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  • 1956 - Ólafur B Kristjánsson
15.05.2015 - 07:15 | Vestfirska forlagiđ

“Even longer, even longer”

Davíđ H. Kristjánsson in his boat. Photo his son Davíđ Davíđsson.
Davíđ H. Kristjánsson in his boat. Photo his son Davíđ Davíđsson.
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Davíð H. Kristjánsson:

 

Halldór Kiljan Laxness

visits the People of Dýrafjörður:

The writings and activities of our Nobel Laureate, Halldór Kiljan Laxness, were much discussed last year, the year he passed away (1998). I remember hearing stories when I was a child about the time when Halldór Kiljan Laxness visited my childhood home sometime shortly after 1930, when I was very young and therefore do not myself have any recollection of the events which I recount here. My father, Kristján Davíðsson, farmer at Neðri-Hjarðardalur, told the story and Valgeir Jónsson, farmer at Gemlufall, later confirmed his narrative and added somewhat to it.

         Mr. Halldór Laxness came to Ísafjörður to gather material in preparation for writing his novel about Ólafur Kárason Ljósvíkingur.  He wanted to familiarise himself with the customs and speech of the people of the West Fjords, which at the time was probably rather different from what Mr. Laxness was used to in the south-west part of Iceland. Dr. Vilmundur Jónsson, who worked as a physician in Ísafjörður, helped to arrange his trip in the area and contacted people to see who could provide accommodation for him.

         So it was that Dr. Vilmundur arranged for Halldór to stay for one night or possibly longer at Neðri-Hjarðardalur. Halldór was quite talkative and curious about all things local. He went with my father and his brother Jóhannes to see all outhouses and huts on our land. In the sheep house Halldór noted that the walls there were constructed of stone and turf. My father told him that these walls had been erected by Upright Jón, as he was called, in the previous century, and that they had not budged an inch in the 40 years “or even longer” that they had been standing there.

         Upright Jón got his nickname because he was known to be a hard worker and especially skilled at constructing walls. There was hardly a hut constructed in Dýrafjörður where Jón was not sought out to supervise the task. The walls that Jón put up either collapsed immediately, in which case he was quick to put them up again, or they stood solid for a long time. Upright Jón was the father of Bernharður from Hraun, and grandfather of Guðmundur Bernharðsson of Ástún and his many siblings.

         Halldór Laxness did not think that the members of the household of Neðri-Hjarðardalur spoke the hard patois that could be expected from the ancient speech patterns of the West Fjords. He therefore asked if there was anyone of the older generation living in the region who did, and if this was the case, could direct him to such a person? In the end my father promised to take him to see an old and wise woman, who spoke with this particular pronunciation. This old woman was María Sigmundsdóttir at Bessastaðir.

         That same evening my father met Valgeir Jónsson, farmer at Gemlufall, and told him about this intended trip with Halldór to Bessastaðir. Valgeir had business there on the day before the two of them went there, and he told María that she could expect two visitors the next day. These, he informed her, would be Kristján from Bakki and Halldór Kiljan, and that Halldór wanted to learn from her how to speak Icelandic in the definitive manner of West Fjords.

         In due course my father and Halldór came to Bessastaðir and knocked on the door. María came to the door and shook hands with them without saying anything, and beckoned them to enter. When they came to the living room, María disappeared. Guðmundur Jón, her husband, who was very old at the time and frail with age, and who had probably never had to pour himself a cup of coffee in his life, brought refreshments in the form of coffee and wonderful pastry, for María baked the best cakes in the entire county.

         When the two of them had eaten and drunk and made some unsuccessful attempts at conversation with Guðmundur Jón, they got up, thanked him and said goodbye without having heard María say a single word.

         When Halldór in due course continued his trip west over Dýrafjörður, the farmers of Gemlufall, Jón Ólafsson and Valgeir Jónsson, ferried him over the fjord. Valgeir later mentioned that in the boat, Halldór had been muttering to himself:

     “Even longer, even longer”.

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