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From the Mouth of the Whale


6 Reviews

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Historical fiction

The highly-acclaimed novel by Iceland's internationally renowned writer Sjon - 'an extraordinary and original writer' A.S. Byatt - in a stunning new package.

Shortlisted for The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize 2013

Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012

'Sjon's novels are brilliant collisions of history and fable, psychology and fantasy' Chris Power, Guardian

The year is 1635. Iceland is a world darkened by superstition, poverty and cruelty. Men of science marvel over a unicorn s horn, poor folk worship the Virgin in secret and both books and men are burnt. Jonas Palmason, a poet and self-taught healer, has been condemned to exile for heretical conduct, having fallen foul of the local magistrate. Banished to a barren island, Jonas recalls his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjafjoll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers, and the deaths of three of his children.

FROM THE MOUTH OF THE WHALE is a magical evocation of an enlightened mind and a vanished age.

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Praise for From the Mouth of the Whale

  • Every now and then a writer changes the whole map of literature inside my head. The most recent has been the Icelander Sjon, whose work is unlike anything I had read, and very exciting ... I think of Icelanders as erudite, singular, tough, and uncompromising. Sjon is all these things, but he is also quicksilver, playful and surreal ... [Sjon] has changed the way I see things. - A.S. Byatt, The New York Review of Books

  • Sjon is the trickster that makes the world; and he is achingly brilliant... strange and wonderful, an epic made mad, made extraordinary. - Junot Diaz

  • Hallucinatory, lyrical and by turn comic and tragic-an extraordinary novel. - Hari Kunzru

  • Kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing, comic and poignant - Times Literary Supplement

  • Sjon's novels are brilliant collisions of history and fable, psychology and fantasy - Chris Power, Guardian

  • Wildly comic and incandescent, elegant and brittle. - Keith Donohue, Washington Post

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Born in Reykjavik in 1962, Sjon is the author of the novels The Blue Fox, The Whispering Muse, From the Mouth of the Whale, Moonstone, CoDex 1962 and Red Milk, for which he has won several prizes including the Nordic Council's Literature Prize and the Icelandic Literary Prize. He has also been shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and his work has been translated into thirty-five languages.

In addition, Sjon has written nine poetry collections as well as four opera librettos and lyrics for various artists. He was nominated for an Oscar for his lyrics in the film Dancer in the Dark. In 2017, Sjon became the third writer - following Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell - to contribute to Future Library, a public artwork based in Norway spanning a hundred years.

Sjon lives in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Victoria Cribb has translated more than twenty-five books by Icelandic authors. Her translation of Moonstone was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award and the PEN America Translation Prize in 2016. In 2017 she received the Ordstir honorary translation award for services to Icelandic literature.

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