Book Review – THE BLUE FOX by Sjon
The Blue Fox Synopsis :
“When I need something epic and lyrical I call upon Sjón . . . The Blue Fox is a magical novel.” – Björk
Set against the stark backdrop of the Icelandic winter, an elusive, enigmatic fox leads a hunter on a transformative quest. At the edge of the hunter’s territory, a naturalist struggles to build a life for his charge, a young woman with Down syndrome whom he had rescued from a shipwreck years before. By the end of Sjón’s slender, spellbinding fable of a novel, none of their lives will be the same.
Winner of the 2005 Nordic Council Literature Prize — the Nordic world’s highest literary honor — The Blue Fox is part mystery, part fairy tale, and the perfect introduction to a mind-bending, world-class literary talent.
Translated from the original Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
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Sjon’s The Blue Fox had been on my wish list for some time. Having the opportunity to see the author speak at the recent Brisbane Writers Festival gave me the push I needed to finally get myself a copy.
With all due respect to Bjork, the story contained within The Blue Fox is not epic — it beautifully hones in on the plight of a small few in the broader scheme of things. However, what can be described as epic, or universal, are the concepts and themes drawn upon within this intimate tale.
Sjon was a huge hit at the festival by the way, a very popular speaker – he displayed open-mindedness and modesty, coupled with a great sense of humour – clearly a keen student of the world and its people, collecting ideas and interests in his travels. He spoke of his belief that everything is connected in some way – time, nature, folklore – and his keen interest in the concept of metamorphosis and reincarnation.
The world opens its good eye a crack. A ptarmigan belches. The streams trickle under their glazing of ice, dreaming of spring when they’ll swell to a life-threatening force.
Initially I simply found Sjon’s anthropomorphic filter charming, but as the story developed the power of that viewpoint was revealed.
The Blue Fox is a construct of different narrative viewpoints, each with distinct writing styles, one in particular very surreal. Some passages had greater momentum than others. It could be that the translation played a part in that, but Sjon was highly complementary of Victoria Cribb’s interpretation.
While beguiling and dreamlike, what I most admired about The Blue Fox was its grounded, darkly humorous karmic sting in the tail.
Recommended for those with a literary bent. I look forward to reading more of Sjon’s work.
* In case you’re wondering, a ‘ptarmigan’ is an Arctic grouse, a bird.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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Genre: Literature, Drama, Translation
About the Author, Sjon
Born in Reykjavik in 1962, Sjón is a celebrated Icelandic novelist. He won the Nordic Council’s Literary Prize for his novel ‘The Blue Fox‘ (the equivalent of the Man Booker Prize) and the novel ‘From The Mouth Of The Whale’ was shortlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. His latest novel ‘Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was’ was awarded the 2013 Icelandic Literary Prize. Also a poet, librettist and lyricist, he he frequently works with musicians and composrs, among them is his country woman Björk. Sjón is the president of the Icelandic PEN Centre and former chairman of the board of Reykjavik, UNESCO city of Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages. Check out Sjon’s official website.