Tag Archives: Independent People

My Thirty Greatest Books

Thirty Years, Thirty Books

At the moment of typing this, I realize that I’m spending my last couple of hours as a twenty-something hacking at my book shelves and sorting through my memory for my greatest books. I haven’t read a lot yet, but I already have my small personal canon.

There are the random books of my childhood, the limited choices in high school, the varied selections in college, and the hordes of them all in the last decade. And before I realize it, I’m already thirty. Actually, the realization has not yet hit me hard (should it?). I look at my shelves and wonder at the space that I could have emptied had I not been a reader. But no, I’m happy to be a reader.

I selected my list of greatest books based on my Goodreads ratings and on how important they are to me at multiple points in my life. If you are a keen reader of my blog, I think you will have a pretty good idea on what most of these books are. But there are surprise picks, which I put in my this list because they are an integral part of my reading development.

I wish I could rank them, but this is so hard. This is because my literary taste is continuously evolving and expanding, and everyday is different. I may like Novel A now more than Novel B, but next week could be a different story. So I decided to list the books alphabetically.

Without further ado, here are my thirty greatest books:

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan – Recently reread, I must say that it’s still as stupendous as the first time.
  • Children Around the World by Various Authors – I found this at the book shelf of my aunt. When I grew up, I never found it again.
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – When you thought that there’s nothing new that emerging writers could do, my favorite living author comes out with this extraordinary feat.
  • Death at Intervals by José Saramago – My paternal love for my favorite Nobel laureate started with this novel: Death’s love affair with an ordinary cellist.
  • Fatelessness by Imre Kertész – Read this and you’ll thank your provider for the cheap instant food on your plate.
  • Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot – Possibly the best poetry collection on life, time, and everything in between.
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – The follow-up novel after twenty years of waiting is graceful with its lilting spirituality.
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – I find the title too endearing to ignore. After reading the book, I realize the truth in the title’s spaces.
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham – Reading this as a bumbling college student amazed me at the writer’s mastery of the novel’s form.
  • Hunger by Knut Hamsun – Still my greatest book, so far.
  • Independent People by Halldór Laxness – Still my second greatest book, so far.
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – At some point, it made me want to buy every copy that I see in book stores.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Because Jane Eyre is badass. I wish I have read this sooner.
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones – an immensely under-read and important contemporary novel.
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
  • Malice by Danielle Steel – I can still remember when me and my friends gushed at the sex scenes while restraining ourselves in a corner of the school library.
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem – Possibly the funniest book in this list.
  • The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek – It’s not the literariness of it but the intensity of reading it.
  • Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion – Short, terse, and devastating. Read only when emotionally stable.
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – The first book that you discuss with a group of bookish friends is certainly unforgettable. And that’s the least of the reasons.
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – This came at a low point in my life. Thus, it felt like a book that was written for me.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – The man and the boy’s journey to the sea in a post-apocalyptic world will grip you, not without shedding a tear.
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – A book that I feel I will always reread. I haven’t scheduled a reread yet for this year.
  • The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever – New York stories from the masterful writer. The pieces are varied. There’s something for every reader out there.
  • This Is Water by David Foster Wallace – Something that I read when the jagged teeth of realities are snapping at me.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee –  The first novel that you read is always in the heart.
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda – Possibly the most romantic poetry collection.
  • Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Years ago, I was only following her Twisted series. Now, I’m writing a novel that she would possibly publish.
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – Beautifully haunting, those Lisbon girls.
  • Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver – What more could you ask for when pieces from the writer’s three major collections are collected here?

Some of these are not in the photo above either because they are borrowed or they are elsewhere. Now, I am reminded that for the past years, I celebrated my birthday with a bookish giveaway. However, I have to break that tradition now because first, I somehow forgot it (blame it on the lack of activities on this blog) and second, I’m saving money for something more important and more selfless. What could be more important and more selfless than giving away a book?

