Selling Iceland in the 50's?

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H.B...@wbmt.tudelft.nl

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Jan 6, 1995, 11:42:05 AM1/6/95
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Hei northerners!

I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station". One of the topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954) is that Iceland's ruling politicians are trying to "sell" the newly born country to the Americans, in order to enable them to set up an atomic war base, though there are many protests against this decision. Now I know this book is fiction, but I know that there actually is an American base in Iceland, so this part of the book might be factual. Does anyone know how the American base w


as established in Iceland: were there many protests, who protested and why, what kind of recompensation did Iceland receive? Any information is welcome.

Greetings from the European Union,

Herman


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Asgeir Olafsson

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Jan 7, 1995, 10:54:35 AM1/7/95
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In <D1zt...@news.tudelft.nl> H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

>Hei northerners!

>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station". One of the topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954) is that Iceland's ruling politicians are trying to "sell" the newly born country to the Americans, in order to enable them to set up an atomic war base, though there are many protests against this decision. Now I know this book is fiction, but I know that there actually is an American base in Iceland, so this part of the book might be factual. Does anyone know how the American base w

>as established in Iceland: were there many protests, who protested and why, what kind of recompensation did Iceland receive? Any information is welcome.

Just a few tidbits and things to keep in mind:

* Like many authors of his generation in Iceland, Halldor Laxness leaned
to the left. Some of his books may reflect that - I have not read
Atomstodin.

* Atomic weapons are not allowed in Iceland. Whether our NATO allies
and visiting warships respect that is open to question. I am not
aware of any proof that the NATO base in Keflavik has been used to
store nuclear weapons.

* Iceland has profited from the NATO base in Keflavik. Whether that
constitutes "selling" the country is a different matter. NATO has
not been charged rent, but the base has been a source of income to
contractors and workers in the Keflavik area. NATO has also taken
part in maintaining the airport in Keflavik.

* Iceland was occupied by the British in 1940. Later (1941) the
Icelandic, US and UK governments agreed that the US would handle
Iceland's defense during WWII. Both the British an Americans
agreed to leave after the war.

* After WWII the British left, but the Americans wished to stay. They
were turned down and left in 1947.

* In 1949 Iceland became a founding member of NATO. This was a controversial
decision and led to a riot outside Althingi. The nation was split on
this issue.

* In 1951 Iceland and the US reached an agreement where the US took
responsibility for Iceland's defense and was allowed to establish
a base in Iceland. Possible reasons for the change of heart:
The Berlin blockade, general uncertainty in Europe, the Korea war,
pressure (and aid) from the US.

Regards,
Asgeir.

Thor Eysteinsson

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Jan 7, 1995, 5:26:40 PM1/7/95
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H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

>Hei northerners!

>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station".

Yeah..you could have picked a better one. I recommend "The Bell of
Iceland" or "Independent People"

> One of the topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954)

Well, I am not one of those Icelanders that have his entire
collected work and decorate their living room with it; thus, I do
not have a copy of this particular opus, but my recollection is that
it was published earlier, between 1948-51.

> is that
> Iceland's ruling politicians are trying to "sell"
> the newly born country to the Americans, in order to enable them to set
> up an atomic war base, though there are many protests against
> this decision.

At that time (1949) Iceland joined NATO as a founding member of that
organization, and there were negotiations with NATO and the US government
with regard to defense arrangements here. The end result was a defense
agreement between the US and Iceland, signed in 1951, stating that the US
would be responsible for the daily operation of NATO facilities here.
Mr. Laxness at that time was a socialist of sorts, and the book can
be regarded as a sort of a propaganda piece, if there was not the Taoist
element in it, plus his personal touch. Debate then and ever since with
regard to defense issues were heated, and the language used rough and
abusive. The socialists/Marxists/communists/leftists etc etc. were sort of
united in their opposition to NATO membership and particularly to the
defense agreement. They accused the majority of Parliament (in fact the
vast majority of the Icelandic people) of such things as "high treason",
"selling Iceland", "war-mongering", meaning that some were making money on
defense contracts, etc. Most writers and artists were leftist then and
followed the party line, those that did not were in deep trouble. Public
debate in Iceland took a ugly turn, not only with serious, unfounded
accusations, but also violence. Those shouting "high treason" decided to
use violence against Parilament, on March 30th 1949. That day Parliament
voted on NATO membership, but every window in that building was smashed,
and the Reykjavki police was forced to use tear-gas to disperse the crowd
attacking the building. Mr. Laxness, with that book and various speeches
he made and articles he wrote, was of course partly responsible for this,
as well as many other artists. In my book, and according to the icelandic
constitution, throwing rocks at the Parliament building is criminal, and
"high treason", and making propaganda and glorifying such behavior is also
"high treason". In whose interest was the "Atom Station" and similar
works written? Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. I have great respect
for Laxness as a writer, but the fact is he as socialist wrote lies about
his trips to the Soviet Union, the Moscow trials of 1937, the NATO
agreement and various other things political.

> Now I know this book is fiction, but I know that
> there actually is an American base in Iceland, so this part of
> the book might be factual. Does anyone know how the American base

>as established in Iceland: were there many protests, who
> protested and why, what kind of recompensation did Iceland
> receive? Any information is welcome.

Well, the above states all the pertinent facts. Iceland was not
"sold", that is one of his lies, "fiction", whatever. No "recompensation"
was involved, and it should be stated unequivocally that there is nothing
suspicious or questionable in the defense arrangements that we have had
since 1949. Sometimes our Nordic friends, particularly the Swedes,
suggest there is. The Americans have accepted every ridiculous
condition that various leftist governments here have demanded. It is a
shinig example of a sound responsible agreement between two sovereign
states, based on trust. Perhaps we should use it as a model when finally
the Norwegians come to their senses (i.e. loose once more in their own
courts) and negotiate in the fishing dispute:-)

Valdimar Gunnarsson

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Jan 7, 1995, 7:29:45 PM1/7/95
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tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) writes:

> H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

>>Hei northerners!

