Under the Glacier Quotes

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Under the Glacier Under the Glacier by Halldór Kiljan Laxness
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Under the Glacier Quotes Showing 1-23 of 23
“Remember, any lie you are told, even deliberately, is often a more significant fact than a truth told in all sincerity.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Whoever doesn't live in poetry cannot survive here on earth.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“What you have stolen can never be yours. ”
Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Like all great rationalists you believed in things that were twice as incredible as theology.”
Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Under the Glacier
“There is no more terrifying experience for a Christian than to discover he has suddenly become a rationalist. ”
Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Because no one of us lives for himself and no one dies for himself. For if we live, then we live for the Lord; and if we die, then we die for the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.'

Pastor Jón Prímus to himself: That's rather good.

With that he thrust the manual into his cassock pocket, turned towards the coffin, and said:

That was the formula, Mundi. I was trying to get you to understand it, but it didn't work out; actually it did not matter. We cannot get round this formula anyway. It's easy to prove that the formula is wrong, but it is at least so right that the world came into existence. But it is a waste of words to try to impute to the Creator democratic ideas or social virtues; or to think that one can move Him with weeping and wailing, and persuade Him with logic and legal quibbles. Nothing is so pointless as words. The late pastor Jens of Setberg knew all this and more besides. But he also knew that the formula is kept in a locker. The rest comes by itself. The Creation, which includes you and me, we are in the formula, this very formula I have just been reading; and there is no way out of it. Because no one lives for himself and so on; and whether we live or die, we and so on.

You are annoyed that demons should govern the world and that consequently there is only one virtue that is taken seriously by the newspapers: killings.

You said they had discovered a machine to destroy everything that draws breath on earth; they were now trying to agree on a method of accomplishing this task quickly and cleanly; preferably while having a cocktail. They are trying to break out of the formula, poor wretches. Who can blame them for that? Who has never wanted to do that?

Many consider the human being to be the most useless animal on earth or even the lowest stage of evolution in all the universe put together, and that it is more than high time to wipe this creature out, like the mammoth in the tundras. We once knew a war maiden, you and I. There was only one word ever found for her: Úa. So wonderful was this creation that it's no exaggeration to say that she was completely unbearable; indeed I think that we two helped one another to destroy her, and yet perhaps she is still alive. There was never anything like her.


In conclusion I, as the local pastor, thank you for having participated in carrying the Creation on your shoulders alongside me.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Pastor Jón: God has the virtue that one can locate Him anywhere at all, in anything at all.

Embi: In a nail, for instance?

Pastor Jón, verbatim: In school debates the question was sometimes put whether God was not incapable of creating a stone so heavy that He couldn't lift it. Often I think the Almighty is like a snow bunting abandoned in all weathers. Such a bird is about the weight of a postage stamp. Yet he does not blow away when he stands in the open in a tempest. Have you ever seen the skull of a snow bunting? He wields this fragile head against the gale, with his beak to the ground, wings folded close to his sides and his tail pointing upwards; and the wind can get no hold on him, and cleaves. Even in the fiercest squalls the bird does not budge. He is becalmed. Not a single feather stirs.

Embi: How do you know the bird is the Almighty, and not the wind?

Pastor Jón: Because the winter storm is the most powerful force in Iceland, and the snow bunting is the feeblest of all God's conceptions.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“It is often said of people with second sight that their soul leaves the body. That doesn't happen to the glacier. But the next time one looks at it, the body has left the glacier, and nothing remains except the soul clad in air... the glacier is illuminated at certain times of the day by a special radiance and stands in a golden glow with a powerful aureole of rays, and everything becomes insignificant except it. Then it's as if the mountain is no longer taking part in the history of geology but has become iconic... A remarkable mountain. At night when the sun is off the mountains the glacier becomes a tranquil silhouette that rests in itself and breathes upon man and beast the word never, which perhaps means always. Come, waft of death.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Embi: And you're supposed to be so good at mending primuses, pastor Jón!

Pastor Jón: And correspondingly bad at Baroque art.

Embi: How do you know there are 133 pieces? Who has had time to dismantle this work of art so carefully? Or to count the bits?

Pastor Jón: No one is so busy that he hasn't the time to dismantle a work of art. Then scholars wake up and count the pieces. ”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Dr. Syngmann: I am talking about the only quality that was worth creating the world for, the only power that is worth controlling.

Pastor Jón: Úa?

Dr. Syngmann in a tired, gravelly bass: I hear you mention once more that name which is no name. I know you blame me; I blame myself. Úa was simply Úa. There was nothing I could do about it. I know you have never recovered from it, John. Neither have I.

