufino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: com-críticas

Texto para o Diário Digital:
Natacha Martins
Jan 11, 2015 Natacha Martins rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Não sei muito bem como é que acabei a ler este livro. Acho que fui "apanhada" numa daquelas promoções para prémios Nobel e a verdade é que ao ler a sinopse pensei: porque não?, não sei nada sobre a Islândia... :)

"O Sino da Islândia" conta-nos a história da Islândia e dos islandeses no século XVII/XVIII. Os anos em que foram uma colónia da coroa dinamarquesa.
A história começa com a ordem do rei da Dinamarca para que todo o cobre e estanho da Islândia seja enviado para a reconstrução de Copenhaga.
Aug 09, 2009 Mazel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman
Prix Nobel de Littérature 1955

1944, l’Islande est sur le point d’obtenir son indépendance.

Laxness publie la trilogie Íslandsklukkan, La cloche d’Islande : le destin de Jón Hreggviðsson, présumé assassin de l’envoyé du Roi.

Ce même envoyé qui, quelques jours plus tôt, a fait fondre la cloche de Þingvellir, symbole national de l’indépendance Islandaise.

Autour de Jón le vengeur gravitent plusieurs personnages, notamment Arnas Arnaeus, qui n’est autre qu’Árni Magnússon, l’un des héros de l’histoi
What interesting about "Iceland's Bell" is that it deserves more. It's a complicated book to rate and review, if only because it was a complicated book to read. That said, readers with some free time on their hands and the need to tackle some of the Nobel masters should definitely look at "Iceland's Bell" as an option.

There are three stories in "Iceland's Bell" and its downfall starts there. On the one hand, all three have their interesting aspects and all three have fairly strong central charac
John McQuaid
Apr 01, 2015 John McQuaid rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book. It didn't sound promising going in, given that the plot is built around several decades-long legal disputes in Iceland, circa 1700. So you learn a lot about the origins of the modern Icelandic legal system. But as the characters maneuver this maze of legal, economic, political and personal complications, it turns out to be this magnificent epic, by turns humorous, mordant, heartbreaking. I'm still thinking about it a couple of weeks after finishing it. My only complaint is tha ...more
Laxness has given us a crazy, wonderful, hysterical, silly account of an historical lawsuit in Iceland. Follow the misadventure of poor Jon Hreggvidsson as he gets kicked all over Europe by nasty upper crust rotters and smug Danes. My favorite Laxness novel...
A. Fedosia
Feb 07, 2014 A. Fedosia rated it really liked it
Tells a fascinating/spellbinding story of Iceland's difficult years in the 17-18th centuries, when the country and its trade are beholden to support Denmark, which displaced the island's Catholicism with Lutheranism. It's more the story of how characters rich or poor (dispensing authority or being the object of it) respond to curtailments to acquire their livelihood and to retain their proper honor in society. As if the Danish trade monopoly were not enough hardship, the Icelandic justice instit ...more
Oct 21, 2013 Candice rated it liked it
Halldor Laxness is Iceland's Nobel-Prize winning author. I struggled reading this and at times became lost in all the characters. In addition, Icelandic people and place names can be very long and difficult to pronounce. But it was an interesting story, based on historical happenings. The book has already been summarized by other reviewers so I will just say a few things about what I liked. I thought some of the descriptions of the places and the situations were beautifully written. And the Icel ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Linda rated it liked it
This was a vexing book. I'm not sure if the problem was in translation or Mr. Laxness' prose. Many instances of shifting tenses drove me nuts. A paragraph of section would begin in the present tense and a few sentences later it had quietly morphed into past tense...which is how the book is presented.

Also, I had difficulty keeping my mind in the book. I suspect this is more from my own inexperience with dense prose of this nature than it is a fault of the book. Despite my difficulties understandi
Oct 14, 2008 Nori rated it liked it
Confession: I only got maybe 50 pages into this ~400-pager -- not even the old college try, really. And reading it did make me feel like I was back in my Russian Novel lit class in college -- this is very much, as far as I could tell, in the style of the 19th-century Russians who wrote in ponderous detail about the lives of the sprightly, sassy, heavy-drinking, petty-crime-committing, living-off-the-salt-of-the-unforgiving-land peasants. If you like that sort of thing, this'll be right up your a ...more
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. I recognized the massive amount of research the author must have done in order to write it and the skill with which he did so, but he never made me really care about these characters. There were times that I was really interested in the story, but they were too few and too short. I learned a lot about this period of history, so it was not a wasted journey, but it was a desperately grim trip.
Nov 02, 2012 Tara rated it really liked it
I don't know how to describe this book. it is sort of a historical novel, but it is also part 17th century romance/thriller, though these are really inadequate descriptors. the story may not seem that thrilling or romantic, unless the reader can get down with the harsh reality of iceland under the danish boot. the harsh conditions described by Laxness are that which constitute the culture and its history that he is also describing. this makes the characters and the story interesting. the narrati ...more
Jul 15, 2012 Daniel rated it liked it
My third Laxness book - and a decent one at that - but not even close to "Independent People." This one is more of an adventure story, and the "innocents abroad" parts are a highlight. There's plenty of grim wit and gallows humor, if that's your thing. Also, it's packed with references to Icelandic literature and history: the endnotes provide a back story of their own. All the same, the pace was a bit slow and plodding. Perhaps a reader with a solid background in the historical context would hav ...more
Vatroslav Herceg
Jul 21, 2016 Vatroslav Herceg rated it it was ok
Sveučilišna naklada Liber, ZGB. 1987.
Prevedeno izravno s islandskog od strane Sunčane Slamnig.
Izdanje Sveučilišne naklade Liber je kvalitetno prije svega zbog kul naslovnice gdje su slova predobre modrozelene boje uspješno uklopljena u ledenu fotografiju Hiperboreje. Pogovor i "Napomena o islandskom jeziku i pismu" su djelo Ivana Slamniga. "Napomena o islandskom jeziku i pismu" na jezgrovit način predočuje osnove o jezičnoj kulturi Islanđana.
Izdanje Sveučilišne naklade Liber donosi cijelu trilog
Paul Roman
Nov 25, 2015 Paul Roman rated it it was ok
I was captivated by this vivid picture of Iceland of the later medieval period, its common folks, fighting for mere survival, the local aristocrats often not doing much better, the grip of their colonial overlords and peculiar dealings of the medieval church.
Although I normally prefer more laconic sentences, I enjoyed well crafted Halldor's language, perhaps because it better suited the impossibly flowery, obscure and mannered way of talking used by the aristocracy and clergy of the day. I als
Jul 22, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
I found Iceland's Bell to be a remarkable novel, comparable in power, scope and beauty to a classic like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Dead Souls or War and Peace. It is the story of life in a brutally oppressed arctic colony, so it is certainly filled with suffering and misery. But the quality of the time and place emerges clearly from its pages, enriched by distinctive and engaging individuals. The individual stories interact with the larger history beautifully, never losing sight of the huma ...more
Extremely well-written, but I found it very depressing. It was an "I want to slash my wrists" kind of book. I couldn't stand the way the people are treated by the occupying Danes, and how their love of their culture has been eroded. Laxness is such a good writer. You would have to be a good writer in order to take somebody on such an emotional roller-coaster.
Apr 12, 2014 Vlad rated it liked it

At first glance, Iceland's Bell has few strikes against it when it comes to attracting American readers. To begin with, there is the author's name. Who is Halldor Laxness anyway? And then there is that country in the title. Am I really going to settle into a long novel about Iceland of all places? And did we mention the story takes place in the 17th century and revolves around forty years of intractable civil and criminal litigation? Headed for the exits yet? If so, I have
Feb 05, 2014 Catherine rated it it was ok
It took me a long time to get through the book because it just wasn't my cup of tea. I didn't connect with the characters and didn't feel anything for the plot. It's not badly written, it just didn't appeal to me.
Israel E
Feb 09, 2016 Israel E rated it really liked it
Me resulta un poco difícil hablar de esta historia ya que es algo larga y confusa en ciertos por qués. Uno es que a veces me costaba trabajo entender porque Snaifridur tomaba esas decisiones, a veces parece una mujer tan fuerte pero de pronto se desmorona al ayudar a su esposo. Segundo me ha costado trabajo comprender la justificación de Arneus por desprestigiar a los jueces Islandeses siendo él que busca la paz y crecimiento de Islandia. Me parece que Jón Hreggvidsson es el más coherente de tod ...more
Nov 12, 2015 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of the works of Laxness that I've read. It won't be the last.

What I found most remarkable about this historical epic is how relatively exterior are Laxness' portraits of his characters. Unlike the works of his contemporary 20th century novelists (e.g., Thomas Mann), Laxness provides very little interior information on the characters, what one is thinking, what another is feeling, etc. Instead, Laxness delivers detailed reportage on developments, on mis en scene, and, in this wa
Jan 17, 2008 Cat rated it it was amazing
This book was totally absorbing. It sounds boring, but isn't. Give it a shot- you won't regret it!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 92 93 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The World's Liter...: janúar: Halldór Laxness, "Iceland's Bell" 61 52 Feb 02, 2014 09:44AM  
  • Angels of the Universe
  • Himnaríki og helvíti
  • Svartfugl
  • From the Mouth of the Whale
  • The Saga of Grettir the Strong
  • Dreamland - A Self-Help manual
  • 101 Reykjavik
  • Óreiða á striga
  • Gunnar's Daughter
  • The Greenhouse
  • Ljósa
  • The Pets
  • The Swan
  • Children in Reindeer Woods
  • Svar við bréfi Helgu
  • Stone Tree
  • Illska
  • The Discoverer
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...

Share This Book

“Vont er þeirra ránglæti, verra þeirra réttlæti.” 7 likes
“...nothing is true that cannot be proven--and therefore, it's not true.” 2 likes
More quotes…