>>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station".

>Yeah..you could have picked a better one. I recommend "The Bell of
>Iceland" or "Independent People"

I'm afraid this advice is not very wise. For a foreigner these
two mentioned books might be very difficault, at least the former one.

>> One of the topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954)

>Well, I am not one of those Icelanders that have his entire
>collected work and decorate their living room with it; thus, I do
>not have a copy of this particular opus, but my recollection is that
>it was published earlier, between 1948-51.

>> is that
>> Iceland's ruling politicians are trying to "sell"
>> the newly born country to the Americans, in order to enable them to set
>> up an atomic war base, though there are many protests against
>> this decision.

>At that time (1949) Iceland joined NATO as a founding member of that
>organization, and there were negotiations with NATO and the US government
>with regard to defense arrangements here. The end result was a defense
>agreement between the US and Iceland, signed in 1951, stating that the US
>would be responsible for the daily operation of NATO facilities here.
>Mr. Laxness at that time was a socialist of sorts, and the book can
>be regarded as a sort of a propaganda piece, if there was not the Taoist
>element in it, plus his personal touch. Debate then and ever since with

Cuuuuuuuut away a bunch of hm..... notes of Mr. Eysteinsson

This is not quite right.
The book was published before this happend (1947 if my memory don't
breaks) and is more or less written under the shadow of an agreement
that was made in Althingi 1946 that USA should be allowed to set up
a kind of base in Iceland although the war was over.
This is the selling of the land that HKL is mentioning in his book.

>> Now I know this book is fiction, but I know that
>> there actually is an American base in Iceland, so this part of
>> the book might be factual. Does anyone know how the American base
>>as established in Iceland: were there many protests, who
>> protested and why, what kind of recompensation did Iceland
>> receive? Any information is welcome.

>Well, the above states all the pertinent facts. Iceland was not
>"sold", that is one of his lies, "fiction", whatever. No "recompensation"
>was involved, and it should be stated unequivocally that there is nothing
>suspicious or questionable in the defense arrangements that we have had
>since 1949. Sometimes our Nordic friends, particularly the Swedes,
>suggest there is. The Americans have accepted every ridiculous
>condition that various leftist governments here have demanded. It is a
>shinig example of a sound responsible agreement between two sovereign
>states, based on trust. Perhaps we should use it as a model when finally
>the Norwegians come to their senses (i.e. loose once more in their own
>courts) and negotiate in the fishing dispute:-)

I don't think I'll discuss this chapter, very suspicious as it may be.

>>Greetings from the European Union,

>>Herman

Valdimar Gunnarsson


Thor Eysteinsson

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Jan 7, 1995, 9:56:42 PM1/7/95
to
akureyri.ismennt.is> vg...@ismennt.is (Valdimar Gunnarsson) writes:

>tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) writes:

>> H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

>>>Hei northerners!

>>>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station".

>>Yeah..you could have picked a better one. I recommend "The Bell of
>>Iceland" or "Independent People"

>I'm afraid this advice is not very wise. For a foreigner these
>two mentioned books might be very difficault, at least the former one.

You have a strange view of foreigners. There are foreigners that know
more about Laxness, and appreciate his work better than the entire
Icelandic nation. One of them lives in Sweden; his name is Peter Hallberg.
Yes, these are difficult books, but there are good translations available
and they show the better side of mr. Laxness as a writer.

>>> One of the topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954)

>Cuuuuuuuut away a bunch of hm..... notes of Mr. Eysteinsson

Very well, I will finish the job for you!!
(even if my views may touch a sensitive nerve with you,
the old censorship thing is out, you know...)

>This is not quite right.
>The book was published before this happend (1947 if my memory don't
>breaks) and is more or less written under the shadow of an agreement
>that was made in Althingi 1946 that USA should be allowed to set up
>a kind of base in Iceland although the war was over.
>This is the selling of the land that HKL is mentioning in his book.

On monday, I will go to the new National Library building (brilliant thing
with all these fancy gizzmos, and the books happily stashed away from
view) and really do some serious research, and settle this. The "selling
of the land" is not merely mentioned in the book, it is one of the main
themes. It has been repeated by the leftists in this country for nearly
half a century, it is a fundamental lie, and therefore the Atom Station
is, not in the literary sense but otherwise, one of the worst books ever
written in Icelandic. During the European Economic Area debate our
present government was accused of "selling the land", not only from soap
boxes, or twisted letters to the editor in newspapers, or by twits on the
Internet, no, from the Althingi (Parliament) pulprit itself! We can not in
this country discuss foreign policy without some git with a questionable
communist past and who has read that darn book too often, bringing up that
"selling of the land" thing. Our foreign minister is regularly accussed
publicly of "high treason" or "selling of the land", it is absurd, and mr.
Laxness is responsible for this bullshit, wheither you like it or not.
Nobel prize writers can be totally irresponsible people at times. I will
just mention Knud Hamsun in his later years as an example.


>I don't think I'll discuss this chapter, very suspicious as it may be.

So, why are you citing it? What is "suspicious" about? Pray tell us more,
we are all hanging here in suspension.

>Valdimar Gunnarsson


Arni Thoroddsen

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Jan 8, 1995, 6:30:32 AM1/8/95
to
H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

>Hei northerners!

>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station". One of the
>topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954) is that Iceland's ruling
>politicians are trying to "sell" the newly born country to the Americans,
>in order to enable them to set up an atomic war base, though there are many
>protests against this decision. Now I know this book is fiction, but I know
>that there actually is an American base in Iceland, so this part of the
>book might be factual. Does anyone know how the American base

>was established in Iceland: were there many protests, who protested and


>why, what kind of recompensation did Iceland receive? Any information is
>welcome.

