This post is part of a year-long series about short stories. Read about my “Year of the Short Story” HERE.
I’m trying to offer as much variety in this series as possible. So, when I saw this collection, I grabbed it. Something from a different literary tradition offers a great chance to expand horizons.
There’s always a certain “loss” in a translation. Rhythms will change, idiomatic and colloquial phrases will suffer because they never make the transition cleanly. This translation seems very good. There are no awkward, overly formal English sentences which seem to be a telltale of bad translation.
The introduction offers a very interesting background to the stories. The idea that the Icelandic language remained largely unchanged from the 13th century to the 20th century fascinates me.
The stories are:
- The Story of Audunn and the Bear (13th century) by Anonymous – The oldest known Icelandic short story. Language hasn’t changed since it was written.
- A Dry Spell (1905) by Einar H. Kavaran – A story of death and sadness
- The Old Hay (1909) by Gudmundur Fridjónsson – An old man can help all his neighbors if he is willing to give up something he has saved for years.
- When I Was on the Frigate (1910) by Jon Trausti – A curious trip with a captain who might be mad.
- Father and Son (1916) by Gunnar Gunnarson – A boy and his father are inseparable even in death.
- The Fox Skin (1923) by Gudmundur G. Hagalin – A story of status and obsession
- Laxness in New Iceland (1927) by Hallder Kiljan – A family leaves Iceland for the New World and aren’t impressed.
The stories that I keep coming back to are “A Dry Spell”, there is something about the sadness of this story. “When I Was on the Frigate”, the image here was an Icelandic “Old Man and the Sea”. “Father and Son”, the amazing story of dedication at the core of the concept of family.
The Icelandic approach to the short story form is different than much of the Western European style. I’ve gotten criticism of some of my own stories that they are focused too much on a single moment or character. There seems to be an expectation of the classic novel format – exposition, rising action, climax, descending action, denouement. The classic model for this shows a steep rise and fall. It never felt that way in these stories. The action felt more “real”, coming at an even pace and without a dramatic climax. I came away with a feeling of calm from the stories. They give the reader something to think about rather appealing to emotion. On the whole, I found the experience different and interesting.
Another great collection of short stories to add to your list!