By Jón Karl Helgason
The Garden of Crossing Paths: The Manipulation and Rewriting of Medieval Texts, edited by M. Buzzoni and M. Bampi (Venezia: Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina, 2005)
Abstract: Inspired by Njáls saga and Laxdæla saga, the novel Fire in the Ice by American novelist Dorothy James Roberts is one of numerous modern rewritings of classical and medieval literature. With her works Roberts joined a diverse group of nineteenth and twentieth century writers who borrowed plots and themes from Iceland’s early literature in their own works. The earlier adaptations were often influenced by the nationalistic and racial concerns of the rewriters, but the tides had changed when Fire in the Ice was published in 1961. By then the sagas were celebrated as remarkable works of art, even as milestones in the history of World Literature. “The best Icelandic Sagas,” writes Roberts in her preface, “approach the finest of modern novels, and are more closely related to them than to the European literature of their time.” With this statement in mind, four important aspects of Roberts’ rewriting are explored.