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The Fish Can Sing

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,112 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
The Fish Can Sing is one of Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness’s most beloved novels, a poignant coming-of-age tale marked with his peculiar blend of light irony and dark humor.

The orphan Alfgrimur has spent an idyllic childhood sheltered in the simple turf cottage of a generous and eccentric elderly couple. Alfgrimur dreams only of becoming a fisherman like his adoptive g
ebook, 275 pages
Published February 19th 2008 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published 1957)
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May 29, 2016 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Listen to the wind
Recommended to Dolors by: Ema
Shelves: read-in-2016
Laxness brings together a catalog of eccentric characters and peculiar anecdotes to tell the story of Algrimur, an orphan taken in by an elderly couple that becomes his only family in a tiny village in the outskirts of Reykyjavík.
In the turf cottage where Algrimur grows up, a disparate crew of extravagant guests gathers at night. The impoverished farmers, fishermen and shepherds get transformed into vagrant-soothsayers, quack-philosophers, sea captains and specialists in cesspools, who sit by t
Sep 01, 2013 Ema rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The fish can sing just like a bird,
And grazes on the moorland scree,
While cattle in a lowing herd
Roam the rolling sea.

Starting from this Icelandic paradox put in verse, Halldór Laxness weaves an enchanting tale on the outskirts of Reykjavík, in a time when the price of a Bible was equal to that of a heifer and people still tried to cure headaches by smearing their faces with warm cow-dung. Some say that The Fish Can Sing is a coming-of-age novel, but I don't really see it that way; it is more th
Luís Miguel
Nov 07, 2014 Luís Miguel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ao ler Laxness, ocorreu-me várias vezes a ideia de ter sido com ele que começou a ficção islandesa. Existiram outros antes, mas isso não interessa agora. A Islândia tem uma matriz literária moderna e aqui está ela.

Seguimos a vida de Alfgrimur, desde a adopção pelos “avós” cuja vivência se faz da mais genuína e autêntica fibra humana, até ao encontro com o homem real, por trás do cantor de ópera famoso Garðar Hólm. Conhecemos Reiquejavique e Alfgrimur na infância até à adolescência, passando por
Celeste Corrêa

"- Aprende a não esperar nada – disse a mulher. – É o início da aprendizagem. Assim conseguirás suportar qualquer coisa."

Os Peixes também Sabem Cantar, publicado pelo islandês Halldór Laxness em 1957, dois anos depois de ter ganho o Prémio Nobel da Literatura, canta e encanta.
Um intenso e comovente hino à infância e aos avós que tão bem sabem aconselhar os seus netos, mas também – ouso dizer – um tratado que prova e comprova como as políticas económicas adoptadas mundialmente resultaram
Aug 06, 2011 Dagný rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the same book as, in the English version, is called The Fish Can Sing

This is very possibly the best book ever written.

Forgive my fretting about translations, I didn't want people to miss a thing. Then I realized that the books' tone, that true tone, will reach through all human languages.

The story is set in Reykjavik in the beginning of the 20th century. These are reminiscences about a boyhood spent with an old couple who adopt this abandoned baby in the same manner they welcome several
João Carlos
Aug 21, 2015 João Carlos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian, l2015

Reykjavik início séc. XX

Halldór Laxness (1902 – 1998) é o mais famoso escritor islandês, laureado com o Prémio Nobel da Literatura em 1955.
Álfgrímur, o narrador de “Os Peixes Também Sabem Cantar”, foi um bebé abandonado pela sua mãe, uma jovem rapariga que partiu para a América, que acaba adoptado pelo pescador Björn de Brekkukot e pela sua mulher, um casal de idosos, um avô e uma avó, que vivem numa pobre casa tradicional, com o telhado de erva/relva/turfa, um refúgio que alberga no seu sótão u
Dec 29, 2014 Antonomasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the earlier part of the book, an Icelandic Cider with Rosie, not so much the latter. That could have had something to do with struggling through the second half in the haze of a seemingly random, day-long migraine-like headache and aftermath. I could see the story was *good*, but wasn't on board with its particular brand of bittersweet illusion-shattering enterprise.

It's going to be easiest to discuss this after quoting the blurb:
Abandoned as a baby, Álfgrímur is content to spend his days
Friederike Knabe
Mar 03, 2012 Friederike Knabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-lit
Halldór Laxness is undoubtedly Iceland's most famous writer. The story goes that he was in the middle of writing "Brekkukotsannall" - translated (surprisingly) as The Fish Can Sing - when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature (in 1955). Did this recognition change the way he completed the novel? May be, maybe not. Still, reading it with that knowledge in the back of my mind, the novel turns for me into much more that the intimate portrait of a "family", a small village community at the t ...more
Victor Hugo
Sempre tive desejo de ler literatura fora da minha esfera de livros familiares. Para tais descobertas muito contribui conhecer pessoas com quem possamos falar sobre livros, e em tais conversas haverem sugestões para novas leituras. Foi mais ou menos assim que este livro veio parar às minhas mãos.