Let me first state that there is no doupt that Laxness was a literary
genius. Also there is no doubt that at the time he wrote the book he was
a god damned commie, and the Soviet Union probably viewed him as an
agent of influence in its propoganda campaign in Iceland which had as
its objective the removal of Iceland as a crucial link in the defence of
the West.

Serious doupts can be raised as to whether Laxness was in earnest when
he wrote this book, for it is uncertain that he truly believed that the
politicians dealing with Nato had any treasonous intentions (it is
almost certain that they didn't although they may have been unable to
understand any hidden agenda that the US had in its dealings with
Iceland).

I certainly wouldn't put it past him to have deliberately distorted the
truth to advance propoganda objectives. However there is in many of his
works a tendency to concentrate on the negative side of human nature, so
he may have earnestly believed in the treason of some Icelandic
politicians.

In any case the Atomic Station should be viewed as a propoganda work
rather than as factual or historic.

I rather liked the movie by the way, since by then the propoganda had
become ridiculous in character, and all that remained was a nostalgic
look at the stalinist influence period of our history. May it never resurface.

-----
Árni Thoroddsen arn...@ismennt.is
Fjolugata 19, Reykjavík, Iceland

Thor Eysteinsson

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Jan 8, 1995, 1:53:41 PM1/8/95
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arn...@ismennt.is (Arni Thoroddsen) writes:

>H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

>>Hei northerners!

>>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station". One of the
>>topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954) is that Iceland's ruling
>>politicians are trying to "sell" the newly born country to the Americans,

>Let me first state that there is no doupt that Laxness was a literary


>genius. Also there is no doubt that at the time he wrote the book he was
>a god damned commie, and the Soviet Union probably viewed him as an
>agent of influence in its propoganda campaign in Iceland which had as
>its objective the removal of Iceland as a crucial link in the defence of
>the West.

You are absolutely right there.

>Serious doupts can be raised as to whether Laxness was in earnest when
>he wrote this book, for it is uncertain that he truly believed that the
>politicians dealing with Nato had any treasonous intentions (it is
>almost certain that they didn't although they may have been unable to
>understand any hidden agenda that the US had in its dealings with
>Iceland).

These are interesting speculations. Maybe he just wrote that thing for the
"cause", knowing that he was lying. Later on he admitted that he had
repeatedly lied for the cause. Did the politicians
have treasonous intentions? To attempt to answer that, it might help to
look at who these people really were. I will just give some names from
memory:

-- Olafur Thors. Chairman of the Independence Party (conservative), prime
minister on several occasions, including 1945-1947. It is most likely that
he is the prime minister in Laxness book. Likely that he would commit high
treason? Sell Iceland?? It is public record Washington made an initial
request (in 1946 I think) of leasing Keflavik airport, Hvalfjordur and
several other spots for military use for 99 years. Mr. Thors as prime
minister turned it down. That was the end of that. A likely traitor? Hardly.

--Dr. Bjarni Bendiktsson, professor of Law at the University of Iceland,
member of the committee that wrote the constitution, later mayor of
Reykjavik, subsequently the foreign minister that negotiated with NATO in
1949 and with the Americans, later minister of justice and prime minister.
Willing to "sell the land"? To commit high treason? Hardly.

-- Hermann Jonasson? Stefan Johann Stefansson? Both were prime ministers
at various times, and chairmen of their respective parties. To cut this
short, I doubt if anyone could mention any prominent politician likely to
commit high treason at that time, and that includes the communists. Such
accusations are serious, and do not belong in public debate unless the
evidence in overwhelming. Unfortunately some people still resort to it, as
we saw during the EEA debate, and every time our current foreign minister,
mr. Hannibalsson, raises the pertinent question of whether we should apply
for EU membership. Is he a likely traitor, perhaps? I am sure he is by
now totally immune to such accusations, but it is a nuisance, and one
reason why we rarely have rational debate on foreign policy issues.
Nobody, not even mr. Hannibalsson, likes to be called a traitor on a daily
basis. Mr. Laxness, in that book, came up with a new word which has been
a permanent fixture in leftist propaganda, "land-selling men"
(landsolumenn). I saw it used in at least one newspaper article during the
EEA debate, in reference to the prime minister and foreign minister. Books
have influence, even bad books like the Atom Station.

>I certainly wouldn't put it past him to have deliberately distorted the
>truth to advance propoganda objectives. However there is in many of his
>works a tendency to concentrate on the negative side of human nature, so
>he may have earnestly believed in the treason of some Icelandic
>politicians.

It is very difficult to say, but maybe a careful reading of his book
"Skaldatimi", were he discusses this frankly, could shed some light on it.

H.B...@wbmt.tudelft.nl

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Jan 9, 1995, 10:31:31 AM1/9/95
to
Holy heck! I already knew that Iceland is not as cold as it sounds, but it is even hotter than I thought :-). Let me first thank you all for participating, and express my hope that this discussion will continue. Some remarks:

- The Atom Station (Atomstodin) is at present the *only* book of Laxness available (that is: published in the English language and not sold out) in England or the US. Translations into French, German or Dutch would do too, I do not know if they (still) exist. Yes, I know, I should have bought those books in Reykjavik. I have got the address of Mal og Menning in Reykjavik, so I'll try to order the next book there (probably Iceland's Clock, as several people suggested). Valdimar, why should this book be diff


icult for a foreigner if it has been translated? It is true that the translation of The atom station contained some useful notes.

- I took a look at the publishing date of the atom station after posting my message, found out that it was not 1954 indeed, but forgot once again what it was. It might be 1948 as someone suggested, I'll have another look tonight.