Pastor Jón: That word could mean everything and nothing, and when it ceased to sound, it was as if all other words had lost their meaning. But it did not matter. It gradually came back.

Dr. Syngmann: Gradually came back? What did?

Pastor Jón: Some years ago, a horse was swept over the falls to Goðafoss. He was washed ashore, alive, onto the rocks below. The beast stood there motionless, hanging his head, for more than twenty-four hours below this awful cascade of water that had swept him down. Perhaps he was trying to remember what life was called. Or he was wondering why the world had been created. He showed no signs of ever wanting to graze again. In the end, however, he heaved himself onto the riverbank and started to nibble.

Dr. Syngmann: Only one thing matters, John: do you accept it?

Pastor Jón: The flower of the field is with me, as the psalmist said. It isn't mine, to be sure, but it lives here; during the winter it lives in my mind until it resurrects again.

Dr. Syngmann: I don't accept it, John! There are limits to the Creator's importunacy. I refuse to carry this universe on my back any longer, as if it were my fault that it exists.

Pastor Jón: Quite so. On the other hand, I am like that horse that was dumbfounded for twenty-four hours. For a long time I thought I could never endure having survived. Then I went back to the pasture.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Towards the end of our conversation in the churchyard today I got the impression that pastor Jón thinks that all gods that men worship are equally good. In the Bhagavad Gita, which pastor Jón cites, Krishna is reported as saying, as I recall: You are free to address your prayers to any god at all; but the one who answers the prayers, I am he. Is this what pastor Jón means when he says that all gods are equally good except the god that answers the prayers, because he is nowhere? Neither of these two standpoints can be accommodated within the framework of our confession of faith. The god who speaks through Krishna's words isn't particularly pleasant, either, because he alone controls the card-game and the other gods are only dummies and he is the one who declares on their cards. At any rate this god is rather far removed from the seventy-year-old grandfather with the large beard who came to breakfast with the farmer Abraham of Ur accompanied by two angels, his attendants, and settled in with him, and whom the Jews inherited and thereafter the pope and finally the Saxons. When Krishna says he is the one god who answers prayers, then this is actually just our orthodox god of the catechism, the one who says: I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me. Pastor Jón says, on the other hand, Thou shalt have all other gods before the Lord thy God. What is the answer to that?”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“The undersigned pointed out that nothing was required of a pastor except that he intimate in church at the dead man's bier his date of birth and date of death and thereafter say some little prayer or other, even if it were only the Lord's Prayer; and finally sprinkle the State's three spadefuls of earth with the statutory innocent phrases, Earth to earth, etc., as is the custom.

Pastor Jón Prímus: That's not so innocent as it looks. It derives from those scholastics. They were always doing their utmost to falsify Aristotle, though he was quite bad enough already. They tried to feed the fables with yet more fables, such as that the primary elements of matter first disintegrate and then reassemble to resurrect. They lied so fast in the Middle Ages they hadn't even time to hiccup.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Now pastor Jón Prímus laughed. Philosophy and theology have no effect on him, much less plain common sense. Impossible to convince this man by arguments. But humour he always listens to, even though it be ill humour.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“History is always entirely different to what has happened.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Pastor Jón: The Úa who came is not the one who went away. Because in the first place Úa cannot go away, and in the second place she cannot come back. She doesn't come back because she didn't go away. Úa remained with me, as I told you when we met here in the shed for the first time. She didn't remain just outwardly but above all within myself. Who could take your mother away from you? How could your mother leave you? What's more, she is closer to you the older you become and the longer it is since she died.


Pastor Jón: There is no other Úa than the one who has always lived with me and never gone from me for a single moment. She is closer to me than the flower of the field and the light of the glacier, because she is fused with my own breath. The one thing that remains is what lives deepest within yourself, even though you glide from one galaxy to another. Nothing can change that.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Pastor Jón: It is pleasant to listen to the birds chirping. But it would be anything but pleasant if the birds were always chirping the truth. Do you think the golden lining of this cloud we see up there in the atmosphere is true? But whoever isn't ready to live and die for that cloud is a man bereft of happiness.

Embi: Should there be lyrical fantasies, then, instead of justice?

Pastor Jón: Agreement is what matters. Otherwise everyone will be killed.

Embi: Agreement about what?

Pastor Jón: It doesn't matter. For instance quick-freezing plants, no matter how bad they are. When I repair a broken lock, do you then think it's an object of value or a lock for some treasure chest? Behind the last lock I mended there was kept one dried skate and three pounds of rye meal. I don't need to describe the enterprise that owns a lock of that kind. But if you hold that earthly life is valid on the whole, you repair such a lock with no less satisfaction than the lock for the National Bank where people think the gold is kept. If you don't like this old, rusty, simple lock that some clumsy blacksmith made for an insignificant food-chest long ago, then there is no reason for you to mend the lock in the big bank. If you only repair machinery in quick-freezing plants that pay, you are not to be envied for your role.

