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The Blue Fox: A Novel Paperback – April 30, 2013
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In January 1883 in Iceland, “Everything . . . is blue.” Rural pastor Baldur Skuggason hunts a fox for its pelt, which he will sell to supplement his meager income. The herbalist Fridrik B. Fridjonsson is completing a hoax on Baldur that has allowed him, Herb-Fridrik, to bury his longtime assistant, who had Down syndrome, with more reverence than the grumpy, prejudiced minister ever could show. A flashback showing how Herb-Fridrik met his helper completes the action of this short novel by poet and pop-music lyricist (most famously for Iceland’s international star, Björk) Sjón. The tale is tinged by metamorphoses, however, of animal into human and vice versa, and it is written primarily in the spare, concrete diction of nature poetry—indeed, its opening section looks like a sequence of prose poems. Leavened by dry rural humor in the characters’ speech and thoughts, it is magnetically readable. See also The Whispering Muse. --Ray Olson
“When I need something epic and lyrical I call upon Sjón . . . The Blue Fox is a magical novel.” ―Björk
“The Blue Fox describes its world with brilliant, precise, concrete colour and detail . . . Comic and lyrical.” ―A. S. Byatt, The Times (London)
“Enchantingly poetic . . . Spellbinding . . . Magical . . . Exceptional . . . Require[s] that one use the loose descriptive ‘thriller' too.” ―Nuruddin Farah, The Independent
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This small book can be read easily in a single sitting...yet it is also the type of literature that benefits from a second reading. Personally, I enjoyed it far more when rereading it than I did the first time around. I had to use the dictionary frequently and had to pay special attention to Icelandic names and nicknames.
In my opinion, there is no single right way to interpret this parable. Readers will uncover various personal messages that bear significance to their individual lives. But I feel strongly that the emphasis of this novel is not on the meaning behind the parable, rather it is on the joy, magic, and humor of the telling. Sjon is an imp of a storyteller; his stories can move off suddenly in any direction: dark, bizarre, touching, dazzling, brilliant, wise. He frequently uses contrasting literary styles--especially stark realism versus magical realism--to evoke synergy and literary counterpoint. Reading Sjon is, above all, an experience. Allow yourself to feel his words. If you've read one book and liked it, then I suspect you'll eagerly want to come back for more.
"The Blue Fox" is one of a trilogy of Sjon's prize-winning novellas that are currently being published (by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) for the first time in the U.S. in outstanding translations by Victoria Cribb. The other two books in this series are "The Mouth of the Whale" and "The Whispering Muse." All three books are a steal at the current Kindle price if you consider that you are not only paying for the author's work, but also for the work of the translator...and a very fine translation it is!
"Things change- nothing persists. The burden that is well borne becomes light." These two puzzles emerge, and it our job to discern how they impact our tale.