But the people did nothing. The people are children. They are taught that criminals live in Skólavörðustígur and not Austurvöllur. Their faith in this wavers a bit, perhaps, from time to time, but when politicians have sworn often enough and hurrahed for long enough, they begin to believe it again. People don’t have the imagination to understand politicians. People are too innocent.
...to become a person, to know something, to be able to do something for myself...She takes ‘lessons’ from a strange organist and meets his circle of dubious acquaintances. These lessons are as much about the way the world works as they are about music. Ugla also encounters a cell of Communists, further raising her awareness. Meanwhile, Búi hosts U.S. military men and members of parliament during negotiations to “sell the country” for an “atom station”—an event which did, in reality, lead to the existence of a U.S. military base in Keflavík for nearly sixty years.
When the peace of Autumn has become poetic instead of being taken for granted... the last day of the plover become a matter of personal regret... the horse become associated with the history of art and mythology... the evening ice-film on the farm stream become reminiscent of crystal... and the smoke from the chimney become a message to us from those who discovered fire—then the time has come to say goodbye. The world-bacterium has overcome you, the countryside has turned into literature, poetry and art; and you no longer belong there.
Quite apart from how debased Nature becomes in a picture, nothing seems to me to express so much contempt for Nature as a painting of Nature… Certainly Nature is in front of us, and behind us; Nature is under and over us, yes, and in us; but most particularly it exists in time, always changing and always passing, never the same; and never in a rectangular frame.While the prose in this story was equally as magnificent as it was in Independent People, it wasn't really what captured my attention in this work; what I appreciated the most was the history lesson. Those of you who are regular followers of Pink Sheep Cafe will know that I am a huge fan of Timothy Findley. I love the way he blends historical fact with an often satirical fiction. In this way, I found The Atom Station very reminiscent of Findley… well, Laxness came first, so I suppose it’s the other way around, but, either way, I love trying to pick out the fact and the fiction in these tongue-in-cheek, historical reads.
“But no one doubts that Communism will win, or at least I know of no one who doubts it – I can confide this to you because the hour is twelve midnight, and a man becomes loose-tongued then, if not downright frivolous. You, on the other hand, are not conditioned against Communism and you have no occasion to be afraid of it; so for that reason you can be a Communist if you like, it’s quite becoming for a healthy country girl from the north to be a Communist – more so, at least, than being a lady.”
Whether I was kissed or not kissed, a person’s mouth was a kiss, or at least half a kiss.The novel is named for an “atom station” that world powers wish to situate in Iceland, raising the question of whether the country is about to be “sold.” Ugla’s allegiances are tested, as the political situation affects the people she works for, and the country as a whole. The atom station represents the power of self-destruction, while Ugla is drawn toward creation, creativity, humanity. She seems to embody a heroic ideal of the eternal mother. She is a physically large young woman, and is portrayed in a way that reminds me of monumental art. While the country may be sold, Ugla would sacrifice herself rather than sell herself.
I was taught never to believe a single word that is written in the papers, and nothing except what is written in the Icelandic Sagas ...Ugla also speaks words that clearly come straight from Halldór Laxness himself:
That is why I am not going to say how it happened or what it was, I can only tell you the external causes until it ceases to be a story.The Atom Station was written after Laxness had already firmly established himself as a formidable author, with Salka Valka, Independent People, and World Light already completed, among other major works. The Happy Warriors and The Fish Can Sing were to follow this work. The Atom Station seems unique to me, somewhat of an anomaly, or perhaps experimental. Some have described this novel as “absurdist” and it does border on that. Laxness fans will recognize much in the book and yet find it differently flavored as well. You won’t want to miss it!