If you answer this question correctly before April 25, 11:59 PM, you win a prize. Yes, the tradition goes on, although you will have to wait for your prize (a book not more than Php1000) some time in June to be delivered to you. For now, #HappyBirthdayAngus. Thank you. :)

Thirteen Translations

Quarterly Rhapsody: Translated Books

Quarterly RhapsodyI almost forgot my quarterly feature, which is a post where I ramble about book-related stuff. Previous topics that I discussed in Quarterly Rhapsody, if you are interested, are:

So for the third quarter of the year, let’s talk about books translated into other languages. This topic has been bothering me for the past couple of weeks, and we have two books to blame: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. For the first book, I have this unquenchable desire to immediately read the translation by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy. As for the second book, I was going to start reading Ralph Manheim’s translation when by some accident, I found out that he made some omissions from the original text.

I put it back on my shelf and asked the local book stores if they have the Breon Mitchell translation available. I’m luckier with this one; I am currently reading it and I am not making a lot of progress because I often find myself comparing it with the older translation that propelled Grass to worldwide fame and ultimately, to the Nobel.

With my minor comparisons (really, I just picked some notorious paragraphs and winding sentences), I found out that the meaning is not lost. The thought is still there, although one could discern the style of the translator with his diction. Let’s take the opening paragraph of each translation.

From Manheim:

Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peephole  in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed like me.

From Mitchell:

Granted: I’m an inmate in a mental institution; my keeper watches me, scarcely lets me out of sight, for there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can’t see through blue-eyed types like me.

Not a lot of difference, right? Yes, but for the reader who’s sensitive to style, there’s something to consider. Disclaimer: I am no literary person. I didn’t major in the letters, I don’t work in the publishing industry. I am merely a reader who appreciates some style.

So please check out that second semi-colon in Manheim’s version; it is dropped in Mitchell’s version. The first translation sounds a little terse to me because of the repeated punctuation mark; the other one is more fluid, which is, according to Grass himself, the narrator’s manner of speaking. This is may be something only for the finicky reader, but if we consider the cumulative effect of trying to make the two languages as parallel as possible, it is worth obsessing which translation to read.

The rest of the first page consists mostly of differences in word choice. Everything seems to be present. I wonder what’s omitted from the older translation?

Two Tin Drums
Two Tin Drums

I jumped to the afterword and found out that there weren’t more than five whole sentences omitted. One of them is about a comparison of a smell with that of a condom, and another one is about the splattering of semen somewhere. Others are hard to translate German dialogues that play with sound and style, and these were either dropped or translated into readable English.

To illustrate that, here’s another example, and with this, we will truly appreciate the insurmountable effort that translators put in their craft.

From the original text:

Auch fiel mir auf, das Tätigkeiten wie: Daumendrehen, Stirnrunzeln, Köpfchensenken, Händeschütteln, Kindermachen, Falschgeldprägen, Lichtausknipsen, Zähneputzen, Totschießen und Trockenlegen überall, wenn auch nicht gleichmäßig geschickt, geübt wurden.

From Manheim:

I also saw that activities such as thumb-twiddling, frowning, looking up and down, handshaking, making babies, counterfeiting, turning out the light, brushing teeth, shooting people, and changing diapers were being practiced all over the world, though not always with the same skill.

From Mitchell:

And I saw too that activities like thumb-twiddling, brow-wrinkling, head-nodding, hand-shaking, baby-making, coin-faking, light-dousing, tooth-brushing, man-killing, and diaper-changing were being engaged in all over the world, if not always with equal skill.

Whoa! I don’t understand German, but looking at those German words mostly ending in -en (an assonance or consonance?), there’s a rhythmic pattern produced. And that took some time to type; I had to be loyal to the diacritical marks.

The same issue of being loyal to stylistic sound effects pervades the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace. Take this short sentence: Kápli kápali. Obviously an alliteration, but older translations dropped the effect and turned it instead into “The branches dripped,” or “The trees were dripping.” The duo, which are my favorite translators, went with “Drops dripped.”

