:Reply to a letter from Helga Reviewed By Bani Sodermark of
Bani Sodermark

Reviewer Bani Sodermark. Bani has a Ph.D in mathematical physics and has been a teacher of physics and mathematics at the university level in both India and Sweden. For the last decade, her interests have been spirituality, healthy living and self-development. She has written a number of reviews on Amazon. Bani is a mother to two children.

By Bani Sodermark
Published on April 11, 2013

Author: Bergsveinn Birgisson

Publisher: AmazonCrossing

ISBN: 9781612187174

Author: Bergsveinn Birgisson

Publisher: AmazonCrossing

ISBN: 9781612187174

                                  Unreleased Passion of a Love Denied

What really hurts in life, aren’t the sharp points that stab and injure you, but the soft call of love that you disregard”.- Bergsveinn Birgisson.

This book depicts the saga of an all consuming love story. Bjarni and Helga are both sheep farmers of some prominence in rural Iceland. Both are married but not with each other. Both of them are unhappy with their respective spouses.

One day, while returning from a local feast with a group of people, they manage to stray behind the rest, laughing and talking with each other. This companionship is noticed in the village  and sets tongues wagging about their imagined love affair. The slander reaches Unnur, Bjarni’s wife and she confronts him with it. Bjarni stoutly denies involvement, but “inside me, a bug sparked to life.... I began to desire you Helga”. That sets the scene for their relationship.

What follows in this book, is a story of love, of longing, of pain, attempted suicide, unfulfilled passion and a final redemption. The story is written by Bjarni in answer to a letter from Helga, in which she informs him of her undying love. In reply, Bjarni relates the story of his life. That story forms the content of this book.

Bjarni talks about his wife Unnur who is constantly accusing him of adultery, when she isn’t working on something or the other. He talks about his sheep and how tending them kept him alive, by offsetting his unbridled longing, when Helga left the village, He mentions his longing for their daughter Hulda and how he invested in a pair of binoculars, so that he could watch her swinging from a distance: “You two are the only religion I’ve ever had”. He talks of other incidents in his life, incidents that testify how close a presence she was to him, even though they lived apart.

This is a book that will not leave you untouched. The depiction of Bjarne as a responsible sheep farmer, closely attuned to Nature’s rhythms is a particularly apt vehicle to express the silent but powerful working of true love. “Perhaps I’ve lived with love and not against it. Love is not just a bourgeois romantic notion of finding the one true match that will fill one’s soul so full that it brims over...Love is also in this life that I’ve lived in the countryside”.

One also gets to see rare glimpses of traditional rural Iceland in this book, of the customs and myths that make it unique. The picturization of Bjarne is reinforced by his Icelandic background.

Further, it is well to remember that despite this book being a translation, the Icelandic ethos has not been compromised.

The aftertaste of this book stayed with me for a week. It has formed one of my more memorable reading experiences and I recommend it warmly..

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