The Blue Fox by Sjón

Sjón is an Icelandic writer, and I bought an English translation of this novel while I was on holiday in Iceland last month. Sjón is first and foremost a poet, and this is a very slim little volume - barely more than 100 pages. But those pages are so full of magic and beauty and harshness and such a vivid sense of place that I could barely believe the author managed to say so much in so few words. In that sense, and in some of its themes, this book reminds me of Alan Garner's brilliant Thursbitch - and coming from me, that is not a comparison to be taken lightly.

The Blue Fox is the story of a huntsman-priest in 19th century Iceland, Baldur Skuggason, obsessed with hunting the mysterious 'blue fox' or 'skugga-baldur' that roams the snow-covered mountain landscape in the dark days of midwinter. It's also the story of the herbalist Fridrik Fridjonsson and Abba, the horribly abused young Down's Syndrome woman he has taken in and loves like a daughter, helping her to compile a collection of carefully-identified feathers from Iceland's rich and varied bird life as he gradually learns the strange language she has created for herself during her years of neglect. It's the story of life, death, shamanism, landscape and metamorphosis, as the hunter becomes the hunted, human beings become puzzles, and the landscape and language become one and the same.

The Blue Fox could only ever have been written in Iceland, in that unique landscape, that odd mixture of beauty and harshness. Like a Nordic fairytale, it combines magic and brutality, gentleness and violence, the metaphysical and the mundane. 

As a young man, studying in Denmark, Fridrik tells his opium-smoking companions: "I have seen the universe; it is made of poems." His Danish friends laugh and tell him he is "a true Icelander" - and they are right. I've been to Iceland, and never before have I ever been so convinced that the universe is, without a doubt, made of poems.

Comments

  1. This is a must-read for me. I am practically vibrating in my seat. (without aid of battery-operated devices, I hasten to add)

    So glad you picked it up and reviewed here.

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  2. Hi!

    I saw you following me and checked up on you, it´s you =)

    I tried to comment yesterday, but it seems I failed, probably just as good since I was excited and babbled. Anyhow, it´s good to find you here and I now follow. And I´m so glad you´re feeling better!

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  3. Hello! Yes, it's me... I should have told you that when I followed your blog, sorry! I don't advertise this blog on LJ because I'm not keen on the idea of lots of people on LJ knowing my real name, but you are of course an exception! ;-)

    I really like your writing, by the way. Really enjoyed your 3 Word Wednesday entries. :-)

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  4. Thanks! I plan to mix crappy stuff with good, if I can! And write myself into a better person =)

    I´m happy to have you around!

    ReplyDelete

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