Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review - The Blue Fox by: Sjon

Title: The Blue Fox
Author: Sjon
Publisher: Telegram Books
Pages: 112
Format: Paperback
Source: Read Turkish copy


“The Blue Fox is a magical novel.”—Bj√∂rk

The year is 1883, and the stark Icelandic landscape is the backdrop for this spellbinding fable that is part mystery, part fairy tale. The fates of a priest, a naturalist, and a young woman with Down syndrome are intrinsically bound and gradually, surprisingly unraveled.

"Sjon's fable...describes its world with brilliant, precise, concrete colour and detail while at the same time making things and people mysterious and ungraspable...The world of 19th-century Iceland is brilliantly and economically present: the bareness of the dwellings, the roughness of the churches and congregations, the meager food...The novel is a parable, comic, and lyrical about the nature of things."—A.S. Byatt for The Times

Sjon was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1962. A novelist, playwright, lyricist, and poet, he wrote the lyrics to Bjork’s hit songs “Isobel,” “Joga,” and “Bachelorette” and was nominated for an Academy Award for his lyrics to the music for the film Dancer in the Dark, directed by Lars von Trier.

My thoughts: 

I slip right into dreamland even by just thinking about taking a walk under the Aurora Borealis lights… For The Blue Fox’s protagonist Peter Baldur Skuggason, on the other hand, this isn’t enough probably because he is a hunter, and he is after a blue fox which is considered a “mysterious and valuable being.” 

I should warn you right away that you SHALL NOT throw this book to the side by saying, “this is going wayyyyy toooo slooooowwwwwwlllyyyy.” You will soon find out that Sjon chooses for the story to go this slowly, does it knowingly in order to reflect Iceland’s tough geography, make you smell it to the littlest detail and bring you inside the mind games among the hunter and the hunt. While I was reading this book, it was snowing here in Istanbul, which helped (but was definitely not necessary to) feel the cold in my bones. 

While Peter is stuck under the snow, you’re stuck with him. When someone brews tea, you can smell it. In the game between the hunter and the hunt, you get inside both their minds and also get a bit confused about which side you should be on. In addition, you get quite a bit information about Iceland: some of it you might’ve known or guessed, but some of it you might not have even imagined. For example, when a disabled baby was born, he/she was choked by the midwives, who told the parents that the baby was “born dead.” I was completely blown away when I read this, and I tried to calm myself down thinking, “this may be in 1883, but hopefully they don’t do this anymore.” 

Without making this any longer, I’m just going to tell you that you should read this book. The Turkish translation I’ve read wasn’t at all a good translation, but I checked out the English version and that one seems to capture the original book’s poetic language. Also, I was amazed to find out that this Sjon is the Sjon who wrote most of the lyrics on the songs in Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” movie.

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