The Perils of Laxness

by Suzi Mezei

We put the Kindles down,
let their batteries fade
and reverted to paperbacks bought second-hand
in an arcade at the Dandenong Hub.
Surrounded by Halal butchers and sari boutiques,
I was lured by a worn copy of Icelandic wit,
the very first page like an umbilical cord
pulling me towards the Northern Lights, 
shepherds bathing me in peat smoke,
pelting me with dogma and ice-shards,
with runes and run down crofts,
how I loved the glacial ebb of the fjord
against my clammy hands,
the old bookish weight of words stuck to paper,
the novel’s  generous soft-centre.
Then came Sola’s unravelling
and mine,
a time of bare bones and trolls, 
the wasting away of sea cows and women,
tales of slaughter finding homes
in the dark of my head.
My therapist advised
I should avoid melancholy
and though Sola clung at last
like a rescued lamb to her father’s neck,
I found the husk of a dead moth
lodged between the last two pages.

Icelandic author Halldor Laxness won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1955. In the epic Independent People Laxness transported me to the rural life in pre-WW1 Iceland. I bought his novel in paperback, so it was deliciously plump. Laxness accompanied me on the tail-end of a depression. Sure, Independent People is harsh and bleak. But it’s also brilliant and I am so drawn to the wicked world that Laxness created, I’m reading it again.

Suzi Mezei is a Melbourne writer whose work has appeared in several anthologies and performed at La Mama. She is currently studying. It’s September at the moment and she is missing attending film festivals with her best MIFF buddy. She aspires to write in Morocco one day but only if she can take her dogs and husband with her.

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