The Friends of Freeland

Brad Leithauser, Author Alfred A. Knopf $26 (528p) ISBN 978-0-679-45083-2
Two wildly idealistic main characters--Eggert Oddason and Hannibal Hannibalsson--propel this grand, sprawling, satiric novel (Leithauser's fourth, after Seaward). Eggert and Hannibal are, respectively, the ad hoc minister of culture and the president of the imaginary nation of Freeland, a lava-crusted, storm-lashed cluster of islands located between Greenland and Iceland (""what green is to Ireland, gray is to Freeland""). Rivals as schoolboys, the two now tilt their lances at the same windmill, namely the creeping modernization that threatens to reduce their fellow citizens from a nation of proudly self-sufficient Norsemen to a gaggle of Walkman-wearing milksops. As Hannibal tells his countrymen, Freeland is ""the one true good hope of this troubled planet"" where ""madness reigns, ever more brutal wars are waged, and ever more destructive forms of leisure are conceived."" To preserve their country's purity, the duo has tried everything from a ban on frozen waffles to strict quotas on American pop music, but time, and the patience of the electorate, is running out. Matters come to a head as an election looms between the aging Hannibal and the bland, modernizing Nonni Karlsson. But this novel's appeal lies mostly in the pleasure of watching Leithauser's extraordinarily rich imagination at play as he conjures an entire people out of the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, ranging from the furtive narrator Eggert to the handsome, larger-than-life Hannibal, who ""in his straight-shouldered, red-gold-haired, strong-jawed splendidness... is as perfect a Viking as ever navigated by instinct up a rocky, fog-clamped fjord."" Leithauser's is not a subtle portrait; nor is his prose always for the fainthearted. But the novel is such good, catty, generously proportioned fun that the persevering reader will be more than inclined to forgive its missteps. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Show other formats
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-679-77270-5
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-02413-7
Open Ebook - 390 pages - 978-0-307-76078-4
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.