- Laxness talks about 'selling the country', whereas the text suggests that it is only about a war base in the Keflavik area. Hence my question. As a matter of fact, I did not see any sign of American military presence in Iceland. But then: I left Keflavik as soon as I could for Reykjavik and the western part of the country.

- As an outsider, I thought the descriptions of *both* the communists *and* the ruling nomenklatura quite funny. And if Sveinn is right, than the book is just a satire of the icelandic society by the end of the '40-s, regardless of what Laxness might have said about communism in his other publications. Anyhow, terms like "goddam commie" do not give me the idea that I am dealing with a totally objective person either ;-).

- I had not yet identified the organists philosophy as taoist, but Thor is probably right about that. I thought it rather queer sometimes, anyway. Somehow, the 'god' who murdered Pliers (at least he says he did) returning home, telling that story to the policemen and still remaining unpunished, made me think of the Sagas too a little. Wrong/fetched too far?

Regards,

THUNDERGOD

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Jan 9, 1995, 4:37:20 PM1/9/95
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DATE SENT: 9-JAN-1995 12:29:23

>tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) writes:
>>akureyri.ismennt.is> vg...@ismennt.is (Valdimar Gunnarsson) writes:
>

>>>tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) writes:
>
>>>> H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:
>
>>>>Hei northerners!
>
>>>>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station".
>

>>>Yeah..you could have picked a better one. I recommend "The Bell of
>>>Iceland" or "Independent People"
>
>>I'm afraid this advice is not very wise. For a foreigner these
>>two mentioned books might be very difficault, at least the former one.
>
>You have a strange view of foreigners. There are foreigners that know
>more about Laxness, and appreciate his work better than the entire
>Icelandic nation. One of them lives in Sweden; his name is Peter Hallberg.
>Yes, these are difficult books, but there are good translations available
>and they show the better side of mr. Laxness as a writer.

One should also acknowledge that statements like this one reflect a personal
opinion and not fact, even if you were a literary expert.



>
>>>> One of the topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954)
>

>>Cuuuuuuuut away a bunch of hm..... notes of Mr. Eysteinsson
>
>Very well, I will finish the job for you!!
>(even if my views may touch a sensitive nerve with you,
>the old censorship thing is out, you know...)

It seems to me that you're engaging in a slightly different type of
censorship with all your proclamations, that is everything you disagree
with is lies.

>
>>This is not quite right.
>>The book was published before this happend (1947 if my memory don't
>>breaks) and is more or less written under the shadow of an agreement
>>that was made in Althingi 1946 that USA should be allowed to set up
>>a kind of base in Iceland although the war was over.
>>This is the selling of the land that HKL is mentioning in his book.
>
>On monday, I will go to the new National Library building (brilliant thing
>with all these fancy gizzmos, and the books happily stashed away from
>view) and really do some serious research, and settle this. The "selling
>of the land" is not merely mentioned in the book, it is one of the main
>themes. It has been repeated by the leftists in this country for nearly
>half a century, it is a fundamental lie, and therefore the Atom Station
>is, not in the literary sense but otherwise, one of the worst books ever
>written in Icelandic. During the European Economic Area debate our

Again this is your opinion not fact. One has to remember what things were
like back then. Although I do not claim to be an expert on Mr. Laxness I
can imagine him and many of his contempararies having grown up during the
struggle to gain independence from Denmark and finally getting it in 1944,
that just the presence of another nations army on Icelandic soil had to
feel like a step backwards. As for the quality of the writing I personally
see nothing wrong with it, perhaps you forgot that it was Mr. Laxness'
style to accentuate the negative and sometimes tounge in cheek.



>present government was accused of "selling the land", not only from soap
>boxes, or twisted letters to the editor in newspapers, or by twits on the
>Internet, no, from the Althingi (Parliament) pulprit itself! We can not in

Well now I understand where you're comming from. Everybody should know that
in a democracy no one should disagree with a sitting government, and heavens
forbid that there'd be opposing voices in parliment itself!! :-)

>this country discuss foreign policy without some git with a questionable
>communist past and who has read that darn book too often, bringing up that
>"selling of the land" thing. Our foreign minister is regularly accussed
>publicly of "high treason" or "selling of the land", it is absurd, and mr.
>Laxness is responsible for this bullshit, wheither you like it or not.
>Nobel prize writers can be totally irresponsible people at times. I will
>just mention Knud Hamsun in his later years as an example.

Boy, finally the proof that this post smacked of McCarthyism. Obviously
anyone disagreeing with Thor has some sort of communist skeleton in their
closet, I better remember to check my closet before they come-a-searching!
If Mr. Laxness is responsible for this "bullshit" as you say ( I strongly
disagree ) then he is a much better writer than you are willing to give him
credit for. Or according to you many Iceladics became inspired by "one of
the worst books written in Icelandic". I prefer to think that these people
truly believed their opinion. And whether Iceland received payment or not
was probably irrelevant since, to paraphrase, the only differece between
a whore and a slut is that the whore gets paid.

>
>
>>I don't think I'll discuss this chapter, very suspicious as it may be.
>
>So, why are you citing it? What is "suspicious" about? Pray tell us more,
>we are all hanging here in suspension.
>
>>Valdimar Gunnarsson
>
>


|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|
| David E. Hill | What the?... This is lemonade! Where's |
| DH...@pccwst.pima.edu | my culture of amoebic dysentery? |
| Tucson, Arizona U.S.A. | |
| | Ah, kaldur og svalandi Thule!!!!!!!!! |
| | |
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thor Eysteinsson

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Jan 9, 1995, 9:31:24 PM1/9/95
to
Tord Akerbaek <to...@hrp.no> writes:

>tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) wrote:

>> These are interesting speculations. Maybe he just wrote that thing for the
>> "cause", knowing that he was lying. Later on he admitted that he had
>> repeatedly lied for the cause. Did the politicians
>> have treasonous intentions?

