Sjón, Icelandic author

Last year Sjón (short for Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson) won the Nordic Counsil Literary Prize for his wonderful novel Skugga-Baldur (link goes to an english review). The title is an intertext to old sagas and legends, and especially one legend that tells about a mystery offspring of a cat and a fox. A creature lurking around in the fogs and the shadows of Iceland. The title also means demon or sinister, evil person.

The parish priest Baldur Skuggason goes on a fox hunt, but has trouble catching the grey figure that he’s following. Turns out that Skuggason (which means Son of Shadow) has a dark history, and that fate has caught up with him. It is Skugga-Baldur, the shadow creature from the legends that is leading him away from civilization and further into the wilderness. To punish him, maybe. Or maybe Sjón just wants to tell us that evil deeds never go unnoticed, unmarked. The style balances between the suggestive language of poetry and epic prose. All together, it’s a very appealing mix of legend, saga, nature and ethics. Without being moralising, or romanticizing.

To finish off this blogpost about Sjón and his book, I want to link to an interesting text that he wrote about writing. It’s not an icelandic text, but an english translation, so please read it, it takes only two minutes. And maybe it gives you some thoughts or questions that we can discuss here later on?

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