Guðbergur Bergsson: Svanurinn (The Swan)


The latest addition to my website is Guðbergur Bergsson‘s Svanurinn (The Swan), the only one of Bergsson’s novels to be translated into English, though several have been translated into other languages. This one is a strange story about a nine-year old girl who has been caught shoplifting and sent to work on a remote farm as her punishment. The girl (none of the characters in the book is named) adapts fairly well to her life but is soon exposed both to the beauties of nature but also to more disturbing aspects of rural life, including the slaughter of animals, sexual abuse, intimations of death and strange dreams. In short, the countryside is a strange place in Bergsson’s view with its good, its bad and its ugly. The farm where she is staying is overlooked by a high mountain and, she is told, there is a large lake at the top of the mountain, in which a monster lives, who sometimes appears as a swan and foretells the fate of those that see it. She will climb the mountain to look for the lake and the swan. It is an unusual novel but somewhat different from other Icelandic novels, even if the theme of the loss of the past and changes in Icelandic life is found here as in many Icelandic novels.

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