The Briefest Book Review (1)

The life and times of early medieval Icelandic families.

The Sagas of Icelanders. Preface by Jane Smiley. Introductory Essay by Robert Kellogg (Allen Lane, 2000). ISBN: 9780713993561. Hardback.

This work is a fine selection of the Icelandic sagas. In terms of physical appearance it is a flawless production, even if its size does not make for the easiest bed-time read.

This edition includes seventeen works that belong to the Íslendingasögur, the family sagas describing the life and times in early medieval Iceland. Among the most famous are Egil’s Saga, the Laxdæla Saga and the Vínland Sagas. As with any selection, some works are missing that one might expect, for example, Njáls Saga.

This book is worth adding to your collection, whether you wish to familiarise yourself with the sagas, or use as a starting point to collect them all. In any case, I recommend to read the whole book from cover to cover. The preface by Jane Smiley is a treat, and Robert Kellogg’s introduction is a fascinating historical insight to the sagas.

Goodreads: The Sagas of Icelanders.

Further listening: A Canadian radio episode with several scholars discussing the sagas and their time, and the related transition from oral storytelling to written stories.

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