The Young Icelander

The story of an immigrant in Nova Scotia and Manitoba

by Johan Magnus Bjarnason

introduction by Birna Bjarnadottir

An early 20th century bestseller, now translated into English, offers rare insight into the experience of young European immigrants to Canada.

In Nova Scotia at the end of the 19th century, an Icelandic boy is stranded ashore with his grandparents on the province's Eastern Shore. This fictionalized memoir evokes the immigrant experience in the rural Maritimes, and then in the Icelandic settlements of Manitoba. Author Johann Magnus Bjarnason published this best-selling book in Icelandic, and it earned him a reputation as one of Iceland's leading writers of the early 20th century. For contemporary readers, his book provides an unusual vantage point on life in rural Nova Scotia and then in the Icelandic settlements in Manitoba more than a hundred years ago.

About the Authors

JOHAN MAGNUS BJARNASON came to Nova Scotia with a group of Icelanders in 1875. He later earned his living in Manitoba as a teacher and educator, but he was an active writer all his life producing (amongst other works) a novel and several plays as well as many shorter published works. Recognizing his achievements as a writer, the Parliament of Iceland conferred its highest honor, the Order of the Falcon, on Magnus on his 70th birthday.
Translator BORGA JAKOBSON was born in Geysir, Manitoba. Her first language is Icelandic. She attended the University of Manitoba and has maintained connections with her Icelandic roots and relatives.
BIRNA BJARNADOTTIR is acting head and chair and Graduate head and chair in the Department of Icelandic Studies at the University of Manitoba.


"It is a pity that his work was not translated much earlier. Bjarnason has a keen observant eye, and the picture he draws of Nova Scotia in the last quarter of the 19th century is compelling. I know of no work in English other than The Clockmaker by Thomas Haliburton, published in the 1830s, that combines such accurate observation, such details of quotidian life and such a range of characters and events."
David Arnason, Literary Review of Canada, Vol. 18, No. 4 May 2010


Icelandic National League of North America "Book of the Year"

Subjects (BISAC)


Scroll to Top