>Its some years since I read the book and I do not know enough about
>Icelandic politics to know if he was telling lies, but he was
>an author and not a political scientist wasn't he? And
>telling lies is the task of a fictional writer is it not?

Mr. Laxness, at that time and at various times in his life, was very
active in politics. He did not run for public office ever,but he
wrote a lot of political propaganda, and made political speeches. He for
instance wrote regularly in the Communist/Socialist (now defunct)
newspaper Thjodviljinn on political matters. Untill around the time he got
the Nobel prize, he followed the party line as a socialist, and he wrote
political books, not only fiction, including a travel book on his trips to
the Soviet Union. He glorified Stalin repeatedly, and wrote utter lies
about the Soviet Union, and about icelandic politics. I was refering to this.
Later, in his book "Skaldatimi" (sorry, do not have the English name) he
admitted he had lied for the "cause".

>I have a feeling that you are mixing up the politicians
>intentions with the writers perception of or fantasies about what they
>did.

I am not mixing up anything here. He wrote the Atom
Station at least partly as political propaganda. He was later reluctant to
discuss it, and clearly embarrassed. The politicians he accused of treason
did not deserve that IMO. It introduced serious unfounded accussations of
that nature as an "acceptable" part of public debate.

To make an impertinent comparison; not even Vidkun Quisling
>looked upon himself as a traitor.

It IS impertinent; I find it extraordinary that a Norwegian is making such
a comparison. First, mentioning that name in the same context as some of
the best, dedicated and honest people we have had in Icelandic politics
this century is outrageous. You say you know little about Icelandic
politics; how true but that is your only excuse. Secondly, I know, on the
other hand, that in Norway you do NOT mention that name in civilized
company, let alone in this kind of discussion.

The concept of the goverment selling
>the land to the americans can also be found in Gabriel Garcia Marques
>"100 years of solitude". Many goverments have done it, exchanged
>independence for economical safety. They have not thought upon themselves
>as traitors. Others, with other values, call it "selling land".
>It is a subjective, moral, evaluation of what the politicans are
>doing and I think they will have to live with it.

Most of the icelandic politicians (i.e. those in favor of the North
Atlantic treaty etc., which means all but the socialists) that Laxness
and other socialists accussed ot treason are now dead, but I do not think
they had to live with such an outrageous accusation. We pride ourselves
of non-violent, responsible political culture, but this was something new.
Laxness knew he had influence, and abused it, so that in matters of
foreign policy it is "acceptable" to talk about "treason" with impunity,
and until very recently throw rocks and rotten eggs and tomatoes at A NATO
military vessels visiting here. The book did damage in this respect IMHO.
We can have responsible debate and criticism of the powers that be without
this sort of behavior.

>(Norwegian politicans have tried frenetically to sell the land twice.
>The sale have been stopped.)


I know this is absolutely untrue. Give us names, and solid evidence.
I assume you are not referring to convicted, excecuted traitors as
"politicians"?

>[]

>> Books have influence, even bad books like the Atom Station.

>Viewed as literature instead of propaganda it can hardly be called
>a "bad" book can it?

I made it clear that "not in the literary sense but otherwise" (if I may
quote myself) it is bad. It is basically propaganda, written by a
brilliant writer. Everything, even his worst speeches and party-line
articles, some of it extraordinary stuff, have the "Laxness touch". Even
when he was viciously and maliciously attacking the personalities of his
political opponents, there is that literary touch to it, so that you can
bear with it and read it. It is good "text", but bad writing because of
the content and the effect on readers that are true believers.


Paul R Wickre

unread,
Jan 9, 1995, 11:26:57 PM1/9/95
to

Mr Hill,
Your post is just plain silly. Criticism is not censorship.
Criticizing acknowledged communists is not "Macarthyism", if
indeed the term has any meaning at all.

--
Paul R Wickre
wic...@iastate.edu

Thor Eysteinsson

unread,
Jan 9, 1995, 11:49:19 PM1/9/95
to
dh...@pccwst.cscwc.pima.edu (THUNDERGOD) writes:

>>tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) writes:
>>>akureyri.ismennt.is> vg...@ismennt.is (Valdimar Gunnarsson) writes:
>>
>>>>tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) writes:
>>
>>>>> H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

>>>>>I've just (almost) finished Laxness's book "The Atom Station".
>>
>>>>Yeah..you could have picked a better one. I recommend "The Bell of
>>>>Iceland" or "Independent People"
>>
>>>I'm afraid this advice is not very wise. For a foreigner these
>>>two mentioned books might be very difficault, at least the former one.
>>
>>You have a strange view of foreigners. There are foreigners that know
>>more about Laxness, and appreciate his work better than the entire
>>Icelandic nation. One of them lives in Sweden; his name is Peter Hallberg.
>>Yes, these are difficult books, but there are good translations available
>>and they show the better side of mr. Laxness as a writer.

>One should also acknowledge that statements like this one reflect a personal
>opinion and not fact, even if you were a literary expert.

I am not a literary expert, but I state my opinions on occasion, and throw
in a fact or two when needed. Fact: Peter Hallberg is a foreigner
(Swedish), as stated. He is regarded here and by most in the know (I
could cite references if need be) as one of THE experts on Laxness. Some
of his books on Laxness are included in the Icelandic edition of Laxness
collected work as reference. These are facts, easily verifiable, and show
that my main point in this instance, that foreigners can appreciate
Laxness, is..,most likely correct :-)

>>>>> One of the topics of the book (published in -I believe- 1954)
>>
>>>Cuuuuuuuut away a bunch of hm..... notes of Mr. Eysteinsson
>>
>>Very well, I will finish the job for you!!
>>(even if my views may touch a sensitive nerve with you,
>>the old censorship thing is out, you know...)

>It seems to me that you're engaging in a slightly different type of
>censorship with all your proclamations, that is everything you disagree
>with is lies.

I have not said anything of the sort. I have said that some of the things
Laxness wrote are deliberate lies. To be sure I disagree with these lies.
He wrote among other things that the Finns were attacking the Soviet Union
in 1939. That everything was picture perfect in the Soviet Union in the
30s, that the Soviet doctors prosecuted in the Moscow trials in 1937 were
in "fact" trying to poison the "leader of the people", Joseph Stalin.
That Olafur Thors was trying to sell Iceland to the Americans in 1948,
that Parliament was committing high treason, etc. At the same time, I am
perfectly aware of the fact that Laxness wrote true things, and great,
beautiful, brilliant things during his career. I prefer, however, to
separate clearly and distinctly the lies from the truths in his writing.
His Nobel prize is not an excuse for everything.

>> The "selling
>>of the land" is not merely mentioned in the book, it is one of the main
>>themes. It has been repeated by the leftists in this country for nearly
>>half a century, it is a fundamental lie, and therefore the Atom Station
>>is, not in the literary sense but otherwise, one of the worst books ever
>>written in Icelandic. During the European Economic Area debate our

>Again this is your opinion not fact.

"Selling of the land" is in fact a major theme in the book. The prime
minister is described as sitting in a smoke-filled room with Americans
haggling about the prize of the country, mainly looking for his own
personal interest and economic gain. That is a fact.
True or false? Is it my opinion that this is a fundamental lie or a fact?
Were the politicians doing that,really, and what is the evidence?
Are our politicians "selling the country" regularly? This is absurd, and a
sign of immature democracy.


> One has to remember what things were
>like back then. Although I do not claim to be an expert on Mr. Laxness I
>can imagine him and many of his contempararies having grown up during the
>struggle to gain independence from Denmark and finally getting it in 1944,
>that just the presence of another nations army on Icelandic soil had to
>feel like a step backwards.

The debate was on defense. The Allied forces had left the country, and
respected our sovereignity and views to the full. Some of the politicians
accused of treason had been in the forefront in 1944, and previously.
After the war there was the cold war, and the question of adequate defense.
People disagreed on this, without resorting to serious accusations on
selling and treason, except the socialists, including Laxness. Their ties
with the Soviet Union is evident, and a paper trail to prove it. That is a
fact, not a "Macarthyist" opinion on my part.

> As for the quality of the writing I personally
>see nothing wrong with it, perhaps you forgot that it was Mr. Laxness'
>style to accentuate the negative and sometimes tounge in cheek.
>

I like his literary style. I do not like the lies.

>>present government was accused of "selling the land", not only from soap
>>boxes, or twisted letters to the editor in newspapers, or by twits on the
>>Internet, no, from the Althingi (Parliament) pulprit itself! We can not in

>Well now I understand where you're comming from. Everybody should know that
>in a democracy no one should disagree with a sitting government, and heavens
>forbid that there'd be opposing voices in parliment itself!! :-)

Extraordinary, and this from the US! How on earth can you get to this
conclusion? Criticizing a sitting government is one thing. Show us were i
suggest this should be banned. Accusing the foreign minister, or any
individual, of high treason, or selling the country, is a serious,
libelous accusation, but if you make it in the Parliament podium as MP,
you are immune from any legal action. You can go on a rampage, spreading
endless lies and bullshit, and making horrendous accusations. You can even
do this and simultaneously do a filibuster to prevent a vote in
Parliament. We saw both in the EEA debate, and what is bothersome about it
is that it is "acceptable". Almost every time there has been debate,
since 1949, on foreign policy in our Parliament we get this kind of
spectacle. Why? We have a political culture, because of that book and past
propaganda along those lines, which accepts unfounded accusations of
treason and selling as "respectable" arguments, and no proof is necessary.
The prime minister and foreign minister, the entire government are guilty
until proven innocent. Would that go in the US of A?

>>this country discuss foreign policy without some git with a questionable
>>communist past and who has read that darn book too often, bringing up that
>>"selling of the land" thing. Our foreign minister is regularly accussed
>>publicly of "high treason" or "selling of the land", it is absurd, and mr.
>>Laxness is responsible for this bullshit, wheither you like it or not.
>>Nobel prize writers can be totally irresponsible people at times. I will
>>just mention Knud Hamsun in his later years as an example.

>Boy, finally the proof that this post smacked of McCarthyism. Obviously
>anyone disagreeing with Thor has some sort of communist skeleton in their
>closet, I better remember to check my closet before they come-a-searching!

I was referring to certain members of Parliament representing the socialists,
and that went on a scholarship to East Germany from the East German regime, or
similar places in the 50-60s (these are facts, not McCarthyism), and thus
DO have a questionable communist past. These individuals have a penchant
for talking about treason and selling of the land every time we debate
foreign policy, such as our relation with the EU or NATO, or the US of A.
To be sure they are joined by people with no communist past on occasion
which is also a bit worrying. The end result is that we have a very
strange process of forming our relations with other countries, to say the
least.

>If Mr. Laxness is responsible for this "bullshit" as you say ( I strongly
>disagree ) then he is a much better writer than you are willing to give him
>credit for. Or according to you many Iceladics became inspired by "one of
>the worst books written in Icelandic". I prefer to think that these people
>truly believed their opinion.

I give him full credit as a writer, but such talent can be abused for a
bad cause. I am sure these people, that e.g threw rocks at Parliament a
few months after the book came out, and introduced violence as means of
attempting to influence foreign policy and defense, truly believed inwhat
they were doing. They had the Atom Station to "prove" them right. And it
is OK to say the government is a bunch of traitors selling the country, no
proof is needed. The Atom Station "proves" that is OK.