Also, the duo kept the French dialogues unchanged. That made reading the novel a little tougher since I had to refer to the footnotes for the English translations. Other translations, such as Constance Garnett’s, translated everything into English. Nothing wrong, but it felt that everyone was speaking the some tongue, which I think isn’t the effect intended by Tolstoy.

I trust PV when it comes to Russian literature
I trust PV when it comes to Russian literature

We barely have a clue on how translators work their magic and how they go about their translations. Should they be loyal to the text or should they make the text more readable? Should they preserve the feel and culture of the text or should they make the text fit the feel and culture of the language where it is being translated?

I can’t help pondering these questions because I love world literature. I want to read novels from as many countries as possible. I guess it’s my way of traveling and learning about the world. There’s so little time and we can only do so much. Not all of us can travel everywhere in this lifetime or learn the languages of lofty literature, so we have to thank these translators who do the dirty tasks for us.

In the photo below are shown some books which are not originally written in English and which I rated with either 4 or 5 stars. Below are their original titles and the translators I am indebted to:

  • 2666 – ditto (translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer)
  • Atomised (UK); The Elementary Particles (US) – Les Particules Élémentaires (translated from French by Frank Wynne)
  • Fatelessness – Sorstalanság (translated from Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson)
  • The Gospel According to Jesus Christ – O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo (translated from Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero)
  • Hunger – Sult (translated from Norwegian by Robert Bly)
  • Independent People – Sjálfstætt Fólk (translated from Icelandic by J. A. Thompson)
  • The Land of Green Plums – Herztier (translated from German by Michael Hofmann)
  • My Name Is Red – Benim Adım Kırmızı (translated from Turkish by Erdağ M. Göknar)
  • Noli Me Tangere – ditto (translated from Spanish by Soledad Lacson-Locsin)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Cien Años de Soledad (translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa)
  • The Piano Teacher – Die Klavierspielerin (translated from German by Joachim Neugroschel)
  • The Tin Drum – Die Blechtrommel (translated from German by Breon Mitchell)
  • War and Peace – Война и миръ (translated from Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
Thirteen Translations
Thirteen Translations

Some notes on this list: I guess I’d have to hunt for other translations of my favorite book, Hunger. There are two more by George Egerton and Sverre Lyngstad. And look! That’s nine languages of great literature!

And oh, I made it seem here that Breon Mitchell is butchering Ralph Manheim’s work. That is not the case. The former is actually very grateful to the latter. He just had the great opportunity to work with Gunter Grass himself in coming up with a 50th anniversary edition of his first novel. He also mentioned that new translations for great works of literature are necessary for they do not endure as long as the original text. In addition, new translations of any work do not seek to be a better edition. Rather, they present different reading experiences that are totally separate from each other.

So if I get the translation that I don’t dig, I shouldn’t worry too much, right? I guess I should just do some more research when it comes to this matter. And good thing that I learned early on that the Fahnestock-MacAfee translation of Les Miserables is the one that I might enjoy. The book is just too damn long for me to read another translation of it.

Independent People by Halldór Laxness

Of sheep, lungworm, coffee, and poetry, and God, and a lot, lot more – Independent People by Halldór Laxness

For some time now, I’ve been itching to write something about this wonderful, funny, lyrical, all-encompassing book. And now that I have a few moments to devote on it, I realize that I cannot put into words my love for this. The only thing that I can do is to keep shoving this to people with whom I share the similar taste in books.

But really, how can I justify the magnificence of this masterpiece if all I could tell them is that this book is all about sheep? It’s about farmers discussing and debating the different aspects of sheep farming while drinking coffee. It’s about them figuring out how to get rid of lungworm from the flock while discussing a little politics here and there. It’s about them worrying about the coming winter and hoping that their sheep will survive.

And oh, it’s about the fierce battle of the unwavering independent spirits of a father and daughter. It’s a war waged between these two independent people. And I’d like to do a little background.

