The Atom Station
|Publisher||Helgafell, Reykjavik, published in the U.S. by The Permanent Press in 1982|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Pages||180 pp (2004 edition, Vintage)|
|ISBN||ISBN 978-0-09-945515-8 (2004 edition, Vintage)|
The Atom Station (Icelandic: Atómstöðin) is a novel by Icelandic author Halldór Laxness, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955. The initial print run sold out on the day it was published, apparently for the first time in Icelandic history.
“The Atom Station”, written in 1946 and 1947, was published in 1948. The historical background of the novel is composed of the British Occupation of Iceland during World War II in 1940, which was later taken over by the Americans in 1941. Many viewed Iceland’s independence as threatened due to the United States’ request to establish a military base in Keflavík for 99 years (in 1946). However, the Icelandic Parliament (the Althing) eventually agreed to the request and concluded the Keflavík Contract. Laxness was critical of the fact that Icelandic jurisdiction was not applicable to the area within the military base. But above all, he saw a threat to Icelandic life, because, in the event of an atomic war, Iceland would become a potential target due to the military base. These fears are based on the impression left by the two atomic bombs which had been recently dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Laxness began writing the novel shortly after these events.
Ugla, an uneducated girl from the countryside, moves from an outlying area of Northern Iceland to the capital city of Reykjavík in order to work for Búi Árland, a member of parliament, and to learn how to play the organ. She’s met with a world that’s completely foreign to her: politicians and the military move freely about the city, and she views city residents as spoiled, snobbish and arrogant. In contrast, she comes from a rural area where the Icelandic Sagas of the Middle Ages constitute the majority of what people discuss and ponder and are viewed as more important than reality. These historical backgrounds are certainly important and provide crucial patterns. The prime minister subsequently carries out secret dealings with the Americans and “sells” the country. Ugla, however, also confronts other current issues, above all in the organ player’s house. There, she comes in contact with communist and anarchist mindsets and likewise protests the construction of an atom station in Iceland. After a short relationship with Búi Árland, Ugla decides to return to the “selfconscious policeman”, who is the father of her recently born child.
Influence and adaptations
Atómstöðin has been characterised as 'what many readers and critics gradually came to think of as the exemplary Reykjavík novel', focusing on urban Icelandic life for the first time.
The book was adapted as a film by Þorsteinn Jónsson in 1984. Through the film, the book has been seen to have continued resonances in twenty-first-century Iceland: 'the powerful imagery is coincidentally linked to the 2009 protests ... following the Icelandic banking crisis'.
- 'Atómstöðin', Þjóðviljinn, 69 (March 23rd, 1948), 1.
- Nejmann, Daisy L. (2007). "A History of Icelandic Literature". Volume 5 of History of Scandinavian literatures (University of Nebraska Press). p. 411. ISBN 978-0-8032-3346-1.
- Nejmann, Daisy L. (2007). "A History of Icelandic Literature". Volume 5 of History of Scandinavian literatures (University of Nebraska Press). p. 474. ISBN 978-0-8032-3346-1.
- Atómstöðin (1984) - IMDb Archived June 19, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir, 'Atomic Station', in World Film Locations: Reykjavík, ed. by Jez Connolly and Caroline Whelan (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2012), pp. 14-15 (14).
- Friese, Wilhelm (1995). Halldór Laxness. Die Romane. Eine Einführung. Beiträge zur nordischen Philologie 24. Basel: Helbing und Lichtenhahn. pp. 67–77. ISBN 978-3-7190-1376-9.
- Keel, Aldo (1981). Innovation und Restauration. Der Romancier Halldór Laxness seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Beiträge zur nordischen Philologie 10. Basel: Helbing und Lichtenhahn. pp. 8–65. ISBN 978-3-7190-0791-1.
- Sønderholm, Erik (1981). Halldór Laxness. En monografi. København: Gyldendal. pp. 229–243. ISBN 978-87-00-53102-4.