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The Whispering Muse

The Whispering Muse

9781846591242 May 2012 Paperback 144pp

About the Book

The year is 1949 and Valdimar Haraldsson, an eccentric Icelander with elevated ideas about the influence of fish consumption on Nordic civilisation, has had the singular good fortune to be invited to join a Danish merchant ship on its way to the Black Sea.

Among the crew is the mythical hero Caeneus, disguised as the second mate. Every evening after dinner he entrances his fellow travellers with the tale of how he sailed with the fabled vessel the Argo on the Argonauts’ quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece.

A master storyteller, Sjón seamlessly blends seafaring yarns of the ancient world with the manners of the modern age.


About the Author

Sjón is a celebrated Icelandic poet and novelist. His novels have been translated into twenty-five languages, including The Whispering Muse. Sjón won the '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.


'Every now and then a writer changes the whole map of literature inside my head. The most recent has been the Icelander Sjón, whose work is unlike anything I had read, and very exciting … I think of Icelanders as erudite, singular, tough, and uncompromising. Sjón is all these things, but he is also quicksilver, playful and surreal … [Sjón] has changed the way I see things.'
A.S. Byatt, The New York Review of Books

'Funny, strange, provoking and disturbing; darkness with a light touch.'
Times Literary Supplement

'The Whispering Muse is a quirky, melodic, ticklish, seamlessly-translated, lovingly-polished gem of a novel. Sjón's work deserves space on any self-respecting bookshelf of European fiction.'
David Mitchell

'Long-term fans of Sjón, the Icelandic bard whose projects have included lyrics for Björk, volumes of surrealist poetry and several prizewinning novels, will recognise this trademark interweaving of myth and postmodern playfulness ... The Whispering Muse is essential reading'

'Sjón writes like a man under a spell, filled with enchantment and magic and great wit. He is a rogue of the first order.'
Keith Donohue

'The Whispering Muse is a wonderful story about stories, evoking comparisons to Borges, Nabakov and Calvino while remaining a complete original. Sly, dry and elegant, with a diamond brilliance'
Chris Wilson

'An extraordinary, powerful fable – a marvel.'
Alberto Manguel

'Once again, Sjón has chosen an unusual subject, interwoven the fantastical with the ordinary, and produced a complex and strangely compelling work of fiction.'
Huffington Post

'When a poet such as Sjón writes a novel, the reader may expect the elliptical in both senses of the word – economy and ambiguousness ... Seamlessly translated by Victoria Cribb.'
World Literature Today

'A short effective burst of whimsy and surprise'
Three Percent