Buried Treasure

Terry Jones on Halldor Laxness's 'Independent People' and 'World Light'
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Here are two wonderful treasures from the black sandy shores of Iceland: Independent People (Harvill, £7.99) and World Light (Vintage, £12.99) by the Nobel prize-winning author, Halldor Laxness. Laxness writes about people living at the very edge of existence. It is a bleak world in which people who possess nothing very often do terrible things to each other. And yet both of the books are filled with humour and compassion. The first time that I read Independent People, the tragedy of the events in the book overwhelmed me. It was only when my Icelandic friend said, "But it's so funny" that I went back and read it a second time - and it was like a different book. Magical stuff.

Terry Jones's 'Who Murdered Chaucer?' is published this week by Methuen