The Old Man and His Sons

The Old Man and His Sons

Translated by John F. West

9781846590733 April 2011 Paperback 168pp

About the Book

These are the Faroe Islands as they were some fifty years ago: sea-washed and remote, with one generation still tied to the sea for sustenance, and a younger generation turning towards commerce and clerical work in the towns.

Following the blood, foam and fury of a whale kill, the normally cautious Ketil finds himself caught up in the frenzy of post celebrations, enthusiastically bidding for more meat than he can afford. Thus in his seventieth year, Ketil and his wife, along with their youngest son, struggle to repay their debt. Forced to accept the brutal reality of their precarious existence, they scavenge for driftwood and stranded seals.

Vibrating with a spirit, almost at times a savagery, that recalls ancient Viking sagas, The Old Man and His Sons deftly captures a vanishing way of life.

About the Author

Heðin Brú (1901–1987) was the pen name of Hans Jacob Jacobsen, a Faroese novelist and translator considered the most important writer of his generation. The Faroese chose The Old Man and His Sons (Telegram) as their 'Book of the Twentieth Century'.

About the Translator

Until his untimely death in 1996, John F West was an authority on the Faroe Islands. He wrote and translated extensively on their history and culture, producing ground-breaking work which is still acknowledged today. His translation of The Old Man and His Son was widely regarded as his finest piece of translation, and places a masterpiece of Faroese literature from these remote windswept islands firmly onto the world stage.


'Heðin Brú's 1970 novel begins with a tremendous set piece as a group of Faroe Islanders take part in a whale hunt. What follows is surprising: no Hemingway-esque tale of man against elements but a brilliantly observed social comedy ... At the heart of Brú's fable is a clash of two ways of living: the centuries-old subsistence economy of fulmar-hunting and stewed whale liver and the modern world of the telephone and the motorboat ... [A] classic.'
Adrian Turpin, Financial Times