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The Ice Palace

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,037 Ratings  ·  268 Reviews
A new edition of what is commonly seen as the legendary Norwegian writer's masterpiece, this story tells the tale of Siss and Unn,two friendswho have only spent one evening in each other's company. But so profound is this evening between them that when Unn inexplicably disappears, Siss's world is shattered. Siss's struggle with her fidelity to the memory of her friend and ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1963)
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Dec 11, 2011 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cold-and-dark, norway
In such a short amount of time and in so few, yet potent, words, Vesaas delivers a chilling, metaphor-driven tale of loss set in the dense winters of Norway. You really should read this book. It is a very quick read, but it will remain with you long after you finish the last page.

Vesaas, who was a decorated poet as well as a novelist, delivers a fresh, poetic and concise prose that damn near flows off the page. The real majesty however, is in the way he crafts an environment that reads like a l
Jul 23, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of cold, white winters.
“Promise in deepest snow from Siss to Unn:
I promise to think about no one but you.”

Sometimes, only a gleaming glance is enough.
Siss and Unn, two eleven-year old girls living in an isolated, rural community somewhere in Scandinavia, need only a single evening together to forge an uncommon friendship that will change their lives irreparably.
When four eyes full of gleams and radiance beneath their lashes, filling the looking glass, shine into each other, words become redundant. A disturbing meet
Oct 21, 2015 Seemita rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Light-Seekers after every storm
Recommended to Seemita by: Dolors
When a few dotted lines can cuff my heart into a promise and bind my palms over it in sombre armory, keep me lain in its pristine shadows for hours and yet freeze the time in crystalline imagery, I beam at the prospect: the prospect of living in that promise; that promise which lights up with the chandeliers of frosty realizations hanging from the ceiling of dreams and a sea of incomplete chances freezing my being.

A life is made of promises; some made to self, some to others. And like a diffide
Nov 14, 2015 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing

The Ice palace takes place in the raw scenery of the Norwegian late autumn . The evening roaring heralds the strengthening of the ice covering the nearby lake , and in the shadow , on the roadsides unnamed creatures are skulking . But you are not afraid of darkness , Siss , are you ? There’s nothing to be afraid of . It’ll envelop you with soft coat and then you can hear its indistinct voice . Its loves to play sometimes with you , but you know all its clever tricks , all these whispers and ru
May 08, 2014 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2014

The more I like a book, the more I hesitate about how to write it up in a review, about how to capture its beauty and how to convince other readers that it is worth checking up. I read The Ice Palace in one sitting, then I sat and thought about it for a week. At first glance, it is such a simple, straight-forward story, told in understated, minimalist prose. Two young girls meet after school and believe they could become close friends, yet they shy away from giving in to their impulses too fast,

3 "at times hypnotic, at times beautiful but mostly stilted" stars.

I glanced and saw many five star ratings for this book. I ask myself "What have I missed? What have I misunderstood?"

I decide that this book simply did not resonate deeply for me.

I loved the descriptions of the changing of the season in a small Scandinavian town and the use of the frozen waterfall as something monstrous, profound, beautiful but inanimate. This is the way I felt about the book as well. Inanimate.....too cold
Nate D
Jan 19, 2015 Nate D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those glimpsed in mirrors of glass, mirrors of ice
Recommended to Nate D by: Inviting ice-fissures
Frostily immaculate and mysterious as the titular ice formation. Tunnels of ice, spires of ice. Rooms with only entries and no exits that beckon, beckon.

There's so much that fascinates here: the ethereal descriptions of northern landscapes, and accompanying slightly alien compassion of its communities, the inexpressible pre-sexual bonds of children, the inexpressible secrets and promises of self and other, the ice palace, always the ice palace. The simple direct language all the more capable of
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Aug 28, 2014 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Based on the ratings, when I first started reading this and feeling unimpressed (and occasionally even a little annoyed), I half-convinced myself that the author had suffered his entire 73 years with a case of Imminent Death Syndrome, along with Male Pattern Baldness and Sorta-Looks-Like-Willem-Dafoe-itis. I was wrong says now-me to past-me, because this gets better and better the more you get used to the stilted prose, accept it as a voice for (admittedly a bit too sage and emotionally nuanced) ...more
May 17, 2013 Emma rated it it was amazing
There is a serious elegance to this little book.

Set in Norway, The Ice Palace is the story of Siss and Unn, two eleven-year-old girls, and their brief but intense friendship. Vesaas’ approach to the insecurities and awkward communications of the two adolescent girls is dealt with so tenderly, it made my bones ache.

