Monday, August 17, 2009
Reflections from the Land of Fire and Ice
Title: The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland
By: Bill Holm
Perhaps because I have never been there, I have always had a strange fascination with Iceland: the medieval sagas, the stark yet beautiful landscape, those small horses.... So when I heard poet and essayist Bill Holm being interviewed on NPR about this book, I immediately added it to my list.
Brimnes, as it turns out, is a small, spartan fisherman's cottage on a fjord in northern Iceland. Through its windows, Holm sees not only an exotic, ever-changing landscape, but also himself, his own country, his past. The quiet and isolation give the author the time and perspective he needs to reflect on everything from his Icelandic heritage (old family photos stir memories) to the state of American politics (he despairs) to the inevitability of his own death (made all the more poignant by the fact that he died only weeks after the NPR interview). It is a reflection on society and religion, on language and life--all of it interwoven with interesting Icelandic facts, passages of poetry, and, yes, even an Icelandic joke or two.