Bjartur of Summerhouses, the father that I mentioned, works his way out of servitude by saving money for almost two decades. When he earns enough money, he buys a piece of land that is believed by the townspeople to be cursed by some mad, evil, crazy woman. Bjartur, being one of the most iron-willed characters that I have ever encountered, ignores this. He builds a little house, starts raising sheep, marries a not so bad dame, and builds a family.

And the struggle for independent living goes on. Independent people, like myself, know the ups and downs of having to rely on your own resources to survive. Sometimes, the odds are with you. The good times keep rolling. You have coffee and sugar and dried fish in your stock. Sometimes, things are just bad. Sheep get lost, sheep get lungworm, sheep die.

But when things are good again, the kids get some home schooling. They study literature, geography, and catechism. A funny thing that I remember is that Little Nonni, the youngest son of Bjartur and my favorite character, imagines apples as red potatoes. Aren’t there apple trees in Iceland? The matter of apples was brought up when the kids’ teacher taught them all about Adam and Eve.

Fourth day: “Then why did God allow sin to enter the world?”

At first the teacher seemed not to have heard this question; he lay for a good while staring blindly in front of him, as if in a trance, a thing that occurred more and more frequently every day now; then suddenly he sprang up with a startling abruptness, gazed intently at the girl with huge eyes, and repeated questioningly: “Sin?” then he burst into a long fit of coughing, a deep, toneless, rattling cough; his face grew red and finally almost blue, the veins swelled in his neck, his eyes filled with tears. And when at last the fit was over, he dried his eyes and whispered breathlessly:

“Sin–sin is God’s most precious gift.”

So you see, this is not only about sheep. There’s a little talk on God and existence and the universe and who-are-we-what-is-our-purpose. There’s also some war in it, but since Iceland is mostly an observer when the world staged wars in the past, you get this feeling that our sheep farmers are isolated, only discussing among themselves the economic advantages that they might reap out of it. With coffee, of course.

And lest I forget an important character, I’ll introduce her now: Asta Sollilja. She is the cross-eyed stepdaughter of Bjartur, and the only person left to Bjartur thanks to his stubborn fight for independence. This is a strangely beautiful thing for me. You see, Bjartur has three sons, but he chose to let them go and favor the daughter that wasn’t his own in the first place.

Aside from his iron will, Bjartur also has a stone heart. He can get on your nerves, what with his repetitive talk that hey guys, I’m an independent person, I bought this land, I bought my sheep, I feed my family, I serve you coffee that I bought with my own money. And he would never ask anyone else’s help, even if it would make his family sacrifice and suffer, and even if it would cost them their lives.

But I am drawn to him. He is a poet! He recites Icelandic poetry. That, I think, is Bjartur’s most redeeming quality. And he is like a crustacean of a father; hard outer shell, soft innards. For why would Asta Sollilja, another stubborn spirit, finally go home to him and seek that soft spot on his father’s neck? Yes, at the end, Bjartur loses almost everything, all his three sons, but he has Asta Sollilja, a name that has something to do with a flower. Yes, I cannot remember what exactly that is. Perhaps the flower of his life?

5 star - it was amazingAnd can one be truly independent as Bjartur is obsessively trying to be? I don’t think so. People are supposed to help each other, to be there for each other. Especially family. And we are social beings, for crying out loud. We cannot do it all by ourselves.

Bjartur learns his lesson and realizes the flaws of his ways. It’s always like that, isn’t it? We only realize our errors when everything is said and done. But we do not mock Bjartur. We do not tell him it’s all your fault, you and your goddamn pursuit of independence.

Instead, he earns our respect. We root for him even though we know he is prone to acts of stupidity. We forgive him for the things that he lack. We hope that he could still raise good sheep despite the harsh Icelandic landscape. And I think he could. He is one tough sheep farmer after all.

Best of 2011

The Best And The Worst Reads Of 2011

Again, I am taking a break from the weekly book write-up to sort of honor the best books that I have read this year.

