Independent People

by Halldór Kiljan Guðjónsson

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Independent People is a novel by Icelandic author Halldór Laxness, published in two volumes in 1934 and 1935 (and first published in English in 1945). It recounts the struggles of a poor sheep farmer amid the isolated world and harsh climate of early 20th century Iceland.

Guðbjartur Jónsson, known as Bjartur, is the main character. He is a farmer who, after many years toiling on another’s land, finally buys a plot of his own. He is obsessed with independence and making his own way.

Bjartur brings his wife, Rósa, along with him to the new farm, and soon finds that she is pregnant by another man, Ingólfur Arnarson. When Bjartur leaves his home to search the mountains for the demon he believes may be haunting his farm, Rósa dies in childbirth, but the baby, Ásta Sólilja, survives. Bjartur decides to raise her as his own.

Other important characters in the story are Finna, Bjartur’s second wife, her mother, Hallbera, as well as Bjartur’s and Finna’s three surviving sons, Helgi, Gvendur, and Nonni.

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