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Wayward Heroes
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Steerforth Press 2016
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“Drawing on historical events, including King Olaf’s reign in Norway and the burning of Chartres Cathedral, Laxness revises and renews the bloody sagas of Icelandic tradition, producing not just a spectacular historical novel but one of coal-dark humor and psychological depth.”  – Publishers Weekly
First published in 1952, Halldór Laxness’s Wayward Heroes offers an unlikely representation of modern literature. A reworking of medieval Icelandic sagas, the novel is set against the backdrop of the medieval Norse world. Laxness satirizes the spirit of sagas, criticizing the global militarism and belligerent national posturing rampant in the postwar buildup to the Cold War.
 
He does that through the novel’s main characters, the sworn brothers Þormóður Bessason and Þorgeir Hávarsson, warriors who blindly pursue ideals that lead to the imposition of power through violent means. The two see the world around them only through a veil of heroic illusion: kings are fit either to be praised in poetry or toppled from their thrones, other men only to kill or be killed, women only to be mythic fantasies. Replete with irony, absurdity, and pathos, the novel more than anything takes on the character of tragedy, as the sworn brothers’ quest to live out their ideals inevitably leaves them empty-handed and ruined.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
11/01/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780914671107
ASIN:
B019B6QBH4

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Citations

APA Citation (style guide)

Halldor Laxness. (2016). Wayward Heroes. Steerforth Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Halldor Laxness. 2016. Wayward Heroes. Steerforth Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Halldor Laxness, Wayward Heroes. Steerforth Press, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Halldor Laxness. Wayward Heroes. Steerforth Press, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Date Added:
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Date Updated:
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      • bioText: Halldór Laxness (1902-1998) is the undisputed master of modern Icelandic fiction. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 "for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland." His body of work includes novels, essays, poems, plays, stories, and memoirs: more than sixty books in all. His works available in English include Independent People, The Fish Can Sing, World Light, Under the Glacier, Iceland's Bell, and Paradise Reclaimed.
        About the translator:
        Philip Roughton's translation of Iceland's Bell received the American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Prize in 2001 and second prize in the 2000 BCLA John Dryden Translation Competition. His translation of Halldór Guðmundsson's The Islander: A Biography of Halldór Laxness was recently released in the United Kingdom.
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title
Wayward Heroes
fullDescription
“Drawing on historical events, including King Olaf’s reign in Norway and the burning of Chartres Cathedral, Laxness revises and renews the bloody sagas of Icelandic tradition, producing not just a spectacular historical novel but one of coal-dark humor and psychological depth.”  – Publishers Weekly
First published in 1952, Halldór Laxness’s Wayward Heroes offers an unlikely representation of modern literature. A reworking of medieval Icelandic sagas, the novel is set against the backdrop of the medieval Norse world. Laxness satirizes the spirit of sagas, criticizing the global militarism and belligerent national posturing rampant in the postwar buildup to the Cold War.
 