There are already a lot of book blogs with similar posts, and I am tempted to pattern my best and worst list from some. I chose not to because I know I would never finish this post. So what I did is that I thought of a pseudo-award for each book included in my list.

Let me just state for the record that 2011 is the most voracious reading year in my life. Ever. Hurrah! That’s 52 books, if you want to know, which is more or less one book a week. I hope to do an encore next year. Or even beat this record.

Below is the list of books that I gave five stars, in alphabetical order. They are 12, so I might as well call them The 12 Books of 2011. Titles with an asterisk (*) are books that are in my Top 5. Without further ado here they are.

Atonement by Ian McEwan (Best Movie Tie-In) – I have a different experience with this book because when my friend and I were ranting about it, he inadvertently told me the structure of the novel. That is a major spoiler, and I almost killed him for it. But when I think about it, I think it made me love the novel more. Cecilia’s “Come back” haunts me every time I think of this novel. Spoilers aren’t so bad after all.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (Best Young Adult Novel. Okay, this is not really YA, but since the protagonist is twelve years old…) – Okay, call me a rabid fan. I admit it. I might have given this five stars just because I am a fan, but let me just say that it really, really deserves the rating that I gave it. This is what I would call a literary young adult novel. It is nostalgic and subtly heartbreaking. And if you want to have a brand new copy of this book, keep tracking this blog. I am brewing something.

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder* (Best Graphic Novel. Well, my edition has beautiful illustrations.) – Short but heart-wrenching. Poignant and unforgettable. The characters have all something to say. Their loneliness is recognizable. And why did that bridge fall? Is it an architectural problem? Or is it the weight of the people’s hearts? I even bought an extra copy so that I could shove it to other people’s faces and make them read it.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell* (Best New Author. Not necessarily new, but new is used relatively here.) – By god’s nightgown! Yes, this is a staggering literary achievement. And yes, two David Mitchell novels in a Top 12 list might send eyebrows orbiting, but really, this novel pushed the limits of the novel form. I don’t think there is nothing that Mitchell cannot do with a novel. And should I still mention that I am more than excited to watch the upcoming film adaptation?

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell (Best Drama Series. Drama series translates to a looong novel.) – A literal doorstopper. Not as literary as it seems. It is a surprisingly easy read despite the breadth. Wonderfully annoying. Scarlett O’Hara will always be an unforgettable character. She will be remembered as the strong-headed woman. Never mind her scheming and devious ways. You have to give her credit for that.

The Gospel According To Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago* (Lifetime Achievement Award) – Thought-provoking, funny, bittersweet. Not for the faint of heart and for the faithless. I think this is a more intelligent version of the Robert Langdon series. But I haven’t read those, and it is not a fair comparison because Saramago is seated on a higher level. And how can I forget this line: One has to be God to enjoy so much bloodshed.

Hunger by Knut Hamsun* (Best Novel of the Year) – You saw this coming. This is my favorite read of the year. How could a late 19th century novel sound so modern? It’s because this is set to become a classic. One of the frontrunners of pantheism, this book is a wild ride that takes us to the recesses of a man’s mind who is trying to achieve transcendence through hunger. I committed myself to buying every copy that I see in Book Sale branches and give them away. I already gave a fellow blogger a copy.

Independent People by Halldor Laxness* (Best Child Actor, the poetic Little Noni) – They say it’s about coffee and sheep. Even the person who wrote the introduction said that. But aside from these two is the battle between a father swallowed by pride and a stepdaughter engulfed with contempt. And the persistence of people to defy the laws of fate and nature. And there’s Little Noni who imagines apples are red potatoes.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones (Best Soundtrack. Soundtrack translates to being a real lyric page-turner. Okay, I am just forcing that to make two things connect.) – A new take on black slavery. Blacks owning blacks. A race within a race. Regardless of that, this is a stunner. At the end of the book, it poses this question: are you sure you are lucid enough to know what the world is made of? And then there’s Luke, the boy who has to die just to break the chain of lies. And that little something about Luke is something that the author himself told me.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Best Screenplay. Screenplay translates to narratives, writing, passages, etc.) – A blog I am following is whining so much on how the subject of this book is not his cup of tea. Stop that already and grow up! We do not read Lolita because we have an interest in pedophile. We read it because Nabokov is a genius. He is capable of drawing sympathy from the reader and making the ageing narrator’s love for his stepdaughter probably one of the most convincing love stories ever written.

