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The Ice-Shirt (1990)

de William T. Vollmann

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

Séries: Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes (1)

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488737,495 (3.81)36
A majestic fictional evocation of the Norse arrival in the New World, from the National Book Award-winning author of Europe Central   The time is the tenth century A.D. The newcomers are a proud and bloody-minded people whose kings once changed themselves into wolves. The Norse have advanced as implacably as a glacier from Iceland to the wastes of Greenland and from there to the place they call "Vinland the Good." The natives are a bronze-skinned race who have not yet discovered iron and still see themselves as part of nature. As William T. Vollmann tells the converging stories of these two peoples--and of the Norsewomen Freydis and Gudrid, whose venomous rivalry brings frost into paradise--he creates a tour-de-force of speculative history, a vivid amalgam of Icelandic saga, Inuit creation myth, and contemporary travel writing that yields a new an utterly original vision of our continent and its past.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 7 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Video review: ‪https://youtu.be/kvT9tu6k1PY ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
This is a book that is most enjoyable in relation to the Icelandic Sagas and other ancient writing. The sagas are often long, wandering, and difficult to fathom, and this book, too, is all of those things. Out of context, it might remain something inexplicable, as if Kurt Vonnegut had edited a compilation of northern myths. But seen as a modern update on the saga tradition, it's a dreamy and beautiful and sad tale that weaves together history, fiction, and a bunch of contemplation of what it means to be human. ( )
  iangreenleaf | Sep 19, 2017 |
It was all unspeakably grand and beautiful. The world was still being created here.Let's consider story for a moment. Let's consider the beginning, where belief has not yet turned to mythos and faith is sequestered by time, place, and persona. There is heat, and cold, a micro view of the inevitability of history birthing conflict through contact. Right now, there is the diaspora of culture, centuries of mixing and melding that the modern world can now afford to hazily view as all having occurred under a single people, a single label, a single story. Right now, for now, common knowledge has not yet self inoculated with fear of the Other.

Right now is not our now; to know, we must dream.

There's a great deal of fact here, amongst all the 'artistic license' and 'personal experience' and all those other words the realm of objectivity and of effective argument would be caught dead wearing. Effective argument, you say? This is a story, not a debate. Here, we can relax, take off the lens of fact checking and put up our feet on the highly decorated pedestal of Fiction. But sit up for a moment. Take up that mobile unit of comfortable padding, and take off the gilt. There's carving there, for '... carving itself had still some sacredness, as on Thorvald's bench-boards, where the wood-rings and ring-spirals met each other in splendid confusion upon the plain of wooden darkness, so that each bench-board seemed to depict a night-lit boneyard: - the unsprung wood bones of Eirik's grandfathers, frozen in their clatter even though snakes and hoops and vertebrae pierced each other through; and these bones were loam for the new, as figures of birds and warriors sprouted from the wood.'

All of that? A smidgen of fact, and a whole lot of lies. Think back to your nonfiction, with its bibliographical lists (by what means), its accredited writers (how much is that piece of paper really worth), its systematic inclusion and far weightier exclusion throughout the millenia of just what we are willing to do to make ourselves believe. The authors are objective? Better to disprove the concept of entropy. We are calibrated and in turn calibrate, but not that much.The world-circle was embroidered on it, from Jötunheim to Wineland the Good, so that upon going into his bed King Harald felt as if he were clothing himself in the whole world (for he did not think that that was also what dead men did, when they were covered in earth).What do the walking dead and Vikings have in common? Along with a burgeoning slice of the entertainment market, a predilection for death, the death, the flesh of humanity cowering in one festering corner and Ragnarök mounting the other. No undead here (or maybe a few, you never can tell), but what with the Inuit and Skraeling, Jenuaq and Norse, Amortortak turned Blue Shirt turned Hel turned, turning, turn. Today's audiences crave a defined mortality, while I desire a thought of women as people, men as people, the Other as people, all crafting a mortality out of their own concourse. Not always nice, these people, but always a history, always a culture, always the ties that bind of their own formation. Never a label.

You have your age old manuscripts, you have your personal interactions, you have the land. Somewhere in there is the winner, the loser, and the blood. The Dream Shirt you'll have to weave on your own.But where corpses were buried secretly, there the grass grows thick; such signs (and there are ever so many others!) may be read by those to whom truth is more important than beauty. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
Among the saga-inspired novels I have been reading for my project, William T. Vollmann’s The Ice-Shirt manages to be simultaneously the one closest to the original sagas and the most contemporary one; it also is by far the most original and innovative and promises to be the beginning of an outright masterwork.

The masterwork in question is Seven Dreams, a series of seven novels (four of which having been published as I am writing this) dealing with the encounters between native American Indians and Europeans. The Ice-Shirt is the first volume in that series, and it’s about Norse and Inuit, about how Europeans first came to Vinland and how they immediately began to change it to fit their own preconceptions. It is a retelling of several sagas and few Inuit myths, a historical novel and a travelogue about modern-day Greenland, it is fantastic and journalistic, fiction and non-fiction, entirely subject and very matter-of-fact. It’s not like anything else I have read and for me marks the discovery of what might very well be one of the greatest living novelists.

Yes, I’m gushing a bit, but The Ice-Shirt is astonishing on so many levels that I do not even know where to start. Maybe with the sheer ambition of Vollmann’s project which seems to aim for nothing less than re-inventing the historical novel. Traditionally, historical novels have aimed to make history come alive for the reader and claimed a more vivid and immediate access to lived history than was possible to historical science, relying not on dry numbers and reports but on memorable characters and a rousing tale. This is both the appeal and the problem at the heart of the historical, as writers ineluctably had to invent things, create fictional characters, imagine events, make up thoughts and dialogue for historical characters - all of which became somewhat problematic with modernism and the crisis of representation that brought with it an increasing awareness that the fictional nature of those tales undermines their claims to present history, that they give the reader not the historical truth but just made-up tales. Vollmann is very aware of this problem, he calls his novel “a pack of lies” in the first few pages, and he is not being coy but means it seriously.