Num primeiro momento fiquei bastante entusiasmado com a leitura, com o que estava a conhecer através do ponto de vista de um personagem, entre outros, e com a Islândia do início do século XX representada
Jul 13, 2015 Stela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stela by: Ema

“Where fish leaves off in Iceland, Latin takes over”

I know I am unjust with my three-star rating, but The Fish Can Sing is one of those books I’ve instantly recognized the literary value of, but I couldn’t care much for. Moreover, it constantly reminded me of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (I hear some heartfelt protests here!) in a bizarre, twisted kind of way, not only because I had the same mixed feelings about that one too, but also because it is its total opposite: instead of a rich, overc
Aug 28, 2011 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to re-read this book already. I read it in Iceland, continuing my vow to read only local authors when I travel the world. Sitting on top of an Icelandic mountain, surrounded by sheep covered in that famous wool, looking out over the ocean, and reading this superb little book of stories, was just about the happiest I have ever been. He is beyond comparison, but Laxness can perhaps be likened to Hemingway, if Hemingway liked people. Laxness loves them. He loves the lessons they teach each o ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Reykjavik today is such an interesting place. Half spartan northern outpost, half ambitious capital of a scarcely populated but not diminutive country, the biggest (and some say only) town in Iceland welcomed your humble reviewer in style.

Bygone the hectic days of the financial and real estate bubble followed by the economic crisis that lead the local currency to lose a good deal of its value overnight and the national government to fall, Reykjavik is slowly recovering. Quite reluctantly, many
Feb 20, 2008 Abi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those looking for interesting and original writing
My second Laxness novel after Independent People, this is lighter in subject matter, and more lyrical in style. It is a charming novel dealing with the coming of age of Álfgrímur, an orphan brought up by his 'grandparents' in a small village in Iceland (Reykjavík, in the days when it was a small village). It is not your typical coming of age novel though; it is profoundly odd in a way that is difficult to explain but that stems mainly from the mysterious Garðar Hólm, the singer reminiscent in so ...more
(2.5 στα 5)

Μια πρώτη γνωριμία με τον Ισλανδό Νομπελίστα, μάλλον απογοητευτική. Πολύ λίγα συμβαίνουν σε αυτό το βιβλίο ενηλικίωσης (coming of age, όπως λέμε και στο χωριό) και η όχι ιδιαίτερα αξιοπρόσεχτη γραφή δεν αντισταθμίζει. Κάποιες όμορφες σελίδες για τη ζωή στην επαρχία της χώρας, μερικοί μεστοί διάλογοι κυρίως προς το τέλος, 2-3 ενδιαφέροντες φασματικοί χαρακτήρες, ωστόσο όλα διαδραματίζονται υπό ένα φίλτρο ηθικής/πνευματι(στι)κής αναζήτησης το οποίο με απωθεί μεν εγγενώς, πιστεύω όμως ότ
Jan 24, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a strange and bewildering book! I started it eagerly, then languished a bit in its digressive opening chapters. After ignoring it for a few weeks, I moved it to my 'on hold' shelf – usually the kiss of death – only to pick it up again and find myself drawn in. The story is narrated by a young boy, Alfgrímur, growing up under the care of his adoptive grandparents, who are principled, hardworking, poor, and generous to the point of recklessness. Their seaside cottage outside Reykjavik (still, ...more
I am indulging myself by re-reading this literary gem, and what a perfect book it is. It is a gentle, humorous coming-of-age narrative written in the first person set in the early 1900s. Reykjavik was only a town of 5,000 people, and the farm Brekkukot was situated right on the edge of the current cbd.
It is a simple story, beautifully told, of a young boy Alfgrimur, left by his mother on her way to America. He is fostered by Bjorn and his wife, the elderly couple whose farm is a haven and home f
I've been wanting to read "Independent People" for ages, but this title was much more appealing so I read this instead. It was harder to read than I expected, some bits were delightful, other times I wasn't sure what Laxness was getting at - I'm not sure if this is a translation thing or simply his style. He can be clear as a bell, and then obfuscate to the point that I want to quit. It's odd, too, leafing through the book after I finished it I saw little moments here and there that glinted at m ...more
Guttersnipe Das
Jun 20, 2014 Guttersnipe Das rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For years now I’ve loved the work of Halldor Laxness, Iceland’s pre-eminent man of letters, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 but now is seldom read. I am forever thrusting his books upon people and begging them to read him at once. Usually I urge them to start with “Independent People”, which is regarded as his masterpiece.

This does not always go well.

One of my friends complained, “It’s 500 pages about sheep farming!”

