Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

Salka Valka

2 Salka ValkaStand-alone novel

This novel is currently out of print in English translation.


‘When one goes by boat along these coasts on these freezing mid-winter nights, one can’t help thinking that there can hardly be anything in the whole wide world so tiny and insignificant as a little town like that, glued to the foot of such immense mountains. God knows how people live in such a place! And God knows how they die! What can they say to each other of a morning when they wake? How do they look at one another of a Sunday? And how does the parson feel when he gets into the pulpit at Christmas and Easter? I don’t mean what does he say, but, honestly, what can he think? Must he not see that nothing here matters a bit? And what does the merchant’s daughter think about when she goes to bed of an evening? Indeed, what kind of joys and what kind of sorrows can there be around those dim little oil lamps?’

So begins this novel about fish. And love. And, surprisingly, gender and feminism.

Salka is an unlikely heroine, homely, coarse and ignorant; but not stupid. She is in possession of a vitality which cannot be defeated; she believes that in life anything can be free. Salka’s struggle to find her place in a hostile world: fighting for wealth, respect and love against a background of a fickle mother, faithless lovers and lack of any real friends.

Will her view of the world last?

A small Icelandic fishing village hosts this broad social novel full of strong characters, heated disputes and conflicting feelings.


‘As a novel of Social Realism, it can be ranked with the finest of Dickens, or even Zola’s Germinal. Sprinkled throughout is Icelandic folk wisdom, dark humour, fatalism and a strong sense of the absurd. A tremendous book – certainly worthy of a new translation.’ Stephen Cowdery (Professor Batty), Flippism is the Key

Salka Valka is a milestone in Laxness’ career … It is almost weird how much a young man of twenty-something in the late 1920s knows of the inner life of girls! If ever a novel convinced me that to be really outstanding, a writer has to be both man and woman, it is this wonderful book.’ Silva Aðalsteinsdóttir, Laxness in Translation

Salka Valka‘s story is the story of loneliness, despair, politics, power, compassion, lust, poverty, fish and the Salvation Army. Most of all it is the story of a love strong enough to make the ultimate sacrifice; a noble, strong generosity of heroic proportions … Laxness brings his familiar irony and humour, pathos and tenderness to this work.’ Darien Fisher-Duke, Icelandic Fever: A Southern Saga