The descriptions of ice and snow are vivid, beautiful. So vivid in fact, that half way through I started to feel cold. Seriously. The heating was turned on, a blanket was fetched, an
Jul 16, 2013 Ema rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ema by: Mariel / Nate D / Spenke
A novel with a scarcity of words but with a delicate, dreamlike poetry; a story that makes you taste the coldness and isolation of winter in the middle of the summer; an adult writer who can see through the soul of an eleven year girl, down to her utmost fears; a remembrance of childhood with all its awkward moments; two girls that are linked in life and beyond; a secret that is never spoken, buried forever in ice; a promise that is kept, no matter if it brings estrangement; a wonder of nature, ...more
May 18, 2014 Marina rated it it was amazing
Many years ago (decades even) I watched this movie on television about the life of American poet Maya Angelou. The details of the story have long ebbed away but there’s this one scene that I recall vividly. In it a sort of teacher figure is telling the young Maya about how beautiful words can be, how wonderful it is to love them. I guess this conversation remained with me because at the time I didn’t understand it. I loved reading books already, I loved the stories they told and the adventures I ...more
May 23, 2013 Mariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a ring round Siss
Recommended to Mariel by: I'm not afraid of the dark
They were still dragging the river, downwards from the waterfall where there were pools. The ice-coated dragging poles stood in the snowdrifts at night, pointing upwards.
All roads led to Auntie’s house. Everything collected there, all lines of communication met in this lonely woman, Unn’s sole anchor. The blind lanes crossed there at a clear, tearless point of intersection.
‘I see,’ said Auntie.
‘Thank you,’ she said, ‘It can’t be helped.’
Unn’s anchor in life.

What is the time it takes from when y
Nidhi Singh
It started with a glance. It ran high as a fever. It swept the frosty roads and froze into the green ice palace. It sought its labyrinths, breathed in its strangeness. It settled deep inside Siss. It was the greatest treasure she wrapped under her coat in that most difficult winter of all.

Promise in deepest snow from Siss to Unn:
I promise to think about no one but you.
To think about everything I know about you.

It was the promise that gave Siss the solemnity she needed for Unn. Something that wo
Jeff Jackson
Apr 08, 2013 Jeff Jackson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recommend checking out the excellent reviews by the trio of initialed men: Nate D., M. Kitchell, and s.penkevich. Like them, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, though perhaps I was unduly influenced by having read Vessas' "The Bridges" a few weeks earlier. Both books recount stories about young people and Vesass's simple prose occasionally feels too over-explanatory until you realize the vast chasms of unspoken detail that lie at the very core of these trauma-stricken narratives. These novels je ...more
Apr 02, 2012 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short and marvelous novel was published in 1963 by the Norwegian novelist Tarjei Vesaas, its translation by Elizabeth Rokkan following three years later. The story is simple and quickly told. In a rural village eleven-year-old classmates, Siss and Unn, who have not been close, spend an emotionally charged evening together, forming a fierce and indelible bond. The next day Unn, uncertain about facing Siss so soon after their experience, skips school and explores an ice palace formed by an im ...more
Oct 26, 2011 knig rated it liked it
Shelves: dream-like
This is the kind of book (goes down pat in under two hours, btw), where the reviews will utilise more lyrical lingua than actually sourced in the text: it is that sparse and economical with its prose. Written as if for children but with a message no child will understand, it invokes long forgotten memories of Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘The Little Match Girl’ (the ONLY tale, apart from Wildes ‘The Happy Prince’ which ever made me cry....and still does, even though now that I’m older and wis ...more
Jun 01, 2009 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have this tucked away corner of a shelf with a small stack of books, a treasure trove of only the most specific kind of simple, magical, eerie, uncannily wise books. Saved up, tucked aside, bottled away, just in case there’s one day, off chance, wild notion, life gets inadvertently full of little tangled limbs and skint knees who clamor for bedtime stories with sleepy eyes. “Break glass in case of kids,” it could say.

They are not children’s books. But, somehow, they are the books that belong
Jan 31, 2016 Sinem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Çok basit bir öyküyü, çok basit kelimelerle nasıl bir şiire dönüştürürüz?" sorusuna verilmiş güzel bir kitap. Örnek bir alıntı vermek gerekirse;

“Bir giz var burada. İçlerindeki bütün kederi açığa vuruyor ve onu, ışığın bu geceyarısı oyununa ve ölüm kuşkusuna bırakıyorlar. Ve onlar büyülenmekle oyalanıyorlar. Buzun ıssız köşeleri arasında dağılmış durumdalar, fenerlerden çapraz ışıklar parlıyor, bunlar başka yarıklardan ve prizmalardan yansıyan ışıklarla karşılaşıyor, tümden yeni yeni ışınlar pa
Afraid of the dark? No. Bright woodwind players had appeared and were walking along the sides of the road.

Read this during an ongoing depressive episode, but still found it magical, the tenderness of its narration, its maturation. Alas, its first few scenes are its best, or perhaps my mood simply took a downturn thereafter, a tension, assumed importance, an apprehensive hope.

(view spoiler)
Vit Babenco
Mar 27, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Ice Palace depicts a quite unusual psychological climate.
Shocked by disappearance of her friend Siss experiences a deep psychological trauma…
“The ice construction rises above them, enigmatic, powerful, its pinnacles disappearing into the darkness and the winter cloud drift. It seems prepared to stand eternally… There is something secret here. They bring out what sorrows they may have and transfer them to this midnight play of light and suspicion of death… The men are lost in the game at the
Nov 29, 2015 Çavlan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm re-reading some of my old favorites this month. It has been over ten years since I've read them, so can't wait to see if I'll still enjoy them as much.

