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Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was: A Novel Hardcover – August 2, 2016
2016 Book Awards
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“Moonstone is Sjón’s slim, simmering masterpiece. Vibrant and visceral, briskly paced but meditative, unsettling yet droll and flecked with beauty, it is a pitch-perfect study of transgression, survival, and love.”
“Sjón’s Moonstone is a marvel of a novel, queer in every sense of the word―an impeccable little gem.”
“[Sjón’s] prose is full of striking and poetic scenes . . . [Moonstone] resonates both as an allegory about society and sex, as well as a historical glimpse of a time when pandemic and war pressed upon Iceland from the south.”
“Concise, magical, and elegiac . . . Sjón is a minimalist genius, achieving so much with so little. And this work is brilliantly translated.”
―Brian Kenney, Booklist
"Moonstone is a slender but beautifully wrought novel, rich with meaning and interpretations that reward the reader's patience . . . Sjón has achieved a tremendous feat of empathy and understanding."
―Dale Boyer, The Gay & Lesbian Review
“[Sjón] delivers a quiet but compelling literary intervention into Iceland’s past . . . Written in magically incantatory prose.”
―Nathan Smith, Lambda Literary
“This small, strange, disquieting novel lingers in the mind for a long time.”
―Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald
“A glittering fable of sex and cinema . . . Though [Moonstone] is a deeply felt novel, Sjón’s prose is never histrionic or overwrought, balancing rage and hallucination (there are echoes of Artaud and Ballard) with a gentleness of spirit, an affection for precision and the small scale. The result is sure to delight his fans and convert many new ones.”
―Hari Kunzru, The Guardian
“The Icelandic novelist Sjón has already written three elegant, troubling historical fables―a kind of surrealist world history―and in his new novel Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was, translated by Victoria Cribb, he’s up to something at once similar and more uncanny. It tells the story of Máni Steinn, a gay man in Reykjavík in 1918. But it’s really an homage to the dreamlike aesthetic of Sjón’s artistic ancestry―presided over by Louis Feuillade’s great silent
movie serial, Les Vampires.”
―Adam Thirlwell, The Times Literary Supplement
“A magical book, the work of a great illusionist. You see the historical moment unfurl, luminous with desire and imagination and the flames of an erupting volcano, dark with repression, disease and death. You see it all through the poetic, poignant images of Máni Steinn’s story. And then in a final flourish you see it all vanish in a way that makes it unforgettable.”
“We should count ourselves fortunate to live in the age of Sjón―and double lucky for the lyrical English translations of his work by Victoria Cribb. For the past three decades the Icelandic author has been steadily building up an oeuvre that is never less than unpredictable, disarming and visionary . . . When Mani dreams, or slips into influenza’s feverish hallucinations, his visions of facial features, erotic encounters and the collision of the human and the technical operate in the same register as Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou or Hans Richter’s Ghosts Before Breakfast . . . Such magic is always handled by Sjón with restraint so that it seems as natural as the book’s quotidian details, those fine-grained descriptions of life in an town that, overnight, can find itself blanketed with volcanic ash, turning the world as hushed and monochromatic as the frames from a silent film.”
―Patrick Flanery, The Times Literary Supplement
“Moonstone is in some ways Sjón’s most straightforward book―but there is a wonderful netherworld quality to its ashen Reykjavík . . . Sjón’s work borders not only Bulgakov’s but also that of Jose Saramago.”
―Chris Power, The New Statesman
“A masterful, intricately woven story with unforgettable images, an intense style, and a unique hero. The reading experience of the year.”
“Moonstone is an eclectic display of light and shadows, beaming from the burning hot projection booth of a master illusionist.”
―Úlfhildur Dagsdóttir, literature.is [Iceland]
“Novel of the year.”
―Kolbrun Bergthosdottir, Mordunbladid Daily [Iceland]
“[Moonstone] can be read again and again, and still one can find something new. The text is clear, accessible, and very readable. There is never a redundant word and every one of them is carefully chosen. The story is written with great artistry as the author plays with rhythm, perception and the boundaries of realism and surrealism. If there is anything to criticize, it is how the author makes it hard for us to put the book down, not because there is something left unsaid, but simply because it is a joy to read. An amazing book.”
―Ingibjorg Dogg Kjartansdottir, DV Daily
About the Author
Sjón is the author of, among other works, The Blue Fox, From the Mouth of the Whale, and The Whispering Muse. Born in Reykjavík in 1962, he is an award-winning novelist, poet, and playwright, and his novels have been translated into thirty-five languages. Alongside his work as a writer, Sjón has taken part in a wide range of art exhibitions and music events. His longtime collaboration with the Icelandic singer Björk led to an Oscar nomination for his lyrics for the Lars von Trier movie Dancer in the Dark. He lives in Reykjavík.
Top Customer Reviews
The novel opens with a page long-description of a boy, age 14, giving fellatio to a middle aged man by a cliff in the boonies. He spends his tips watching silent movies. The year is 1918. Blow jobs and movies are the recurrent plot elements, and the former are described in such detail that I feared the book might end with a final exam.
If Sjon means to suggest something thoughtful about the relation of oral sex to movies, perhaps a psychological or symbolic connection, I missed it. Moreover, very little happens in the context of these two activities. We don't learn much about Iceland, for instance, and WWI is barely mention.
We do learn about the great influenza plague, and the story widens a bit as the buy assists the futile efforts of a neighborhood doctor. But these days end with the kid finding another aging penis to suck. A metaphor? A commentary on . . . something? The author forgets to provide clues.
In the final few pages, we are whisked forward to 1929. The young man now works in London, reference is made to the literary culture of the period, and perhaps we are meant to feel that progress of sorts has occurred--moral progress? psychological? social? But Sjon doesn't bother to go into it, and his ending fails to lend significance to the earlier drabness.
Publishing, transporting, storing, and advertising a book all expend human energy and natural resources, and I suppose we could thank Sjon for keeping it short. But imagining a "celebration" over a publication such as Sjon's Moonstone? It could be a curious story in itself--where is Shirley Jackson when we need her?