He does that through the novel’s main characters, the sworn brothers Þormóður Bessason and Þorgeir Hávarsson, warriors who blindly pursue ideals that lead to the imposition of power through violent means. The two see the world around them only through a veil of heroic illusion: kings are fit either to be praised in poetry or toppled from their thrones, other men only to kill or be killed, women only to be mythic fantasies. Replete with irony, absurdity, and pathos, the novel more than anything takes on the character of tragedy, as the sworn brothers’ quest to live out their ideals inevitably leaves them empty-handed and ruined.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: - Harper's Magazine
      • content:
        "Brilliant, bleak, uproariously funny, and still alarmingly prescient, Wayward Heroes belongs in the pantheon of the antiwar novel alongside such touchstones as Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22. . . . Wayward Heroes, with its despotic kings, hypocrite Christians, and bloodthirsty mercenaries, is not merely a medieval epic ... but a trenchant critique of that timeless avaricious urge we have grown regrettably accustomed to calling 'market forces.' ... Laxness looked from the ancient literature of his homeland to the novelties and cataclysms of the modern world around him, only to discover how little had changed in a thousand years."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
      • content: "A welcome, major contribution to modern Nordic literature in translation and a pleasure to read."
      • premium: False
      • source: LA Times
      • content: • "Laxness habitually combines the magical and the mundane, writing with grace and a quiet humor that takes awhile to notice but, once detected, feels ever present...All his narratives...have a strange and mesmerizing power, moving almost imperceptibly at first, then with glacial force."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from December 5, 2016
        Two sworn brothers wage a quixotic battle against their time and place in Nobel-winner Laxness’s rich, impressive novel. The time is roughly 1,000 years ago, the place is Iceland, and the brothers are Porgeir Hávarsson, whose father is murdered in a neighborly spat, and Pormóður Bessason, a gifted young poet, or skald, bound to serve an older widow named Kolbrún. Raised on “tales of the prowess of champions of yore,” Porgeir intends to become a hero himself. Soon after he meets Pormóður, who only wants to write lyrical narrative poems in praise of such men, the two go “freeloading” throughout the district of Vestfirdir, “calling particularly... on better-off farmers holding feasts,” beating up Christian clerics, and avenging the death of Porgeir’s father. But this boisterous idyll must end; Kolbrún intends to exercise her hold on Pormóður, despite his love for a wealthy farmer’s daughter, while Porgeir joins a Viking band of mercenaries, going on campaigns in England and France. Drawing on historical events, including King Olaf’s reign in Norway and the burning of Chartres Cathedral, Laxness revises and renews the bloody sagas of Icelandic tradition, producing not just a spectacular historical novel but one of coal-dark humor and psychological depth. The old-fashioned violence Porgeir and Pormóður admire is rendered in all its futility and cruelty, and readers will find that these honorable but deluded heroes become objects of pity.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        "Nothing but harm and misfortune result when killers and skalds come together." True enough, as Nobel Prize-winning author Laxness' long-forgotten 1952 novel elaborates.As Norse kings go, Olaf the Stout merits his name. The "sworn brothers" orgeir Havarsson and ormoour Bessason are another matter. The former had watched impassively, after all, as his father was slaughtered in epically gruesome fashion: "Joour Klngsson dismounted, and, like a true Norseman, hewed frantically at the man with his ax where he lay fallen, spattering blood and brains everywhere." Yet, having seen blood and gore firsthand, orgeir likes the possibilities for renown that follow, and so he sets out to carve out a hero's name for himself, shunning farm work--he objects to it by saying that since his mother never ordered him to feed the pigs, it was his privilege to "slay with a sword." A hero needs a bard, and there's where sworn brother ormoour comes in. Alas, the two are less than successful as a Quixote/Panza team; they're a little dim at times, a little luckless at others, and the people they meet--especially the women--are better grounded in the world as it is and see right through them. Laxness' novel follows the better-known Independent People by a couple of decades, and while it can be read with much pleasure without context, a couple of things from modern real life play into its medieval setting, one being Laxness' Catholic worldview and the other his mistrust of alliances of the kind that the Cold War was forcing on Iceland, as well as of politics generally; as a minor character notes, "We have had plenty of kings in Norway, but the only ones that proved of any use to us were those that we sacrificed for good harvests and peace." The result is a cynical, tongue-in-cheek reimagination of the Old Norse sagas on which the novel is firmly based, its heroes men with plenty of foibles. A welcome, major contribution to modern Nordic literature in translation and a pleasure to read. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from August 1, 2016
        Nothing but harm and misfortune result when killers and skalds come together. True enough, as Nobel Prizewinning author Laxness long-forgotten 1952 novel elaborates.As Norse kings go, Olaf the Stout merits his name. The sworn brothers orgeir Hvarsson and ormur Bessason are another matter. The former had watched impassively, after all, as his father was slaughtered in epically gruesome fashion: Jur Klngsson dismounted, and, like a true Norseman, hewed frantically at the man with his ax where he lay fallen, spattering blood and brains everywhere. Yet, having seen blood and gore firsthand, orgeir likes the possibilities for renown that follow, and so he sets out to carve out a heros name for himself, shunning farm workhe objects to it by saying that since his mother never ordered him to feed the pigs, it was his privilege to slay with a sword. A hero needs a bard, and theres where sworn brother ormur comes in. Alas, the two are less than successful as a Quixote/Panza team; theyre a little dim at times, a little luckless at others, and the people they meetespecially the womenare better grounded in the world as it is and see right through them. Laxness novel follows the better-known Independent People by a couple of decades, and while it can be read with much pleasure without context, a couple of things from modern real life play into its medieval setting, one being Laxness Catholic worldview and the other his mistrust of alliances of the kind that the Cold War was forcing on Iceland, as well as of politics generally; as a minor character notes, We have had plenty of kings in Norway, but the only ones that proved of any use to us were those that we sacrificed for good harvests and peace. The result is a cynical, tongue-in-cheek reimagination of the Old Norse sagas on which the novel is firmly based, its heroes men with plenty of foibles. A welcome, major contribution to modern Nordic literature in translation and a pleasure to read.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

popularity
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“Drawing on historical events, including King Olaf’s reign in Norway and the burning of Chartres Cathedral, Laxness revises and renews the bloody sagas of Icelandic tradition, producing not just a spectacular historical novel but one of coal-dark humor and psychological depth.”  – Publishers Weekly
First published in 1952, Halldór Laxness’s Wayward Heroes offers an unlikely representation of modern literature. A reworking of medieval Icelandic sagas, the novel is set against the backdrop of the medieval Norse world. Laxness satirizes the spirit of sagas, criticizing the global militarism and belligerent national posturing rampant in the postwar buildup to the Cold War.
 
He does that through the novel’s main characters, the sworn brothers Þormóður Bessason and Þorgeir Hávarsson, warriors who blindly pursue ideals that lead to the imposition of power through violent...
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