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Under the Glacier

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,236 Ratings  ·  140 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 Sn?fells Glacier, who, among other things, appears to have given up burying the dead. But once he arrives, the emis ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 1968)
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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
Jul 22, 2007 Marissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 19, 2008 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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
May 04, 2007 emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
May 03, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Beka Sukhitashvili
Jul 14, 2014 Beka Sukhitashvili rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: icelandic
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
Nov 14, 2009 Erika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?

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
Aug 17, 2009 Lydia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 22, 2008 Christopher Kelsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian
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.
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."

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
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 Jim Elkins rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: icelandic
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 Snaeffelsjkull, an Icelandic volcano I had just visited, and one of the characters comes from Hafnarfjrur, where I was staying in Iceland. [retu ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Art rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
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.
Jonathan Rimorin
May 10, 2016 Jonathan Rimorin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taking place at the glacier that Jules Verne located the entrance to the centre of the earth, Laxness's strange, funny novel is about a meek ecclesiastical administrative assistant (who refers to himself either in the third person or as "Embi," which stands for "Emissary of the Bishop of Iceland") sent to a remote Icelandic village to investigate the report of a box left on the glacier -- is it a box or a casket? Has the local priest decided to stop perform burials? Was some form of resurrection ...more
May 10, 2015 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A ghost is always the result of botched work; a ghost means an unsuccessful resurrection, a shadow of an image that has perhaps once been alive, a kind of abortion in the universe (125).

There are few texts in the world that allow me to stand back from the writing in total awe, turn to the author, and if he were not already dead, which is usually the case, I'd begin to scream, "Get out of my dreams; get into my car."

Icelandic novelist and Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness has always been the one
Mar 26, 2015 Puck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is like Northern Exposure, Fargo and Twin Peaks all in one book. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Aug 03, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Paul by: Tom Nash
Shelves: book-club
What a wackily delightful book - how come I've never heard about it, and the movie that's based on it (can't wait to find that one). It's not like anything else you've read - trust me on that.
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.
May 16, 2010 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 10, 2008 Dergrossest rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ed Petersen
Apr 30, 2015 Ed Petersen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever needed to see the stark difference between city and country life, look no further than this book. The Bishop of Iceland sends a young emissary (cleverly referring to himself as "Embi" throughout the book) to a rural parish under the long-famous Sneffels Glacier from Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth". His mission is to uncover controversies, but what he finds is a quirky collection of characters, all of whom resolutely refuse to answer his questions directly and seem ...more
Apr 09, 2010 Aimee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jun 29, 2007 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read one book on Icelandic Mormons this year, make sure it's Under the Glacier. Laxness writes with such beauty and grace.
Neil St Cyr
May 19, 2016 Neil St Cyr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I'm being honest with myself, I need to reread this all at once to better understand it. Halldor Laxness is a great author and he writes very well. This book is unlike most of everything else that I've read by him, however.

Despite being absurd and funny, this story throws a lot of big ideas at the reader without much explanation (because we experience this all through an unnamed narrator that was chosen because of his lack of experience). So the reader has to muddle through and try to make se
Aug 20, 2008 Charlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
oh my god this book was awesome
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Goodreads Librari...: Different ISBN for the same book 4 37 Jul 31, 2012 06:53AM  
  • 101 Reykjavik
  • Angels of the Universe
  • Himnaríki og helvíti
  • Poem Strip
  • ترابها زعفران
  • The Ambassador
  • The Old Man and His Sons
  • Svar við bréfi Helgu
  • Why Write?
  • The Visitor
  • From the Mouth of the Whale
  • Fondamenta degli incurabili
  • Lovestar
  • The Saga of the People of Laxardal and Bolli Bollason's Tale
  • Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk & Postmodern Science Fiction
  • Gunnar's Daughter
  • Love-Lies-Bleeding
  • Stone Tree
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...

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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.” 52 likes
“Whoever doesn't live in poetry cannot survive here on earth.” 22 likes
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