The following are two reviews (sort of) that didn’t warrant a post of their own. Unfortunately this post is a bit of a downer, but I also didn’t want to pass them off and not post about them, if that makes any sense lol.
Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
The year is 1918 and in Iceland the erupting volcano Katla can be seen colouring the sky night and day from the streets of Reykjavik. Yet life in the small capital carries on as usual, despite the natural disaster, a shortage of coal and, in the outside world, the Great War grinding on.
There, sixteen-year-old M·ni Steinn lives for the new fashion – the movies. Asleep he dreams altered versions of them, their tapestry of events threaded with strands from his own life. Awake he hovers on the fringes of society. But then the Spanish flu epidemic comes ashore, killing hundreds and driving thousands into their sick beds. The shadows of existence deepen and for M·ni everything changes.
Capturing Iceland at a moment of profound transformation, this is the story of a misfit in a place where life and death, reality and imagination, secrets and revelations jostle for dominance. With not a word wasted, this mesmerising and original novel is the work of a major international writer.
It’s funny, I was actually eyeing this book the last time I was in Iceland but didn’t pick it up at the time. So this time around when I went I did have it on my mind to pick up a copy 😉
It’s my first Sjon novel so I’m not sure how it holds up compared to his other books. I thought it was an interesting read, reading how the Spanish flu affected Iceland, what life was like in Reykjavik in the early 20th century. There is also the added factor of what it was like to be a homosexual in Iceland in the early 20th century (though Mani I think was bi? I wasn’t sure if it was intrigue or infatuation re: Sola).
All in all it was an interesting read, although the epilogue chapter seemed tacked on and a bit of a leap for me. Nonetheless I’m glad to have picked it up and to have finally read a novel by Sjon.
Visit the author’s official website
Waitress in Fall
By: Kristin Omarsdottir
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
For over three decades, the work of Kristin Omarsdottir has thrived in the vanguard of Icelandic literature. Waitress in Fall offers anglophone readers the first substantial selection of her poems in translation. Spanning thirty years and seven collections – from her first to her latest – this wide-reaching introduction celebrates a vital voice in contemporary European poetry.
Kristin Omarsdottir’s work resists the sweet, the neat or the certain. Her poems delight in the lush mess of actual life, in its hands and fingers, lemons and clocks, socks, soldiers, snow, knives, mothers, nightstands, sweat, and crockery. The domestic is at the heart of the poems, but it is a domesticity tinged with threat: something `clear and ominous’ persists between the lines.
These are surreal, unsettling landscapes, in which children lap milk from trees and car tyres are `soft as skin’. But Kristin’s poems are also full of laughter, sex, and love. They accept vulnerability as a condition of intimacy. Erupting `wherever thirst is ignited’, they are not afraid to strike, to rage, recognising a right – a responsibility – to risk the necessary word, even to `wound the language’.
This book kept following me in Iceland: at the bookstore, then at the airport, so I decided to pick it up, lol. As I haven’t heard of this poet until I visited Iceland this time around, picking up a book that spans much of her work these last few decades seem like the best place to start. It’s a great collection that indeed touches on the above topics, especially that of love and intimacy, and certainly raises that of everyday things we see, touch, and do to new heights. Definitely worth checking out.