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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Whispering Muse
I recently read From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón and it was a wonderful saga of a man's life. This book looked to be the same intriguing mix of life and wonderment. Set in 1949, Valdimar Haraldsson is invited to join a Danish merchant ship travelling to the Black Sea. Also on board is the mythical hero Caeneus, disguised as the second mate, who each evening...
Published 19 months ago by Keen Reader

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Existential or Empty?
It’s very difficult to review this, as I still can’t decide whether there was an existential parable going on here, or whether it was just too simple and too empty. I really did enjoyed the prose style – to a large extent thanks to the translation. But did I enjoy it as a whole?, weirdly I’m still not sure. Is the King undressed?
Published 22 months ago by Mr. IAN MCCORRY


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Whispering Muse, 31 Aug. 2013
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Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Whispering Muse (Paperback)
I recently read From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón and it was a wonderful saga of a man's life. This book looked to be the same intriguing mix of life and wonderment. Set in 1949, Valdimar Haraldsson is invited to join a Danish merchant ship travelling to the Black Sea. Also on board is the mythical hero Caeneus, disguised as the second mate, who each evening tells tales of his travels with Jason and the Argonauts. As Valdimar had for long held the theory (and published a journal on same) that the superiority of the Nordic race was linked to its high level of fish consumption, one imagines that Valdimar and Caeneus had a lot of stories to share.

This story is a real oddball - funny, and yet in places rather brutally horrifying. Valdimar is one of a kind, that's for sure - he clearly does not realise how he is viewed by other people, and when his company is mixed with the crew and passengers on the Danish ship, a very entertaining (for the reader anyway) outing ensues. I think in another time this book would have constituted a saga in its own right; told to an enthralled audience around the hearthfire on cold winter nights. Brilliantly witty, and ever so slightly odd - great stuff.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Existential or Empty?, 17 Jun. 2013
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Mr. IAN MCCORRY (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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It’s very difficult to review this, as I still can’t decide whether there was an existential parable going on here, or whether it was just too simple and too empty. I really did enjoyed the prose style – to a large extent thanks to the translation. But did I enjoy it as a whole?, weirdly I’m still not sure. Is the King undressed?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars weird and boring, 15 Dec. 2013
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Mr. Robert Marsland (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Whispering Muse (Paperback)
I don't know what the author of this book was thinking when he wrote this novel. Published in 2005 it nevertheless seems to be written in the prose style of the time when the story is supposed to be set i.e. early-ish in the twentieth century, and moreover appears to be aiming at some sort of parody of this sort of language, but it fails to be funny. Concerning a journey by boat and tales told along the way it manages the difficult task of being both weird and boring at the same time. not very good
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and droll, 20 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Whispering Muse (Paperback)
Engagingly naive narrator recounts delightfully pompous shaggy dog story. Pitch-perfect retro translation (we're mid-century), though 'final clean copy' (page 14) should surely be 'fair copy'. Congrats to Telegram Books of Westbourne Grove and to the translator from the Icelandic, Victoria Cribb, who obviously had a field day! An amazon.com reviewer of From the Mouth of the Whale calls her outstanding; I'll go with astounding
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull-pedantic writing., 25 Aug. 2014
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ambitious mix of Greek mythology & a modern sea voyage. However the writing is so dull; it just does not work. I managed to finish it-but only by skimming huge tracts of it. I realise that some people will enjoy it, however it really did not work for me at all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A charming book, 15 Jan. 2014
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Captivating from the first word though to the last; fantasy, legend, and the everyday wrapped up as a novel. Seamless translation. Heartily recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Whimsy, 30 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: The Whispering Muse (Paperback)
Good premis and good translation - but this is whimsy.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Myth or Mythos, From the Ancient Greek ''''' (muthos, "report", "tale", "story"), 6 July 2012
This review is from: The Whispering Muse (Paperback)
A story or set of stories relevant to or having a significant truth or meaning for a particular culture, religion, society, or other group.

Anything delivered by word of mouth: a word, speech, conversation, or similar; a story, tale, or legend, especially a poetic tale.

A tale, story, or narrative, usually verbally transmitted, or otherwise recorded into the written form from an alleged secondary source.

The interrelationship of value structures and historical experiences of a people, usually given expression through the arts.

The year is 1949, the year Iceland joined NATO, sparking off what is arguably Iceland's most famous riot in March of this year. The riot was prompted by the decision of Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, to join the newly formed NATO, thereby involving Iceland directly in the Cold War, opposing the Soviet Union and re-militarizing the country. All this appears to have bypassed the hero of Sjon's book The Whispering Muse, the self obsessed eccentric Valdimar Haraldsson, who has little regard for his fellow countrymen and whose thoughts are elsewhere because, also in March of this year, Haraldsson received a letter inviting him to join a Danish merchant ship on its way to the Black Sea. Haraldsson has been invited on this voyage because of his promotion of the idea that the predominantly fish diet of the Nordic race has led to their superiority, an idea he shared with the recently deceased son of the Danish shipping line owner, Haraldsson is a solitary man obsessed with this ideal and who has spent his life writing his journal Fisk og Kultur with aim of recording this perceived superiority.

Every evening on board the ship, everyone gathers round the captains table and one member of the crew regales them with tales of his adventures and exploits as a member of the crew of the legendary Argo.

This crewmember, claims to be Caeneus, who according to Greek mythology was originally a beautiful maiden named Caenis and was raped by Poseidon, who then promised to grant her anything she wished; she wished to become a man, so that nothing like this could ever happen to her again. Poseidon granted her wish, and in addition, made her/him invulnerable to all weapons. At the wedding of Pirithous, when fighting broke out between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, Caeneus slew many of the Centaurs but remained unharmed himself. The Centaurs tried in vain to kill him. Finally a mob of Centaurs began piling pine trees upon him, because they could not kill him, but Caeneus changed again and he flew away as a bird.

We learn this & much more as each evening Caeneus enthralls his fellow travellers, starting every tale by removing a piece of wood, a splinter from the bow of the Argo and holding it to his ear appearing to listen to its whisperings, then the telling unfolds as Caeneus entwines both Greek and Scandinavian mythology into his own story. Each evening he holds the passengers in the palm of his hand as he unfolds the tale of Jason and his heroes, of himself.

Mythos = anything delivered by word of mouth: a word, speech, conversation, or similar; a story, tale, or legend, especially a poetic tale, is an apt description of this fantastic (with all its meanings) yarn. Sjon's fiction trawls the world of myth and fable, gaily highlighting the absurdity and surrealism inherent within the genres. He has the ability to astonish with his storytelling and yet the language is precise, appearing to be pared back to the marrow with nothing extraneous or out of place. This is the second book of Sjon's I have read and I'm amazed how he can create a world that is, at the same point on the page, both totally believable and yet is also hallucinatory, grotesque, phantasmagorical and fabulous, this is a writer I want to know more about.
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The Whispering Muse
The Whispering Muse by Sjon (Paperback - 11 Jun. 2012)
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