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From the Mouth of the Whale
 
 

From the Mouth of the Whale [Kindle Edition]

Sjon , Victoria Cribb
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Review

Every now and then a writer changes the whole map of literature inside my head. The most recent has been the Icelander Sjón, whose work is unlike anything I had read, and very exciting ... I think of Icelanders as erudite, singular, tough, and uncompromising. Sjón is all these things, but he is also quicksilver, playful and surreal ... [Sjón] has changed the way I see things.' --A.S. Byatt, The New York Review of Books

Shortlisted --International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize 2013
and
Shortlisted --The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012

Hallucinatory, lyrical and by turn comic and tragic-an extraordinary novel. --Hari Kunzru

'Sjon is the trickster that makes the world; and he is achingly brilliant... strange and wonderful, an epic made mad, made extraordinary.' --Junot Diaz

Sjón is a poet, and the aesthetic excitement is his own. He is an extraordinary and original writer. And his translator, Victoria Cribb, is also extraordinary in her rendering of the roughness and the elegance, the clarity and the oddity of this splendid book. --A.S. Byatt, Guardian

The narrative is kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing, comic and poignant by turns. Victoria Cribb s translation brilliantly captures these multiple changes in tone and scene. Switching between the language of the learned, both superstitious and scientific, the invective directed at Jónas s enemies, ghost-laying poetry, and the dim twilight portents of the original Icelandic title which unsettle man and nature, the surrealism of Sjón s earlier writings has here been harnessed to an urgent ethical interrogation of what remains when community is destroyed, the truth-teller is exiled and when learning becomes suspect. From the Mouth of the Whale should open up a world of Icelandic writing beyond the crime novel and Reykjavik-based stories of disaffected urban youth, a world of nature and of ideas, which stands comparison with the Iceland of the Nobel Prize laureate Halldór Laxness. --Carolyne Larrington TLS

Sjón writes like a madman. His novel is by turns wildly comic and incandescent, elegant and brittle with the harsh loneliness of a world turned to winter. --Washington Post

Sjón recreates a lost world of ignorance, superstition and sheer beastliness. Jonas' s dry, lucid, witty voice makes this peculiar novel surprisingly enjoyable. --The Times

Sjón's remarkable tale imagines a delirious 17th-century Iceland swithering between mysticism and a new scientific rationalism, and it is rendered brilliantly into English in Victoria Cribb's exuberant translation. --Nick Barley

Beautiful prose, sharp observation of nature, folklore, poetry, grotesque violence, human loss, and outright comic chaos weave in and out of this confidently written novel in which the narrative tone is in perfect pitch with the story being told. --New York Journal of Books

Product Description

The year is 1635. Iceland is a world darkened by superstition, poverty and cruelty. Men of science marvel over a unicorn's horn, poor folk worship the Virgin in secret and both books and men are burnt. Jonas Palmason, a poet and self-taught healer, has been condemned to exile for heretical conduct, having fallen foul of the local magistrate. Banished to a barren island, Jonas recalls his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjafjöll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers, and the deaths of three of his children. From the Mouth of the Whale is a magical evocation of an enlightened mind and a vanished age. 'Hallucinatory, lyrical, by turns comic and tragic -- an extraordinary novel.' Hari Kunzru 'Achingly brilliant, an epic made mad, made extraordinary.' Junot Diaz 'Sjon is a poet, and the aesthetic excitement is his own. He is an extraordinary and original writer. And his translator, Victoria Cribb, is also extraordinary in her rendering of the roughness and the elegance, the clarity and the oddity of this splendid book.' A.S. Byatt, The Guardian 'The narrative is kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing, comic and poignant by turns. Victoria Cribb's translation brilliantly captures these multiple changes in tone and scene.From the Mouth of the Whale should open up a world of Icelandic writing...a world of nature and of ideas, which stands comparison with the Iceland of the Nobel Prize laureate Halldor Laxness.' Carolyne Larrington, Times Literary Supplement 'This is an extraordinarily accomplished novel that challenges and informs the reader in equal measure. Victoria Cribb's superb translation conveys the intricacies of Sjon's language, Jonas's strange turns of phrase, and the novel's meandering narrative.' Independent 'A strange blend of myth and reality, it is a spellbinding book, Sjon using lyrical prose to create an other-worldly universe that sucks the reader in.' Big Issue


