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From The Mouth of the Whale

From The Mouth of the Whale

9781846590832 May 2011 Paperback 272pp

About the Book

The year is 1635. Iceland is a world darkened by superstition, poverty and cruelty. Men of science marvel over a unicorn’s horn, poor folk worship the Virgin in secret and both books and men are burnt. Jónas Pálmason, a poet and self-taught healer, has been condemned to exile for heretical conduct, having fallen foul of the local magistrate. Banished to a barren island, Jónas recalls his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjafjoll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers, and the deaths of three of his children.

From the Mouth of the Whale is a magical evocation of an enlightened mind and a vanished age.

About the Author

Sjón is a celebrated Icelandic poet and novelist. His novels have been translated into twenty-five languages and include From the Mouth of the Whale, The Blue Fox and The Whispering Muse (all by Telegram). Sjón won the Nordic Council Literary Prize, the equivalent of the Man Booker Prize, for The Blue Fox and 'Best Icelandic Novel' for The Whispering Muse in 2005. Also a songwriter, he has written lyrics for Björk, including for her eight studio album, Biophilia.

About the Translator

Victoria Cribb works as a freelance translator from Icelandic to English. She has an MA in Icelandic and Scandinavian Studies from UCL, a BPhil in Icelandic from the University of Iceland, and lived and worked in Iceland for a number of years as a publisher, journalist and translator.


'Sjón is a poet, and the aesthetic excitement is his own. He is an extraordinary and original writer. And his translator, Victoria Cribb, is also extraordinary in her rendering of the roughness and the elegance, the clarity and the oddity of this splendid book.
A.S. Byatt, Guardian

'Sjón transports the reader to a different world and time ... This is an extraordinarily accomplished novel that challenges and informs the reader in equal measure. Victoria Cribb's superb translation conveys the intricacies of Sjón's language, Jonas's strange turns of phrase, and the novel's meandering narrative.'
Lucy Popescu, Independent

'The narrative is kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing, comic and poignant by turns. Victoria Cribb s translation brilliantly captures these multiple changes in tone and scene ... From the Mouth of the Whale should open up a world of Icelandic writing beyond the crime novel and Reykjavik-based stories of disaffected urban youth, a world of nature and of ideas, which stands comparison with the Iceland of the Nobel Prize laureate Halldór Laxness.'
Carolyne Larrington, Times Literary Supplement

'Sjón is the trickster that makes the world; and he is achingly brilliant... strange and wonderful, an epic made mad, made extraordinary.'
Junot Díaz

'Wildly comic and incandescent, elegant and brittle'
Keith Donohue, Washington Post