04 July 2013

Booking through Thursday


 Today's Booking through Thursday is a about somewhat sensitive subject, especially for non-Americans:

So, Fourth of July here in the USA … Do you ever read books that could be considered patriotic? Rousing stories of heroes? History? Brave countrymen & women doing bold things?
What would you recommend if somebody asked you for something patriotic–no matter what your country?
Be as specific or as general as you like?


There aren‘t many novels of this kind available in my language (there are some, but they tend to be maudlin and I don‘t like maudlin). There is more available in the non-fiction field, but history books here mostly tend to focus on social aspects rather than on glorifying the country.

Icelanders as a tribe are a rather cynical and deprecating lot and on the occasions when it doesn‘t show in our writing it comes out in the reading instead. You will find plenty of stories of individual heroes in Icelandic literature, e.g. in the Sagas, but not much prose which I would call wholly patriotic in the "heroic glory of our nation" mould. The only glorious "heroes of our country" I can think of right now who are generally not criticised are handball player Ólafur Stefánsson and the Saga hero Gunnar of Hlíðarendi (from Njáls saga). However, if you read the Wikipedia entry on Gunnar, you will find the aforesaid cynicism at work even there (especially in the final sentence of the entry).

We tend, when being patriotic in all seriousness, to praise the natural beauty of our island, the beauty of our women and the physical prowess of our men, the purity of everything from wool to water and the ways in which we are better than other nations when looked at through the „per capita“ filter. I find this kind of discussion tends to be jingoistic in nature which is why I tend to eschew the issue.

Traditional literary patriotism is mostly found in our poetry, especially poems and verses written during the era of the 19th and 20th centuries when Icelanders were campaigning, first for autonomy and then for independence.

What I would recommend, therefore, is poetry, especially the rousing "I love my country" and "why you should love your country" poems from the second half of the 19th century up to independence (1944).

4 comments:

Kristin A. said...

Sounds like you just show your patriotism a different way which is still OK. I understand we Americans tend to be er very in your face with ours at times.

My BTT: http://bloodsweatandbooks.blogspot.com/2013/07/booking-through-thursday-33-patriotism.html

Andrea King said...

What a very interesting take on patriotism. :)


Andrea K. @ Books and Bindings
Booking Through Thursday

Vilia said...

Could the Vinland sagas be classed as patriotic? Icelanders bravely exploring the unknown. I went for fiction with my post http://backchattingbooks.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/booking-through-thursday-patriotism

Bibliophile said...

Kristin, I couldn't post a comment on you post because I am not on Discus and it seems it is impossible to comment without being registered (to which I strongly object), but I wanted to say that I sometimes envy Americans for being able to unreservedly express their love for their country without it being taken the wrong way by their compatriots. For a European to express patriotic views in the American style is liable to lead to a suspicion of being at best a jingoist and at worst a neo-Nazi. We tend to express patriotism more subtly and avoid superlatives, but it's there if you know where to look.