Embi: What you say, pastor Jón, may be good poetry, but unfortunately has little relevance to the matter I raised with you - on behalf of the ministry.

Pastor Jón: Whoever doesn't live in poetry cannot survive here on earth.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Bishop: No verifying! If people tell lies, that's as may be. If they've come up with some credo or other, so much the better! Don't forget that few people are likely to tell more than a small part of the truth: no one tells much of the truth, let alone the whole truth. Spoken words are facts in themselves, whether true or false. When people talk they reveal themselves, whether they're lying or telling the truth.

Embi: And if I find them out in a lie?

Bishop: Never speak ill of anyone in a report. Remember, any lie you are told, even deliberately, is often a more significant fact than a truth told in all sincerity.”
Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Those who deck themselves out in stolen gods are not viable. ”
Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Dr. Syngmann: But someone must have made it all. Don't you think so, John?

Pastor Jón: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and so on, said the late pastor Lens.

Dr. Syngmann: Listen, John, how is it possible to love God? And what reason is there for doing so? To love, is that not the prelude to sleeping together, something connected with the genitals, at its best a marital tragedy among apes? It would be ridiculous. People are fond of their children, all right, but if someone said he was fond of God, wouldn't that be blasphemy?

Pastor Jón once again utters that strange word 'it' and says: I accept it.

Dr. Syngmann: What do you mean when you say you accept God? Did you consent to his creating the world? Do you think the world as good as all that, or something? This world! Or are you all that pleased with yourself?

Pastor Jón: Have you noticed that the ewe that was bleating outside the window is now quiet? She has found her lamb. And I believe that the calf here in the homefield will pull through.

Dr. Syngmann: I know as well as you do, John, that animals are perfect within their limits and that man is the lowest rung in the reverse-evolution of earthly life: one need only compare the pictures of an emperor and a dog to see that, or a farmer and the horse he rides. But I for my part refuse to accept it.

Pastor Jón Prímus: To refuse to accept it - what is meant by that? Suicide or something?

Dr. Syngmann: At this moment, when the alignment with a higher humanity is at hand, a chapter is at last beginning that can be taken seriously in the history of the earth. Epagogics provide the arguments to prove to the Creator that life is an entirely meaningless gimmick unless it is eternal.

Pastor Jón: Who is to bell the cat?

Dr. Syngmann: As regards epagogics, it is pleading a completely logical case. In six volumes I have proved my thesis with incontrovertible arguments; even juridically. But obviously it isn't enough to use cold reasoning. I take the liberty of appealing to this gifted Maker's honour. I ask Him - how could it ever occur to you to hand over the earth to demons? The only ideal over which demons can unite is to have a war. Why did you permit the demons of the earth to profess their love to you in services and prayers as if you were their God? Will you let honest men call you demiurge, you, the Creator of the world? Whose defeat is it, now that the demons of the earth have acquired a machine to wipe out all life? Whose defeat is it if you let life on earth die on your hands? Can the Maker of the heavens stoop so low as to let German philosophers give Him orders what to do? And finally - I am a creature you have created. And that's why I am here, just like you. Who has given you the right to wipe me out? Is justice ridiculous in your eyes? Cards on the table! (He mumbles to himself.) You are at least under an obligation to resurrect me!”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Pastor Jón Prímus: Do you remember when Úa shook her curls? Do you remember when she looked at us and laughed? Did she not accept the Creation? Did she reject anything? Did she contradict anything? It was a victory for the Creator, once and for all. Everything that was workaday and ordinary, everything that had limitations, ceased to exist when she came: the world perfect, and nothing mattered anymore. What does Úa mean when she sends people telegrams saying she is dead?”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“Tumi Jónsen has now started to tell the Icelandic sagas in a style that consists principally of casting doubt on the story being told, making no effort to describe things, skating past the main points, excusing the main characters for performing deeds that will live as long as the world endures, erasing their faces if possible - but wiping them clean, just in case. Therefore it never became a story, at best just a subject for a poem. The women carry on with their scrubbing. This was a long morning.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
“I also note pro tem that the church seems only moderately suited to attracting a congregation.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier
tags: humor
“Oamenii nevoiași nu cunosc altă distracție decât uciderea oamenilor nevoiași. Dintre toate creaturile pe care omul le ucide pentru propria-i distracție, exista una pe care o ucide din iră - alți oameni. Omul nu urăște nimic așa cum se urăște pe sine. De aceea războiul este numit lepra sufletului uman.”
Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier