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Letters from Iceland

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  162 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
This highly amusing and unorthodox travel book resulted from a light-hearted summer journey by the young poets Auden and MacNeice in 1936. Their letters home, in verse and prose, are full of private jokes and irreverent comments about people, politics, literature and ideas. Letters from Iceland is one of the most entertaining books in modern literature; from Auden's 'Lette ...more
Published November 1st 2002 by Faber Faber (first published 1937)
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Aug 11, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-white-square

I thought Hetty's letters to Nancy were very funny.

Bits I liked:

"Every exciting letter has enclosures,"

"The old woman confessing: 'He that I loved the
Best, to him I was the worst.'"

"The songs of jazz have told us of a moon country
And we like to dream of a heat which is never sultry,
Melons to eat, champagne to drink, and a lazy
Music hour by hour depetalling the daisy."

"The Borg is called a first-class hotel but is not the kind of thing you like if you like that kind of thing: still it is the only
L'idea di scrivere m'è venuta oggi
(amo specificare tempo e luogo);
l'autobus era nel deserto, sulla strada
da Mothrudalur a qualche altro luogo;
lacrime scorrevano sul mio volto bruciante:
ad Akureyri m'ero preso un tremendo raffreddore, il pranzo ritardava e la vita era dolore.

Il professor Housman fu il primo a cui pensai
di dire in stampa quanto stimolanti
sono i piccoli mali da cui l'uomo è afflitto,
i raffreddori, i mal di testa, i dolori
son creativi; così non è azzardato l'affermare
che più
Aug 02, 2007 Kiera rated it liked it
The premise: on the eve of WWII, the young WH Auden and one of his poet friends spend an idyllic summer traveling around Iceland and sending witty letters and poems home.

The product isn't as interesting as the premise sounds (partly due to my extremely low tolerance for so-called "funny" poetry, I'm sure). Auden's letters, however, made the read worthwhile and made me want to start up a correspondence (ideally multiple). It's hard to buy a copy in print in the US, but if you get it at the librar
Dec 29, 2009 Kristin rated it really liked it
A lovely little travel narrative, this isn't your usual guidebook. Letters from Iceland is filled with poetry and notes home. Auden's voice, especially, is charming, though MacNeice's final poem is wonderful. While I read this in preparation for a trip to Iceland, it's actually a good read for any interested in seeing Europe (and England) at a very particular moment between wars, with colonialism not quite over and the depression hitting the world hard. Auden and MacNeice, two intellectuals, hav ...more
Aug 28, 2015 Yvonne rated it liked it
Auden in IJsland
Auden reisde in 1936 door IJsland met de schrijver Louis MacNeice. Hij schreef over deze reis het werk 'Brieven uit IJsland'. Het is een briljante en eigenzinnige collage van brieven, gedichten (aan Byron), reisimpressies, literaire beschouwingen en anekdotes. Een aanrader voor degene die a. zonder dit boek te kennen naar IJsland is geweest b. er ooit naar toe wil gaan of c. liever Laxness leest en thuisblijft.
Nov 07, 2007 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, fresh and funny.
Published in 1937, I first read this in 1978 (gulp) and again this year, nearly as much time having gone by since, which is very scary. I remember enjoying this as a teenager but remembered little of the detail, apart from the poem in the style of Byron's Don Juan. This is far from being a conventional travel book but somehow, through the poems, notes and letters both fictional and presumably genuine you do get a sense of Iceland as seen by English visitors in the 1930s, with a bit of the wider ...more
Jun 06, 2014 Julián rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: viajes
Los caminos del mundo editorial son inescrutables. ¿Cómo es posible que les haya dado por traducir y publicar este extraño libro? Supongo que las razones que apunté sobre el libro de Xavier Moret no son ajenas a ello. Dos poetas británicos se embarcan en los años treinta en un egotrip autosuficiente y presuntuoso por tierras islandesas. En este libro se dedican a dar la matraca sobre sus personas: que si sus poemas, que si sus obras listas para imprenta, sus canciones alemanas, su resfriado, su ...more
Sarah Sammis
Dec 05, 2007 Sarah Sammis rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
I am rather split brained about Letters From Iceland by W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice. There were pieces of it that had me roaring with laughter and other pieces where I just had to skip out of boredom or disinterest.

Letters From Iceland is a collection of writings inspire by a trip to Iceland. It was published in 1937 and has been reprinted a number of times. W. H. Auden provided about two-thirds of the pieces including a lengthy (and rather dull) epic poem called a "Letter to Lord Byron." Lo
Oct 06, 2013 Heloise rated it liked it
This is a strange little book but I did enjoy it. It's a collection pieces tangentially related to Iceland. It was sometimes a bit impenetrable - it seems to have been written for Auden's clique, or at least people who would have had a working knowledge of the society, people and politics of the 1930s. Names and events were frequently mentioned without explanation and some I knew but a lot of them didn't mean anything.

On the upside I really liked the letters to Byron and the strange little stor
May 16, 2009 Abi rated it liked it
An enjoyable and occasionally very witty read. It's a shame Auden didn't really seem to have a lot of fun, or to like Iceland all that well. Since it was his love of Norse literature in part that drew him to Iceland, it would have been nice if he'd given some idea of how it felt to be in the land where the events took place, whether it was disappointment or whether there was some satisfaction in the pilgrimage. I think overall from inference Iceland was a disappointment to Auden. Journey to Icel ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Gregg rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, travel, byron, iceland
A rambling but user-friendly blend of narrative, epistolary, commentary and poetry, the book takes one back to a time before blogs and interminable Facebook photo albums and demonstrates how experience and observation can be skillfully wielded by artists into the sublime and aesthetic, regardless of topic. I primarily picked this book up in order to grasp the full context of Auden's poem to Lord Byron, but the text, photos, maps and assorted details of his and Macniece's trip left me pleasantly ...more
Nov 05, 2008 Caitlin rated it liked it
i had to wait about four months to finally get a copy of this from the nypl. if you try to buy a copy online it's like 80 dollars. my favorite parts were about the icelandic diet. i really did like how lazy and simple this book was but probably for this reason i couldn't propel myself through the second half. probably just more of the same anyway.
Mar 08, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
In 1936 poets WH Auden and Louis MacNeice travelled together to Iceland and documented their travels in prose, poetry and imagined letters. Humorous, entertaining and and insight into the place and the time.
In Auden's words,

I like to walk, but not to walk too far.
I also like green plains where cattle are,
And trees and rivers, and shall always quarrel
With those who think that rivers are immoral.
Jan 19, 2016 ulli_z rated it really liked it
A fun, and in a few places also a little absurd, "travel book", written by poets W.H. Auden and Louis MacNeice in 1936, political comments certainly not excluded. My favourite is Auden's long poetic "Letter to Lord Byron".
Aug 18, 2010 Pam rated it it was amazing
2 poets on ponyback through the 'geysirs' in 1936 (with nazis scouting the place for the future themepark of the ur-reich) - auden is too funny, esp when writing in the voice of a schoolmistress to her beloved hetty in greece, or regaling his idol byron a la byron....
Jul 03, 2016 Karen rated it liked it
Odd but entertaining, I much preferred the prose to the poetry.
Jul 13, 2016 Kirsty rated it really liked it
My review can be found here: https://theliterarysisters.wordpress....
Avis Black
Feb 27, 2008 Avis Black rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, 4-stars
Auden and MacNeice were initially unsure how to write this. They finally adopted the voices of two British schoolgirls on holiday and wrote the entire thing in very fruity tones. Quite amusing.
Feb 26, 2012 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Super-love these writers and super-love letters and super-love travel. Read if you enjoyed Travels with Charley by Steinbeck!
Jan 23, 2008 Angela marked it as to-read
If I could only get my paws on this book, what a happy girl I'd be.
Alex Murray
Jan 08, 2016 Alex Murray rated it it was amazing
This book made me incredibly happy. Poetry, history, satire and Iceland: everything a bored student needs and more.
Sara rated it really liked it
Oct 15, 2011
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Dec 16, 2014
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Feb 12, 2013
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Wystan Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet, best known for love poems such as Funeral Blues, poems on political and social themes such as September 1, 1939 and The Shield of Achilles, poems on cultural and psychological themes such as The Age of Anxiety, and poems on religious themes such as For the Time Being and Horae Canonicae. He was born in York, grew up in and near Birmingham in a professi ...more
More about W.H. Auden...

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“Lovers have lived so long with giants and elves, they won't believe again in their own size.” 12 likes
“Part came from Lane, and part from D.H. Lawrence;
Gide, though I didn't know it then, gave part.
They taught me to express my deep abhorrence
If I caught anyone preferring Art
To Life and Love and being Pure-in-heart.
I lived with crooks but seldom was molested;
The Pure-in-heart can never be arrested.”
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