The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Best Actor, the dignified Mr. Stevens.) – After reading this, I became an official Ishiguro fan. I really felt like a dignified butler while I was reading this that it even got to the point that I was emulating Mr. Stevens. I would walk around our office with square shoulders and measured steps. And the subtlety of the narrative! It just hits you without even knowing when.

The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes (Best Short Film. Short film translates to single-sitting reads.) – Finally, a book that is actually published this year. I read this in one sitting as demanded by the book jacket. I’ve dilly-dallied with my rating for this, but I decided it deserves those five stars because of the narrator’s semblance to real life, which makes me further believe that we don’t own our memories. Our memories own us. And what we mistake for our memories might be just the workings of our twisted minds.

If there is a best list, it’s only fitting that there is a counterpart. And if I have a dozen books that I rated five stars this year, I only have five books that I rated one or two stars, which means I was pretty satisfied with most of the books that I read. And instead of a pseudo-award, I will make an attempt at humor by providing a title that I assume would summarize the whole novel to save others from misery.

Only two out of these five books were axed with a one star. And oh, the books that I rated with two stars do not necessarily mean that they are bad. They are relatively the worst because of the rating.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (Why You Should Not Flirt with Others When You Are Expected to Marry an Archer for a Very Long Time, 2 stars) – If this book were a color, this is the color mauve, a color trying to be either pink or purple that it ends up lost in the blandness between the two. I may have missed a lot, and how dare I diss this book, but I’d rather read a Russian or a 19th century English novel than this one.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (Perform Euthanasia on a Severely Burned Man or Wait Forever for Him to Die, 2 stars) – I am surprised at myself for not liking this because this is the sort of book that I like. Or should like. Perhaps the narrative is too dreamy that it ended up not registering in my head. Like a dream. Yes it’s too dreamy, it’s about a man talking about his last days before he was burned. And a nurse who apparently likes dying burned men.

A Passage To India by E. M. Forster (The Accusations of a Sexually Deprived and Disillusioned English Woman, 2 stars) – Kiran Desai, in her The Inheritance of Loss, said something about the horror and pretense of non-Indians writing about India. Enough said. I’m sure at least one fellow blogger would back me up on this. And this fellow blogger, we both took the pain of reading this together. But still.

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man by James Joyce (How to Write a Novel in the First Chapter and Fill the Next Four Chapters with a Lot of Muddled Talk, Talk, Talk, 1 star) – The narrative is clumsy. The thoughts are disjointed. There isn’t really anything going on. It feels like reading the first draft of a novel. Sure, the theme of the book is overarching, but I daresay it was not delivered as it would had it been written with more skillful writing.

Tropic Of Cancer by Henry Miller (How to Write a Novel in the Last Chapter and Fill the Previous 300 Pages with Words Synonymous with the Female Sex, 1 star) – Incoherent and bordering on trash, there’s not a lot to have this whole book redeemed. There are some good parts though, but the protagonist goes out of his way to return to that bombastic language that he uses. I tried counting how many times the word cunt was used. Of course, I lost track.

There you have it! More good books to come for the coming new year!

Independent People – Halldór Laxness

Independent People - Halldór Laxness
Independent People - Halldór Laxness

Date Started: March 15, 2011. 3:30 AM.

Just read the introduction and the first chapter of the first part of the first book. Having a hard time reading the Icelandic names. Looks promising, but I am a little intimidated. After reading War And Peace, I thought I could take on all the books hurled at me. Well, not really.

And oh, I so love the book cover!

(Image courtesy of Tower.com)