muse

The latest addition to my website is Sjón‘s Argóarflísin (The Whispering Muse). This is another first-class novel by Sjón. It tells the story of a man called Valdimar Haraldsson, a racist, who has made his name by producing a journal devoted to proving the superiority of the Nordic people because of their consumption of fish and who spent World War II in Germany, reading the news in Icelandic. Because of his connections with the son of a shipping line magnate, he is offered, in 1949, a chance to go on the maiden voyage of a cargo ship, going to Norway to collect raw paper and thence to Turkey and Soviet Georgia. The ship has the usual assortment of strange characters but none more so than the second mate Caeneus, one of the legendary Argonauts. Over the course of the book, he tells the tale of one of the adventures of the Argonauts, when they visited the Island of Lemnos, where there were no men, either driven away (Caeneus’ story) or killed (the traditional myth). Sjon even manages to incorporate an Icelandic legend into this tale. An injury at the paper works and Haraldsson’s concerns about the fish-less meals add grist to the mill, leaving us with a first-class, thoroughly enjoyable novel