Update: Just as good as all those years ago. Such a strong, disturbing, unique and unforgettable novel.
[4.5] Two thirds of this were perfect. The grumpiest book blogger I've read describes Vesaas as a "writer of incredibly beautiful simple poetic prose. You know, the kind of stuff that every literary writer is supposed to write (according to reviews) but which none of them actually do. Well, Vesaas actually does." Immaculately honed crystal. Elizabeth Rokkan's 1964 translation has the charm of being from the same time as the book (published in Norwegian the previous year), peppered with a few UK ...more
Nov 18, 2013 M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2010, favorites
Reminds slightly, you could say, of Anna Kavan. Peter Owens has said that this is his favorite book he published, and I am very glad it was published. Vesaas creates a narrative space in a way that is similar (though admittedly far more relenting) to the way Philippe Grandrieux constructs his cinematic nightmares. A narrative runs through, perspectives change from first to second to third person without warning (a key to the creation of glissements, but there are no real slidings here, not in th ...more
Tanuj Solanki
Jan 31, 2014 Tanuj Solanki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book, nordic
The components of the Vesaas' poetry: ice, snow, water, and the woods. It is quite easy to overlook some unassuming yet lyrical descriptions because of their sureit. It seems that there are symbols and metaphors everywhere, and surely at times they operate only as a load on the reading eye. It is primarily a work of poetry and deserves to be read as such. In the degree of his subtlety and understatement, Vesaas is not very distant from (his Japanese contemporary) Yasunari Kawabata. The novel als ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Leonie rated it really liked it
Shelves: norwegian
Very simple story about two little girls with a folktale-ish feel. Siss and Unn have finally begun to actually make friends after feeling drawn towards each other for months. Then Unn, needing a breather for a day before continuing this new friendship, decides to skip school. The big thing about this book is that it is cold where these people live. They know all these things about the way snow and ice behave that I don't know. It has emotional depth and everything too, but the key thing is the w ...more
Susan Henn
4/2012 Norwegian classic. Poetic. Haunting. Filled with eerie tension. Although well written with beautifully descriptive prose, the story did not ring true to me. I couldn't help questioning the 63 year old male author's interpretation and presentation of the thoughts and actions of two eleven year old girls. Perhaps I do not understand Norwegian culture because both the interaction between the girls and their thoughts, feelings and actions when they were apart (especially in response to their ...more
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Nov 21, 2014 Jigar Brahmbhatt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never felt more strongly for a character in a while. I felt really sad when little Unn lost her way in the labyrinthine ice palace. When her freezing thoughts culminated into a final call for her new friend Siss, I wanted someone to come and hold her. Alas, this is literature.

Siss and Unn. When this subtle fairy tale of growing up begins, they hardly know one another. They spend an evening of unsaid fantasies and disturbing silences which is so masterfully described it sets the tone for wh
Apr 20, 2016 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Poingu loves it and notes that it's recommended for people who also enjoyed Ficciones and To the Lighthouse, which does indeed describe me.
Diane S ☔
3.5 Set in rural Norway, this is a story about two young girls, a beginning friendship, secrecy and tragedy. The cold and the ice is described so well in this novella that I actually felt cold while reading. Though these two young girls actually spend only one evening together, the evening had such an impact on these girls that it set the following events in motion.

The prose is brisk, matter of fact, beautifully poetic and it serves this novel so well. All the parts fit and it is up to the read
Apr 19, 2015 Ray rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a strange book. A short book, a novella.

It starts with a description of a budding friendship between two young girls. Then a tragedy happens and one of them disappears. The girl left behind is torn by regret and guilt and tries to keep the memory of her lost friend alive.

The writing is sparse, with short sentences and chapters. The description of countryside and winter in Norway, and the process of grieving over loss and ultimate recovery are wonderful. Eerie, ethereal and enjoyable!
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Tarjei Vesaas was a Norwegian poet and novelist. Written in Nynorsk, his work is characterized by simple, terse, and symbolic prose. His stories are often about simple rural people that undergo a severe psychological drama and who according to critics are described with immense psychological insight. Commonly dealing with themes such as death, guilt, angst, and other deep and intractable human emo ...more
More about Tarjei Vesaas...

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“Draum om nedsnødde bruer

Med vi står fell snøen tettare.

Kåpearmen din blir kvit.

Kåpearmen min blir kvit.

Dei går mellom oss som

nedsnødde bruer.

Men nedsnødde bruer er frosne.

Inni her er det levande varmt.

Varm under snøen er armen din ei

sæl vekt på min.

Det snør og snør

på stille bruer.

Bruer ingen veit om.”
“Lovnad i djupaste snøen frå Siss til Unn:
Det lovar eg deg at eg ikkje vil tenke på noko anna enn deg.
Tenke på alt eg veit om deg. Tenke på deg heime og på skolen, og på
skolevegen. Tenke på deg heile dagen, og dersom eg vaknar om natta.”
More quotes…