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The Good Hope

Author: William Heinesen

Translator: W. Glyn Jones   Cover design: Marie Lane  

William Heinesen was a native of the Faeroe Islands – where this book is set – although he wrote in Danish. He was renowned as a poet and novelist but he made his living as an artist. Indeed he offers vibrant descriptions of these sea-bound islands and, above all, their inhabitants and the oppressive confines of the world in which they lived. In the 17th century, the Faroes were so remote from Denmark that the feudal overlord, Von Gabel, ruled through a provost and a military commander.

The Good Hope is essentially a story of the struggle between good and evil, in which good is represented by the newly arrived pastor, Peder Børresen, and evil by the military commander, Lieutenant Claus Cattorp, a villain of biblical proportions. The inhabitants of Torshavn, the largest town, are mostly harmless, pious folk, but they are treated by the authorities as rebellious and ignorant. Even the law is in the hands of Cattorp and his cronies at the fort because the judge is corrupt. Many – including the pastor himself – are locked into the "Black Hole" for days. Børresen decides to start a journal and to note all these wrongdoings, including the social problems (prostitution, abortion, forced labour and witchcraft), in a series of letters written in diary form. This unusual tale is strangely compelling, and it also opens a window onto a little-known society at a time of social and political upheaval.

Lucinda Byatt

Lucinda Byatt in The Historical Novel Review

The Good Hope was selected by CounterPunch as one of the top 100 translated books since 1990.


RRP: £12.99

No. of pages: 384

Publication date: 18.07.2011

ISBN numbers:

World English