What is the life of an artist? What produces an artist and what type of life feeds him and provides him with inspiration? Must his own life be weird, disturbed, difficult?
WORLD LIGHT by Halldor Laxness gives is the character of Olaf Karason who from a young age writes poetry....The book is divided into four sections – 1.) He starts off as an unloved foster child. His own mother having gotten rid of him as an infant. He lives on a farm and is terrible mistreated by everyone as well as being kicked in the head by a horse he meets until one day he suffers an illness (whether this is psychosomatic or the real result of the bullying and the harsh Icelandic condition is never explained) He becomes bedridden for several years. During this time he meets a sad older woman who he establishes communication with.
2.) Eventually he is cast off and sent to another town as an invalid. Along the way he is seemingly cured of his affliction by a woman with magical powers and now can walk and get around. He struggles to survive as a poor vagrant poet, has adventures with women, and meets various shady religious and political figures.
3.) He now lives with the older woman he had met in the first section. They had a child who died and now have another daughter who is sick(and who eventually dies as well). His intended wife is a controlling figure who is semi-insane and his struggle with her, to make a living and also labor disputes between those who work for a living and the bosses are shown. How the church sides with the bosses is clear here.
4.) Olaf and his now wife and their third attempt at having children, a boy, are living in a different city. Olaf works as a teacher and and sleeps with one of his underage students for this he is sent to jail for a period on the way back to his town he meets a woman onboard a ship he dreamed about earlier and has a brief romance with her. Later back in his hometown, he seeks to find her but discovers she has died. Looking at his life-the hardships and the pain he gathers his things and....
The ending is a question. The person who wrote the forward to the books seems to think he is committing suicide but I don’t necessarily see that. Change in life on a regular basis is often mandatory for one to be a truly inspired creator especially if that is what got them on that path to begin with.
Laxness writes with a beautiful lyrical style. He flows like no another and the lyricism is both dream like and poetic but also has a narrative of childlike simplicity....His Olaf never has anything but the strongest conviction that he will be a great poet even through all of his hardships.
However the most interesting thing is Olaf’s poetry itself which Laxness creates....I actually don’t consider it very good which might be the greatest delusion of all....Olaf has a fixed vision in his mind of himself that might be not true at all....His whole life is a lie?
Here’s something I wrote previously about Laxness’s greatest book