Sunday, 13 November 2011

Under the Glacier

I found this beautiful description of the Snaefells Glacier in Halldor Laxness's novel Under the Glacier (first published in Iceland in 1968). I particularly like the closing lines which describe glacial ice as looking like a print - a nice reversal of my daily attempts to make prints which look like glacial ice.

"... The undersigned began to contemplate the glacier. In actual fact the glacier is too simple a sight to appertain to what is called beautiful, which no one knows the meaning of and by which everyone means something different from everyone else: one of those words it is safer to not use about a glacier nor anything else.

"The undersigned has never before seen this mountain glacier except from too far away, but was now about to become acquainted with it for a while. The mountain reminds one of an upturned earthenware bowl, the glazing a little bluish at times, but sometimes like gold-rimmed transparent Chinese porcelain, especially if the sun is low in the west over the sea, because then the rays play on the glacier from two directions. From here the glacier looks somewhat coarse-grained like a print that isn't good enough; the ice is rain-sullied in many places in the lower regions, and has developed streaks like a smudged print."

(Translated by Magnus Magnusson)

There's more on the novel itself in a great review by Niranjana Iyer over at the blog Brown Paper.


Mário said...

Hello, Nancy,

Surely a glaciar has something of an old library book, with all those layers of memory telling so many tales of the past. Borges wrote a Book of Sand - a Book of Ice makes all the sense.

Thanks for your post, once again I've learned from you.


Hello Mario

Thanks for your comment. I agree about the Book of Ice - perhaps glaciers are too 3D to be merely prints... Your idea reminds me of the artist Elizabeth Jackson's book-glaciers. You can see some images here:


Mário said...

Time, it's all about time. Sand, glaciers, books, layers, memories...

Sand is discontinuous time, like a fistfull of shuffled instants. It lacks the "flowing" dimension.

Ice is a continuous record of time flowing, and you can watch it in all directions. A book-glacier would be so much richer...I did like Johnso's model. Thank you, again.