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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Morning of Life

Morning of Life - Kristmann Gudmundsson Published in Italy in 1935, this book disappeared after the 1930s.
And yet it had the honour of a second edition with Mondadori, one of the most important national publishing firms (now owned by our tycoon/PM, but...well what hasn't been bought by him here?).

I found Gudmundsson in a second hand bookmarket and bought it just because it costed like a coffee cup and was written by an Icelandic author. Then the book slept for months standing on a forgotten bookshelf.

Immediately after having read the magnificent "Independent People" by Laxness I took Gudmundsson to keep the northern memories alive and make an attempt of confrontation.

"Livets Morgen" doesn't have that much to share with "Independent People", but has its moments. The same choice of writing this book in nynorsk (nowadays the second national idiom of Norway) and not in Icelandic may tell something about Gudmundsson.

Whereas Laxness was looking at his homecountry as an independent entity, even criticizing its people and habits in a sincere and merciless way, Gudmundsson was feeling the Danish and continental influence more. In this way, Laxness was perceived as a modern and inconvenient voice while Gudmundsson was popular and conservative.
It's not a coincidence, after all, that Laxness characters look forward to America as the only alternative to their island, while Gudmundsson ones are still tied to Europe, Denmark and its trading bourgeoisie.

Despite of its lack of modernity, this book is not that bad. "Livets Morgen" stands a couple of steps higher than other examples of the same kind of literature. A literature that is basically oriented to the eternal counterposition between love & hate.
Here you can find a closed circle of main characters and their heirs being all sentimentally involved and connected, suggesting how Iceland itself was (and partly is) a small community.

Gudmundsson's Haldor is more "cosmopolitan" than Laxness' Bjartur. Both have the power to make their women unhappy, but the first one pretends to care considering himself a gentleman, while the second one scorns that sort of non-independent people.

So, if you will ever put your hands on "Livets Morgen" just read it as an entertaining book, with some almost comical "erotic" situations, on the edge between a prissy, puritan view and a more licentious tickle. And then investigate why apparently all the young lovers in early 20th century Iceland were chasing each other riding a horse in the moor with the goal of kissing down in the heather.