> And whether Iceland received payment or not
>was probably irrelevant since, to paraphrase, the only differece between
>a whore and a slut is that the whore gets paid.

In 1949 Iceland joined NATO by act of Parliament. An overwhelming majority
(maybe about 80% of the people) supported this by their free will. Is that
the decision of a slut, or perhaps a whore? That was the issue, and the
facilities NATO set up here, entirely determined by Icelandic Parliament.
There is no evidence of payment, no evidence of any undue pressure or
durress, the Icelandic Parliament made all the relevant decisions in this.
So, where is the slut? The Icelandic politicians felt, like the
Norwegians, that neutrality was a proven failure, and that their
responsibility was to secure adequate defense for Iceland. To do that
within an organization of democratic nations was a responsible decision,
but not that of a slut or a whore.

Kurt Swanson

unread,
Jan 10, 1995, 10:46:16 AM1/10/95
to
H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

I have also read Atomstöðin. Let me first congratulate you on reading
a fine piece of literature which certainly had a big effect on Laxness
receiving the Nobel prize.

> Holy heck! I already knew that Iceland is not as cold as it sounds,
> but it is even hotter than I thought :-). Let me first thank you all
> for participating, and express my hope that this discussion will
> continue. Some remarks:

The book is primarily of literary value for us non-Icelandics. It
does contain political content, but I don't see how people can get so
worked up about it now.

> - The Atom Station (Atomstodin) is at present the *only* book of
> Laxness available (that is: published in the English language and
> not sold out) in England or the US. Translations into French, German
> or Dutch would do too, I do not know if they (still) exist. Yes, I
> know, I should have bought those books in Reykjavik. I have got the
> address of Mal og Menning in Reykjavik, so I'll try to order the
> next book there (probably Iceland's Clock, as several people

> suggested). Valdimar, why should this book be difficult for a


> foreigner if it has been translated? It is true that the translation
> of The atom station contained some useful notes.

I read Atomstöðin and presented a report at KomVux (Swedish school for
secondary school drop-outs). I have not read any of Laxness' other
works, but in my research I found that nearly everybody recommended
Iceland's Clock, Atom station, Gerpla and Salka Valka. If I were to
read another of his books, I think I would choose Salka Valka, as it
(apparently) gives good insight into Icelandic culture, without having
the need to know the sagas like the back of one's hand.

> - I took a look at the publishing date of the atom station after
> posting my message, found out that it was not 1954 indeed, but forgot
> once again what it was. It might be 1948 as someone suggested, I'll
> have another look tonight.

It was '47 or '48, I believe.

> - Laxness talks about 'selling the country', whereas the text
> suggests that it is only about a war base in the Keflavik area. Hence
> my question. As a matter of fact, I did not see any sign of American
> military presence in Iceland. But then: I left Keflavik as soon as I
> could for Reykjavik and the western part of the country.

I personally thought that Laxness was joking to some extent, or didn't
take seriously the idea of "selling the country."

> - As an outsider, I thought the descriptions of *both* the
> communists *and* the ruling nomenklatura quite funny. And if Sveinn is
> right, than the book is just a satire of the icelandic society by the
> end of the '40-s, regardless of what Laxness might have said about
> communism in his other publications. Anyhow, terms like "goddam
> commie" do not give me the idea that I am dealing with a totally
> objective person either ;-).

I agree with you and Sveinn. Laxness' commentary is from an outsider,
the girl whose role is central. She experiences all sides of the
culture at the time without really being won over by any of them. I
do see the Taoism in the organist.

> - I had not yet identified the organists philosophy as taoist, but
> Thor is probably right about that. I thought it rather queer
> sometimes, anyway. Somehow, the 'god' who murdered Pliers (at least he
> says he did) returning home, telling that story to the policemen and
> still remaining unpunished, made me think of the Sagas too a
> little. Wrong/fetched too far?

Probably not...

As far as the political content, I found it quite tame. The small
amount of communism (flambé or not), is over-shadowed by commentary
about the FFF abuse of power, type of thing. Laxness seemed to me to
have a certain admiration for the Americans, and any dislike of
"selling the country" was an entirely internal Icelandic conflict.

My favourite line from the book involves an FFF type of thing:

A political figure has received a box containing the earthly remains
of a famous poet who died in Denmark, calling the action a miracle.
When the wrong box is opened, revealing cans of Portugese anchovies
process in the US, it is stated while that it is a miracle that such
fish could actually be sold in a fish-country where the dogs go out &
vomit if they even hear the word "Salmon", it was not exactly the
"miracle" they had expected.

(Ok, I know I'm pretty bad at recounting jokes, it's the Swedish blood
in me)...
--
Kurt Swanson, Dept. of Computer Science,
Lund University. Kurt.S...@dna.lth.se (http://www.dna.lth.se/EHP/kurt.html)

Steinn Sigurdsson

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Jan 10, 1995, 8:06:28 AM1/10/95
to
In article <3eps20$2...@news.bu.edu> sve...@buphy.bu.edu (Sveinn Valfells) writes:

Asgeir Olafsson (olaf...@andersen.com) wrote:
: In <D1zt...@news.tudelft.nl> H.B...@WbMT.TUDelft.NL writes:

: * Iceland has profited from the NATO base in Keflavik. Whether that

: constitutes "selling" the country is a different matter. NATO has
: not been charged rent, but the base has been a source of income to
: contractors and workers in the Keflavik area. NATO has also taken
: part in maintaining the airport in Keflavik.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The selling of the country occured thus:

A single company (Adalverktakar) was given a near-total monopoly on dealing
with the NATO forces in Keflavik, ie, building housing, hangars, etc.

