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Iceland is an enigmatic island country marked by contradiction: it’s a part of Europe, yet separated from it by the Atlantic Ocean; it’s seemingly inhospitable, yet home to more than 300,000. Wasteland with Words explores these paradoxes to uncover the mystery of Iceland.
In Wasteland with Words Sigurdur Gylfi Magnússon presents a wide-ranging and detailed analysis of the island’s history that examines the evolution and transformation of Icelandic culture while investigating the literary and historical factors that created the rich cultural heritage enjoyed by Icelanders today. Magnússon explains how a nineteenth-century economy based on the industries of fishing and agriculture—one of the poorest in Europe—grew to become a disproportionately large economic power in the late twentieth century, while retaining its strong sense of cultural identity. Bringing the story up to the present, he assesses the recent economic and political collapse of the country and how Iceland has coped. Throughout Magnússon seeks to chart the vast changes in this country’s history through the impact and effect on the Icelandic people themselves.
Up-to-date and fascinating, Wasteland with Words is a comprehensive study of the island’s cultural and historical development, from tiny fishing settlements to a global economic power.
Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon
40 black & white illustrations
40 black & white illustrations
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very good history of Iceland and its people, bringing together social analysis of peoples' habits, relationships, economics ... Starts with first Viking settlers in the 9th century and ends with sobering account of reasons that led to financial and economic crisis of 2008. An interesting mixture of thorough analysis and speculation (in a positive sense of the word), must read for anyone who wants to know about Iceland. I red it before travelling to Iceland and once I got there, had a feeling that I know the place.
The primary sources used to illustrate what life was like in the 18th and 19th century in Iceland were really interesting and different than most other books I've seen on Icelandic history. It added depth and made the history palpable. Academically I'm not sure I agree with some of the arguments Magnusson makes, but his book stands out for his in-depth engagement with the writings and diaries of Icelanders during this time period, and for the inclusion of both government statistics and personal anecdotes to tell the story of how people lived and how the culture developed into today's society.
Intimate examination of Iceland's emergence from a primitive and feudal society and transition to a progressive and enlightened society. The power of literacy is revealed as paramount.
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