2008 Books in Translation Novella

The Blue Fox by Sjón

The Blue Fox Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb 

Five words from the blurb: Iceland, priest, Down’s Syndrome, landscape, fate

The Blue Fox is a confusing little book. It only really makes sense once you’ve finished it and have had plenty of time to reflect on the beautiful, but often strange passages.

The book is set in Iceland and begins with a captivating series of scenes in which Skugga-Baldur, the local priest, heads out in freezing conditions to try to capture a rare blue fox. This story is woven with several others, including that of a girl with Down’s syndrome and a ship wreck, but to say much more would spoil the mystery.

The writing in this book is fantastic. Much of it feels like a giant poem, especially the hunt scenes in which individual lines are given their own page. But, even when entire pages are given over to text the writing still sings with its vivid descriptions and almost mythical atmosphere.

In the halls of heaven it was now dark enough for the Aurora Borealis sisters to begin their lively dance of the veils. With an enchanted play of colours they flitted light and quick about the great stage of the heavens, in fluttering gold dresses, their tumbling pearl necklaces scattering here and there in their wild caperings.

The only downside is that its fragmented nature meant I couldn’t bond with any of the characters, but despite this problem the wonderful descriptions of the landscape and the glimpses into Icelandic culture meant that this book was well-worth reading.

Recommended to those who enjoy beautiful writing and are willing to work hard to piece together a fragmented story.


Those who’ve already read the book might be interested in this animation of it as I found it gave me even more food for thought:



The thoughts of other bloggers:

...a rather exquisite, highly nuanced novella… Reading Matters

 haunting and mesmeric and so different from anything else I’ve read. Stuck in a Book

…bold, memorable and wholly its own. Just William’s Luck


2012 Books in Translation

The Creator by Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir

The Creator Translated from the Icelandic by Sarah Bowen

Five words from the blurb: dolls, thief, salvation, loneliness, understanding

The Creator is an unusual novel about two people, each with their own set of foibles. Sveinn makes sex VIBRATORS in a workshop at his home and Lóa is struggling to cope with her daughter, who is suffering from an eating disorder. This unlikely couple meet when Lóa’s car breaks down in front of Sveinn’s house and he agrees to help her fix it.

The Creator is beautifully written, but quite hard to classify – at first it feels like a complex crime novel, but it develops into a character study that focuses on loneliness and belonging.

The book is narrated alternately by Lóa and Sveinn, which means the reader gets to see everything from both perspectives. At times this device was cleverly utilised, but it also meant that the plot was sometimes repetitive.

Lóa and Sveinn were wonderfully complex characters and I connected with both of them. At times the plot wasn’t very realistic, but their reactions to events always felt honest and believable.

When she managed to open her eyes she noticed that the light had altered since she laid her head on the pillow. The afternoon had engulfed the morning like an invisible avalanche of snow. Sweat held her hair fast to her neck, hunger rumbled round her belly and an uneasy memory of the morning’s events lay in ambush behind every thought.

Don’t be put off by the sex dolls – this book isn’t sleazy or filled with sex. I found myself appreciating the skill and patience needed to create these life-like sculptures, which seemed to be used for companionship more than anything else in this book.

My only complaint is that the plot seemed to fizzle out towards the end. The power of the first few chapters was never repeated and I occasionally lost interest in the slower paced scenes.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys literary novels that peek into the lives of dysfunctional people.