Wayward Heroes

Wayward Heroes
New York
Author of Review: 

Wayward Heroes

(Gerpla, 1952)

When Wayward Heroes (“Gerpla” in the Icelandic) was first published in 1952, three years before Halldór Laxness received the Nobel Prize in Literature, some Icelandic readers were outraged – or at least ambivalent – while others found themselves guffawing over the exploits of the book’s Quixotic heroes.

Critics saw the book as poking fun at Iceland’s most prized cultural heritage: the Icelandic Sagas, which some people like to tout as the founding stones of the Icelandic identity. Wayward Heroes borrows the form and voice of the sagas, following oath-brothers Thorgeir and Thormod in their misadventures, taking part in Viking raids and seducing women across Europe while avoiding the new and ludicrous doctrines of the cult of Christianity – which seems to be cropping up everywhere around them. 

A raucously funny tale with darkly comic depictions of slapstick-violence, beneath the humour is a commentary about the cost of pride and the post-war culture’s obsession with the “heroic” principles of violent domination. Published in a new translation in 2016, Gerpla is now available in English for the first time in fifty years.