Critical Evaluation

The history of the family at Borg—a more literal translation of Borgslægtens historie—is a four-part novel that tells the story of the family at Borg, of a father and his two sons, and of the illegitimate child of one of his sons. Guest the One-Eyed is an abridged English translation.

Gunnar Gunnarsson is concerned with humanity’s lot on earth, with struggle, and, ultimately, death. Iceland may be stony, misty, and barren, and sin may be a fact of life, but ultimately, his book makes clear, there is reason to hope and to expect humanity to prevail. Gunnarsson’s novel is of traditional form, made particularly fascinating by its Icelandic setting. The atmosphere of the ancient sagas pervades Guest the One-Eyed, putting its characters into association with the past while making the present nonetheless convincing. The drama of the novel is essentially moral, and the ethical dilemmas into which the characters fall are neither gross nor abnormal. Gunnarsson is adept at capturing the Icelandic character and the Icelandic atmosphere; the human beings about whom he writes move with dignity and passion across barren, stony, but beautiful northern plains.

Although Gunnarsson retains a tragic view of life, regarding human beings as helpless before forces more powerful than themselves, he never loses sight of the alleviating influences of love, humor, and tradition. Generation succeeds generation in his novels, and...

(The entire section is 503 words.)