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From the Mouth of the Whale Paperback – November 22, 2011
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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 is the trickster that makes the world; and he is achingly brilliant.From the Mouth of the Whale is strange and wonderful, an epic made mad, made extraordinary."Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
"Hallucinatory, lyrical, by turns comic and tragic, this extraordinary novel should make Sjón an international name. His evocation of seventeenth century Iceland through the eyes of a man born before his time has stuck in my mind like nothing else I’ve read in the last year." Hari Kunzru, author of The Impressionist and My Revolutions
"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, The Guardian
'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
It gracefully captures the spirit of the age...a moving and often humorous tale” Winnepeg Free Press
"Intense and enigmatic, Jónas’ tale unfolds with the power of both myth and memory." Booklist
"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 Halldór Laxness." Carolyne Larrington, The 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 Sjón's language, Jonas's strange turns of phrase, and the novel's meandering narrative." Lucy Popescu, The Independent
Top Customer Reviews
The book places you in the mind of a man like no other you're ever encountered. You'll meet Jónas Pálmason (also called Jónas the Learned), a good man born with an all-consuming hunger to understand the natural world, a man with keen scientific curiosity, but a man hampered by the dark and brutal social and psychological realities of the times in which he was born. He is portrayed with exquisite psychological and lyrical depth, yet he exists in a world teeming with supernatural and religious realism.
Of course, this is a modern Nordic sage, but it is also a charming and enlightening character study like no other you may ever have experienced. In essence, it attempts to place you in the mind of a person from a long bygone era. Too often, when we read about people from the distant past, we encounter modern humans cloaked in the trappings of the age.Read more ›
Aside from a brief trip to Copenhagen to plead his case, the whole of Jónas's story is confined to his island. After years of solitude, Jónas's identity has merged with that of his desolate surroundings:
"I am the brother of all that divides, all that curls, all that intertwines, all that waves ... after the day's rain showers the web of the world becomes visible ... the moment night falls, the beads of moisture glitter on its silver strings ... nature is whole in its harmony."
Jónas's weighty and formal voice makes his story feel almost Biblical, calling to mind the universal conflict between innovation and repression. And, like that of many visionaries throughout history, Jónas's tale is filled with loathsome villains "who every day outlive their victims, sprawling in their high seats and thrones, gorging themselves on meat, dripping with grease, from the livestock that grew fat on the green grass in meadows tended with diligence by innocent, God-fearing souls; congratulating themselves on having stripped this man of his livelihood and that woman of her breadwinner.Read more ›
I was prompted to read this book when I learned that the author is from Iceland. Having had an enjoyable visit to Iceland some years ago, I am intrigued by all things Icelandic. I was hoping for something raw and epic, like Iceland itself. However, I feel that this story could have occurred in almost any coastal town in Medieval Europe, and that there was little that was uniquely Icelandic about it.
The real story for me began past the hundredth page, in the chapter called "Kidney Stone." There, our hero, a man convicted of allegations of sorcery through the political schemings of a morally corrupt official in his native Iceland, travels to Copenhagen in hopes of justice and a pardon from the Danish authorities. This section is sandwiched between chapters at the beginning and end of the book which are essentially the first-person rantings of Jonas in his angry and somewhat unhinged state, which convey character but don't supply much in terms of furthering the story.
There's one dream passage late in the book, where he's swimming deep into the ocean to have a conversation with a dead man, that is particularly beautiful to read.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Over the course of the time it took me to read this book, my mind kept yammering "Three stars..three stars". Read morePublished 18 months ago by NostraSeamus
I cannot express how much I did not like this book but I'll attempt to list a few of my problems.
First, the plot is boring a maze of ridiculous happenings and boring prose. Read more
Perfect for someone who likes myth and irony united in one book. It is difficult to like the narrator through most of the book, but he becomes more human at the end and suddenly I... Read morePublished on January 22, 2014 by Grady Holley
Wonderful story, wonderfully told with echoes of classical Greece in a modern Scandinavian setting -- and a deliciously ambiguous ending. Read morePublished on December 3, 2013 by rd
This and Sjon's two other books in English are wonderful!!! They are strange and deeply moving. They are modern day Icelandic Sagas full of the dark mystery of the place.Published on November 20, 2013 by Glory Be!
Just read it. Especially the last part. An amazing book that I don't want to ruin by characterizing it any further.Published on November 19, 2013 by jbld