The owners of this company were certain members of Iceland's ruling
elite (nomenklatura), mainly people connected with the Independence
and Progressive Parties (misnomers both, in my view).
...

So, the ruling elite in Iceland was effectively on the take during the
cold war, much like Mugabe in Zaire or Somoza in Nicaragua and their
supporters, and the Icelandic public benefited only indirectly, ie,
via the multiplier effect.

There is another side to this matter: permits to import or export
goods were regulated as in a socialist economy (which Iceland's
economy really was in the 40-s and 50-s) and permits were issued
preferentially to members of the nomenklatura. The resulting monpolies

It should be noted that people's perspective on this issue depends
very closely on whether they (or their immediate family) happened
to be one of those who got rather wealthy in this process, or if
they were one of those being tear gassed by the police outside
Althingi. (As I've been told, the police then were still considered
"danish" by many and were extremely unpopular among "liberals"
[in the US sense of the word "liberal"]).

People have been bandying "high treason" awfully freely around here.
That is not the accusation, even "landrad" should in this context
be translated as minor treason. High treason is a more specific
concept, and rather more serious.
In practise, it seems rather unlikely
the "Independents" had much thought of selling the land as such, rather
they were fairly careful not to make the country over-dependent
on the US, and there was some nasty realpoltik to deal with.
Some of them did get rather wealthy in the process, but I doubt
anything so crude as outright bribery took place, much.
Of course it was awfully convenient that the "right policy"
also happened to be such as to make them and their friends
and family better off... at least it couldn't have hurt in
making the decision.


While I agree that Laxness was a flaming commie and opposed to NATO,
I believe that his description of how the political elite in Iceland
were on the take is pretty accurate. Their motivation, I believe,
for joining NATO was mainly financial: they figured they could squeeze
the US more than they could squeeze the Soviets and rightly so.

Sheesh folks, cut out the "flaming commie" stuff. Too many
yanks reading this could get the wrong impression. We're talking
mostly European style social democrats, not stalinists (ok, some
stalinists, but they mostly repented... ;-)

As I recall, the crux of the argument was that there should
have been more public debate, if not a national referendum
on joining NATO. Not an unreasonable view. If 80% of the people
really were in favour of joining NATO, then the proponents had
nothing to fear from such a debate/referendum.

Tord Akerbaek

unread,
Jan 12, 1995, 7:28:58 AM1/12/95
to

> tho...@rhi.hi.is (Thor Eysteinsson) writes:

> > I get worked up about it as some of my posts on the subject clearly show :-)
> > I have stated some of the reasons there, at too much length. The greatest
> > disappointment IMO is that this shows that Laxness was willing to do
> > extraordinary things for the "socialist cause". He probably knew some of
> > the politicians he accused of treason personally. Why did he do it?

Maybe he felt that making them immortal justified it?
Who would remember Toraren Nevjolson if not Snorre had wrote about his
toes?

> > Why did this brilliant, talented man get himself dragged into the
> > Stalinist propaganda machine? He is the best Icelandic writer this
> > century, and the only one who got the Nobel prize. Still he was ready to
> > write lies, and that gets me "worked up", and because a Dutch man posts
> > that this propaganda piece is the only thing he has found by Laxness.

I think your problem is putting the same moral requirements on
litterature as you put on say public debate in a newspaper. The
concepts of truth and lies does not work the same way in litterature
as in politics. Litterature is much more complicated than politics.
Litterature is almost as complicated as real life.

The quality of litterature are not depending on the political views of the
author. (Hamsun is a great example of that.) In norwegian we say

"Det var kanskje ikke sant, men det var godt juge!"

Maybe someone can translate this into english? Anyway, with the
litterary traditions of Iceland you must understand it.

Tord


Debora Weber-Wulff

unread,
Jan 16, 1995, 8:41:27 AM1/16/95
to
Daniel Friedan (fri...@friedan.rutgers.edu) wrote:
: Laxness' ``Independent People'' is also very good. Like ``Salka Valka,'' it
: captures (I'm told) crucial aspects of the Icelandic character.
Indeed it does, I had the fortune to pick it up one day when I was home
with the flu. I read it in 2 days and got such a good feeling for land and
people that I have often found reinforced.

: ``Independent People'' is the only book by Laxness that I've ever found
: in used book stores in the U.S. (in English translation).

Well, I got my copy in one of the great used book stores at Princeton,
that isn't too far from Rutgers, just get on that great train and
hop down. There are 2 or 3 right on Nassau Street. If you've got
a car check out the rural book shops like in Cranberry. I wish I could remember
the name of the little bookshop I got "Independent People" at, it
was in a little town near Princeton. The used bookshops are so great there
because they buy up all the libraries of the professors.

: I'd appreciate any pointers to sources of used copies of the
: out-of-print English translations.

: For reading, out of print English translations of many of Laxness' books
: can be found in libraries, especially at large universities.

There's a story of Laxness that was translated into English called
"Lilly" about a little girl. It is in a collection of Icelandic
stories and poems that I found in a used book shop in Austin, Texas.

In celebration of his 80th birthday, I believe (and he's still alive!)
the german publisher Steidl is publishing a whole series of his works,
some even as new translations. 5 or 6 have been published, including
"Am Gletscher" (Kristnihald 'a jokull, Christianity in the Gletscher)
which Laxness' daughter Gudn'y Halldorsd'ottir has made a lovely film
out of.

--
Debora Weber-Wulff, Professorin fuer Softwaretechnik und Programmiersprachen
snail: Technische Fachhochschule Berlin, FB Informatik,
Luxemburger Str. 10, 13353 Berlin, Germany
email: web...@tfh-berlin.de <http://sun24.tfh-berlin.de:8000/dww/>

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