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 275 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Telegram Books (12 Aug 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00796LFMU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #143,971 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvels of Twilight 16 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In the prelude to this tale we follow a hunter on his way home from hunting some colossal and huge tusked boar, "the most savage brute the north has ever snorted from it's icy nostrils", although the traditional way is to leave the carcass where it fell, the hunter is carrying it home to demonstrate to his father, which of his sons labours the hardest. Home, we the reader, learn is called "Seventh Heaven" and all is not well, the gate guards are silent, there's no sound of merrymaking from the banqueting hall and

"Conditions in the chamber were sickening; many of the angels were laughing with fear, others were weeping with hollow laughter, still others laughed and wept at once. The Ophanim* had cast off their robes and knelt with brows pressed to the cold steps of the throne, letting fly with knotted scourges on their blazing shoulders".

The hunter, we learn, is Lucifer and he is standing before his father who is holding something that is outlawed in heaven: there laying in his hand was man.

" there you lay in his hand, with your knees tucked under your chin, breathing so fast and so feebly that you quivered like the pectoral fin of a minnow.Our Father rested His fingertip against your spine and tilted His hand carefully so that you uncurled and rolled over on to your back. I stepped forward to take a better look at you. You scratched your nose with your curled fist, sneezed, oh so sweetly, and fixed on me those egotistical eyes - mouth agape. And I saw that this mouth would never be satisfied, that its teeth would never stop grinding, that its tongue would never tire of being bathed in the life-blood of other living creatures. Then your lips moved. You tried to say your first word, and that word was: `I'.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original novel from a fearless writer 25 July 2011
Format:Paperback
This is a very brilliant work, original, linguistically vibrant, and with several interesting back-stories. The historical and geographical setting (Iceland, 17th century) are unusual and the story of the central character's desolation and unusual gifts is extremely seductive. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys lyrical, original writing in their fiction, as well as a rounded tale that explores the desolation, bleakness and peculiar radiance of being alive.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird and wonderful 29 April 2012
By nyonya
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is not easy to describe this book, whose protagonist is Jónas Pálmason, a talented healer, natural scientist, and poet in a backward and superstitious 17th century Iceland, who has been exiled to a barren island by his envious and powerful enemies. We hear of his trials and tribulations, but also of his triumphs and joyful discoveries. There is also an interesting episode about the massacre of Spanish whalers, which is based on historical fact.

It is simply marvellous, and perfectly matches the Iceland of my imagination. Highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange tales from 17th century Iceland 17 May 2011
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
From the Mouth of the Whale consists of a set of fictional 17th century Icelandic myths, based on the life of the Jónas Pálmason, "a poet and self-taught healer" who has been exiled to a barren island for his heretical conduct.

Jónas Pálmason seems to have been a natural healer. As a young boy he would explore the corpse of a brd, probing into the internal organs and learning similarities between bird and human - "man and bird, man with a bird's heart, bird with a man's brain, bird with a man's heart, bird with bird brain . . . We are alike in most things . . . And why should we not be?". Before long he had developed healing gifts and by reading the works of Paracelsus had "acquired so great a knowledge of the abdomen that there was scacely a female malady in existence that I did not have a nodding acquaintance with".

But 17th century healing was not merely an analytical science. A knowledge of the world of the spirit was a vital part of understanding the causes of illness and deliverance from it. The borderline between Orthodox belief and magic was a thin one and there were those in the community skilled in seeking out those who trod close to witch-craft and sorcery. After experimenting with a "walking corpse" Jónas Pálmason went through a trial for running a school of necromancy and was banished to the barren island from where he writes his stories.

I know little of 17th century Iceland, but it all sounds very plausible as an example of Icelandic tales. A land of mountains, icy seas and ancient stories.
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