The Ice-Shirt is not a postmodern novel either, however – there is a tradition of the postmodern historical novel, starting (as far as I can see) with John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor, that gleefully embraces its fictional nature, abandons all pretense of presenting a plausible historical plot and focuses on language and structure instead – John Barth writing a whole novel in 17th century English in The Sot-Weed Factor, or Umberto Eco approaching the Middle Ages by way of a Sherlock Holmes narrative in The Name of the Rose. Which does avoid the problems inherent in representation, but has a distinct (and possibly unavoidable) tendency to fall into the other extreme of over-emphasizing fiction with the inherent danger of subsuming historical language into a general language-game and thus ending up with a historical novel that has nothing historical about it.

The Ice-Shirt (and, I assume, William Vollmann’s entire Seven Dreams sequence) does neither of those things (or maybe both, depending on your own perspective), but marks an entirely new approach to the historical novel. That approach distinguishes itself from the traditional historical narrative by not aiming to be a representation of historical events but instead mainly basing itself on a text, and sets itself apart from the postmodern approach by treating that text consistently as truth, no matter how outlandish its claims might appear to a modern-day reader.

In The Ice-Shirt, that text are the Icelandic sagas, and the first of many astounding things Vollmann does in this novel is that he takes them utterly at face value, treats them like they were a factual historical document, supernatural elements and all. This means that for a large part The Ice-Shirt is a retelling of Icelandic sagas (mainly the two Vinland sagas, but with elements of some others thrown in, like the Ynglinga saga); Vollmann even goes so far as to assume the persona of an Nordic bard, William the Blind (which is an interesting choice of name and alludes, I assume, not just to his bad eyesight). As he also adopts the style and tone of the sagas (showing, here as in other places, an almost uncanny stylistic versatility), the novel might easily have drifted towards becoming a mere pastiche of the sagas – but even a cursory look at a random page will show that it is very far from being derivative.

Vollmann never lets his readers forget that they are reading work written from a contemporary perspective by a contemporary author. One – and the most obvious – way in which he achieves this is by interspersing passages describing his own travels in Iceland – those serving the double function by marking the distance to the past, but also to underline that Vollmann is essentially writing non-fiction here. Or maybe it would be more correct to say that The Ice-Shirt is a novel written with a non-fictional attitude. It does not at all read like a novel, even a multiple-character, protagonist-less novel like Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer or his USA trilogy. The narrative reaches from mythical pre-history to the end of the 20th century, encompassing a multitude of characters and voices; and while it eventually comes to focus on the Norse colonization of Greenland and the tale of Freydis Eiriksdottir in particular, it still swerves in several different directions and different times. It is like Vollmann was willfully ignoring or intentionally breaking every single rule ever made in regard to novel plotting (and I would not be surprised if that was exactly what he did) – and yet, The Ice-Shirt nowhere comes even close to being the amorphous mess it by all rights should be, because Vollmann keeps it all together on the level of theme and motif, weaving a very tight web of images from whose interrelations rises a complex edifice of metaphors and symbols.

Vollmann bases his novel on a documented historical discourse rather than a more or less imaginary version of events, the sagas themselves rather than what they might be referring to, but at the same time does not dismiss the claim of that discourse to veracity from an advanced 21st-century point of view. Instead, he takes the sagas by their word and in this way shows us the sagas and the world they originate from in an entirely new way and also gives us an entirely new form of historical novel, one that is aware of all the problems and complexities of writing about history as any postmodern historical novel but at the same time manages to give us a sense of that history as vivid and intense as any tradionalist historical novel. The Ice-Shirt is by no means an easy to read novel – it demands a considerable amount of concentration and attention by its readers and does not reward them with the pleasures a well-rounded story arc conveys, or even just of things falling into place. With all its formal and linguistic brilliance, the novel remains a very messy affair, but I think it is precisely by virtue of this tension that it achieves a degree of immersion which to the best of my knowledge is unprecedented in the historical novel genre. I am very keen on reading more of Vollmann’s Seven Dreams sequence (and in fact am, as I’m writing this, almost halfway through Fathers and Crows) and starting to suspect that the series might well turn out to be one of the major literary achievements of your time.
2 vote Larou | Jun 24, 2013 |
Another dense book by Vollmann (which is his tendency), and one of many of his which interweaves myth and story and ancedote with history. Writes in the style of sagas and ancient myths very convincincly. Characterizes the biting and forbidding nature of the north. On to #2, as soon as I can find it. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
William T. Vollmannautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Marcellino, FredArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Vollmann, William T.Ilustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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A majestic fictional evocation of the Norse arrival in the New World, from the National Book Award-winning author of Europe Central   The time is the tenth century A.D. The newcomers are a proud and bloody-minded people whose kings once changed themselves into wolves. The Norse have advanced as implacably as a glacier from Iceland to the wastes of Greenland and from there to the place they call "Vinland the Good." The natives are a bronze-skinned race who have not yet discovered iron and still see themselves as part of nature. As William T. Vollmann tells the converging stories of these two peoples--and of the Norsewomen Freydis and Gudrid, whose venomous rivalry brings frost into paradise--he creates a tour-de-force of speculative history, a vivid amalgam of Icelandic saga, Inuit creation myth, and contemporary travel writing that yields a new an utterly original vision of our continent and its past.

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