Njal's Saga

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Penguin Books Limited, 2001 - Fiction - 377 pages
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Written in the thirteenth century, Njal's Saga is a story that explores perennial human problems-from failed marriages to divided loyalties, from the law's inability to curb human passions to the terrible consequences when decent men and women are swept up in a tide of violence beyond their control. It is populated by memorable and complex characters like Gunnar of Hlidarendi, a powerful warrior with an aversion to killing, and the not-so-villainous Mord Valgardsson. Full of dreams, strange prophecies, violent power struggles, and fragile peace agreements, Njal's Saga tells the compelling story of a fifty-year blood feud that, despite its distance from us in time and place, is driven by passions familiar to us all. This Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction, chronology, index of characters, plot summary, explanatory notes, maps, and suggestions for further reading.

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Njal is the lawyer in this story of violent and passionate people in anarchical Iceland. The vignettes of the warrior heros and anti-heros are so true to life, you live with them forever after a few readings. Images remain, the legacy of an oral tradition where this story was told for centuries. Laconic interchanges in duels to the death. The heroism of Njal's sons, dutifully staying inside the burning house because those were his orders. The single son-in-law who escaped the house and hunted down and killed all the burners. And overall the grand theme - uphold the law, defeat anarchy. 

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About the author (2001)

Robert Cook, born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was educated at Princeton, Zurich, and Johns Hopkins and taught English medieval literature at Tulane University in New Orleans for twenty-seven years. In 1990 he moved to Reykjavik to serve as professor of English literature at the University of Iceland.

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