In a remote part of Iceland, a boy and his friend Barour join a boat to fish for cod. A winter storm surprises them out at sea and Barour, who has forgotten his waterproof as he was too absorbed in 'Paradise Lost', succumbs to the ferocious cold and dies. Appalled by the death and by the fishermen's callous ability to set about gutting the fatal catch, the boy leaves the village, intending to return the book to its owner.
The extreme hardship and danger of the journey is of little consequence to him - he has already resolved to join his friend in death. But once in the town he immerses himself in the stories and lives of its inhabitants, and decides that he cannot be with his friend just yet.
Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Heaven and Hell is a perfectly formed, vivid and timeless story, lyrical in style, and as intense a reading experience as the forces of the Icelandic landscape themselves. An outstandingly moving novel.
Jon Kalman Stefansson's novels have been nominated three times for the Nordic Council Prize for Literature and his novel Summer Light, and then Comes the Night received the Icelandic Prize for Literature in 2005. In 2011 he was awarded the prestigious P.O. Enquist Award. He is perhaps best known for his trilogy - Heaven and Hell, The Sorrow of Angels (longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize) and The Heart of Man (winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize) - and for Fish Have No Feet (longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017).