I said, “Yes. It is 500 UTTERLY SCINTILLATING pages about sheep
A. Fedosia
Mar 15, 2014 A. Fedosia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobel Laureate literature
Recommended to A. Fedosia by: Maggie
Many reviews are very ecstatic about this coming-of-age novel, set in Iceland. That genre generally is not my first choice in reading. Nevertheless, the main character Alfgrímur is quite mature, having a firm mind and knowing the value of self-worth, just needing some guidance about the larger world. It seems that several characters speak about the "one pure note". Even the clock chimes it as the syllables of "eternity" and the old pastor is certain of it daily. The opera singer Gárdár Holm desc ...more
Neal Adolph
After having finished this novel this morning, I'm grateful for it.

The Fish Can Sing is the story of a building, community, and place in Iceland that is a part of the growing city of Reykjavik. This place is changing rapidly, even though the protagonist - a young boy named Alfgrimur - is mostly unaware of the changes because his adopted grandmother and grandfather live very traditional lives. They impart a great deal of wisdom to Alfgrimur because of their traditions - morals about life, love, m
Sian Lile-Pastore
I read this because i got all icelandy after reading Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland. Laxness is 'the undisputed master of contemporary Icelandic fiction and one of the outstanding novelists of the twentieth century', so you'd have to be an idiot not to like this right?

I'm that idiot.

It is beautifully written and has a sweet sort of quiet feel to it, and I like reading about coffee and cake.... but... I found it so slow! and I just wanted it to end. There is a lot about lumpfish in this
Νεκτάριος Καλογήρου
Ενα ταξίδι στον τόπο του νομπελίστα με μικρές, προσωπικές του καταστάσεις, ιστορίες με εικόνες γεμάτες συναίσθημα.
Δεν είναι το έργο που θα σε συναρπάσει, ούτε θα σε τραβήξει να το τελειώσεις μονορούφι. Αυτό το βιβλίο θέλει το χρόνο του και σιγά - σιγά θα σε αποζημιώσει.
Apr 29, 2010 Jessi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-book
I know that this book is very well regarded but I was bored. It's very flowery language, well-interpreted but bo-o-o-ring. The other women in the Tumbleweed bookclub liked it alot (except Lisa, she agreed with me). This is a wonderful glimpse into 1950s Icleand and, if you can slog through the entire book, a great ending but dear good in heaven, you have to work for it.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Blasphemy, but I feel like in reading one book by Laxness I kind of have him covered. He gets repetitive in his patterns and it makes the actual plot in his novels take a long time to get to.

But one of my rules in speed dating my collection is being willing to say NOPE.
Erwin Maack
Mar 28, 2013 Erwin Maack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Por exemplo, se alguém empregasse numa conversa a palavra "caridade", achávamos que era uma espécie de citação frívola, irrelevante ou despropositada do Livro dos Sermões. Para falarmos na nossa casa acerca de fazer "caridade", usávamos a expressão "ter bom coração", ou "boa". A palavra "amor" também nunca se ouvia na nossa casa, exceto se algum bêbedo ou criada solteira particularmente estúpida vinda do campo se lembrasse de recitar alguns versos de um poeta moderno qualquer; e, ainda por cima ...more
Rating: 4.5. I first read this book more than 5 years ago. I have been lucky to re-read it for the World Literature group, which has chosen as this year's literary study the country of Iceland. It was a little help that I had just finished Iceland's Bell by the same author, because it gave me some background in a few things mentioned in this book, but it would not be necessary to read Iceland's Bell in order to understand this book or those passages. The Fish Can Sing is a character study where ...more
Dec 25, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave a copy of 'Under the Glacier' by Laxness as a Christmas gift. But I would not give 'The Fish Can Sing' as a gift. For 'Fish' it takes awhile to see the merit or brilliance in it. I'm aware things went over my head to, it's easy to get lost in the paragrahs, but I think this worth reading, and I realize merit even though I had difficulty with it.
'Under the Glacier' is so bizarre and funny because of how outlandish the content is. This is bizarre too, but a more subtle bizarre. For the firs
Rachel Aloise
The short chapters in this novel read a bit like fables, describing the quirky customs and folkways of life in Brekkukot, a little turf cottage on the edge of a lake in Reykjavík. We follow the life lessons of Álfgrímur, the narrator, who is charming and disarming in his candor. There’s a delightful funny story about learning to read at Brekkukot, where words are sparse but precious, and the poetry of the rímur is the fabric of everyday life.

Laxness writes with humour and compassion about witty
Oct 11, 2008 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I have a hard time putting my thoughts about this novel into words. It pains me to give it only three stars, because the story offers so much more. I think if I come back to it in a couple of decades I would love it more. It's a meditative kind of book, reflective if you will. The opening ten or so chapters are absolutely spell-bounding. If this is truly the voice of rural Iceland, I want to pack to go there right now, because it seems like a place of ultimate escapism and comforting minimalism. ...more
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hi 1 27 Jun 23, 2010 07:48PM  
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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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“A wise man once said that next to losing its mother, there is nothing more healthy for a child than to lose its father.” 5 likes
“Vitur maður hefur sagt að næst því að missa móður sína sé fátt hollara úngum börnum en missa föður sinn.” 3 likes
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