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Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

A Quire of Seven

Short-story collection

This work is currently out of print in English

Synopsis (reproduced from Laxness in Translation)

A Quire of Seven is the last collection of short stories from Halldór Laxness. It was first published in 1964 and contained seven memorable and ambiguous stories, glowing with Laxness’ trademark humour.

Short stories may be considered the step-children of literature. Usually not the centre of attention, but worthy of consideration nevertheless. This book of absurd sketches is a real curio, redeemed by Halldór’s wonderful language as well as his sharp insight into the human condition.

The stories give the sense of being individual parts of various larger wholes, indeed, ‘The Pigeon Banquet’ was incorporated into a play and ‘A Place of Safety’ shares elements of The Fish Can Sing. They are all wonderful, quirky, and humorous – if verging on the fantastic. In ‘An Inland Fishing Trip’, the narrator is a befuddled bank clerk who is left at home, alone, for the first time in his married life. His plans for a fishing trip with some cronies ends in disaster, his pleas for help from the neighbouring women become exercises in impotence and futility. ‘Corda Atlantica’ is a satiric commentary on modern life, extremely dense with detail and references. The other stories explore more banal realities in brilliant style. ‘The Bread of Life’ was published in a picture book format in 1987.

The stories are not always easy to read. In fact, they are quite challenging at times but certainly worthy of the consideration of any Laxness fan. If one of his novels were a banquet, these stories would be delicious, rich chocolates.

Reviews

‘These seven short stories by my favourite author [make for] an interesting assortment: like a curry, there are many different flavours and nuances. Humour and a surreal atmosphere predominate. Like all of his works, I savoured these stories more on my second reading.’ Icelandic Fever

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