Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Whispering Muse

A novel by Sjón
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013
I, Valdimar Haraldsson, was in my twenty-seventh year when I embarked on the publication of a small journal devoted to my chief preoccupation, the link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race.
   So begins this strange book of tales, set aboard a freighter in 1949. Valdimar is a "supernumerary", a guest, and most of the tales are told by Caeneus, the ships second mate who is possession of a piece of the legendary ship Argo. By listening to this 'splinter', Caeneus recalls stories of Jason and his crew, stories which include Caeneus himself!

   Sjón is noted for his fantastic tales, tales told with a historical overlay, such as The Blue Fox and From the Mouth of the Whale. This book was derived from a number of sources, but the themes are from Sjón himself. I got a sense the the author was critiquing Northern European culture, there is a strong sub-theme about theories of racial purity and the disastrous effects which were manifest in World War II.

   While not for everyone, I think this book is a little more accessible than the other two mentioned. It may be a little less poetic for that, but the three titles make for a truly unique trilogy.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Jono said...

I have The Blue Fox, but haven't had a chance to read it and don't know much about Sjon. Thanks for the info.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I think that someday there will he should publish an omnibus of his work—these three books, his Björk lyrics, and some of his poetry. A really intriguing writer when looked at with a broader view.

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