I came across World Light (1937) in Argo Bookshop one day; there was this huge rainstorm so I ducked in, vainly waiting for the rain to stop. I ended up buying a bunch of books, of course.
It was written by Hallldor Laxness, a prolific Icelandic novelist who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1955 for notably for Independent People (1946) and The Atom Station (1948),among other works. World Light appears to be less well known, at least in the English speaking world. This is the first book of his that I’ve read.
World Light tells the story of a luckless poet in rural Iceland from his childhood as an orphan right through to the end of his life. The poet, Olaf Karason of Ljosavik, spent his entire life on the outside looking in. It was if he were possessed by his creative spirit; the ordinary everyday world that we live in was almost completely outside of his understanding and perception. This led to great poetic output, but unfortunately no ability to get himself published. If the novel were to focus on the poet’s life alone, it would be nothing but the unchanging drudgery of the deepest poverty, unreadable. But the author uses the poet’s ability to look in (at everyday life) from the outside to paint his world, even if the poet himself doesn’t understand it. We can see and feel the everyday life of rural Iceland, including the machinations of corrupt, greedy local officials. The ending was the best part of the book, a pure artist becoming part of the pure beauty of nature.
Did I get anything out of this book? What will stay with me are the many uses of the word ‘really’. I’d never noticed what a flexible word it is.