**spoiler alert** The Strange Library is, appropriately, a strange little story that can be read in one sitting. The scenario—young boy goes to librar**spoiler alert** The Strange Library is, appropriately, a strange little story that can be read in one sitting. The scenario—young boy goes to library, only to find himself taken captive in a basement labyrinth by a brain-eating librarian and attended by a man dressed in a sheep costume who makes killer doughnuts—seems, at first, like it's going for the overhanded metaphor. But then you hit giggle-worthy statements like "I mean, public libraries like this one were always short of money, so building even the tiniest of labyrinths had to be beyond their means" and run into passages like the following:
"Mr. Sheep Man," I asked, "why would that old man want to eat my brains?"
"Because brains packed with knowledge are yummy, that's why. They're nice and creamy. And sort of grainy at the same time."
"So that's why he wants me to spend a month cramming information in there, to suck it up afterwards?"
"That's the idea."
"Don't you think that's awfully cruel?" I asked. "Speaking from the suckee's point of view, of course."
"But, hey, this kind of thing is going on in libraries everywhere, you know. More or less, that is."
This news staggered me. "In libraries everywhere?" I stammered.
"If all they did was lend out knowledge for free, what would be the payoff for them?"
So yes, possibly a tongue-in-cheek poke at public service detractors, but hardly an allegory.
Which means then, that The Strange Library is rather a real story kind of story, a bizarre little tale that simply takes its joy from the expansive possibilities of storytelling and relishes the chance to occasionally drop a super-literary, self-consciously unexpected turn-of-phrase, such as: "Like a blind dolphin, the night of the new moon silently drew near." (Which left me wondering, I might add, if dolphins that are not visually impaired somehow swim louder than their counterparts...)
Of course it should also be mentioned that the illustrations—all of which were sourced from archival materials in the London Library—are splendid. ...more
This English edition was actually a translation from the Swedish translation of Gerpla. I'm reading it alongside the Icelandic original because the laThis English edition was actually a translation from the Swedish translation of Gerpla. I'm reading it alongside the Icelandic original because the language in Gerpla—Halldór's self-created medieval Icelandic—is so complex and stylized that it would be pretty difficult for me to read it on its own within the given time frame. (Halldór said that he could have taught himself Chinese six times in the time it took him to develop the language spoken by the characters in this book.)
This version conveys the plot, obviously, as well as a lot of the latent humor and subtext of the story and situations. But the linguistic qualities of Halldór's writing definitely do not come across. So I am very much looking forward to Philip Roughton's new English translation of the book, which will be released by Archipelago Books in September 2016. ...more
Background reading for Gerpla by Halldór Laxness. Not honestly a fantastic piece, but it'll be interesting to have this story in mind while reading GeBackground reading for Gerpla by Halldór Laxness. Not honestly a fantastic piece, but it'll be interesting to have this story in mind while reading Gerpla, which involves the same characters and some of the same plot points, but also makes a great deal of changes.