So it was a dog last week, this week it's a fox, a blue one, and I'm just wondering what it might be next week (suggestions?)
But firstly I'm also wondering how a publisher like Telegram Books has passed unnoticed in my reading life to date?
Why hadn't I heard of them?
Should I get out more?
Do the reps get this far because surely I'd notice books like these on the shelves?
The Telegram list is that perfect blend of old and new with plenty of fiction in translation which I always love, writers from Turkey, the Faroe Islands, Lebanon, China and my first Telegram read Iceland.
What with being a snow expert now, Iceland seemed an appropriate place to read after my Alafoss Lopi moment but I have also read a few other Icelandic authors and enjoyed them, though I'll admit I'm building slowly to tackling Halldor Laxness (fortify me someone, tell me I'll be alright)
However to The Blue Fox by Sjón.
That queen of Iceland Bjork thinks this is a 'magical novel' whilst A.S.Byatt finds it 'comic and lyrical' so I must see what it is all about.
The author I discover is actually a poet, lyricist and song writer too, Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson and the pen name Sjón means 'sight'.
This all bodes well if he can pull it off.
Well I have to agree The Blue Fox is magical, as events during a week in January 1883 unfold and the Reverend Baldur Skuggason sets off on an ill-fated hunting expedition in the teeth of a howling blizzard. Meanwhile his neighbour Fridrik Fridjonsson is dealing with something else entirely.
Having returned to settle his parents' affairs in the neighbourhood fifteen years earlier and intending just a brief sojourn, Fridrik found himself tied to his home again by an act of kindness with the discovery of Hafdis Jonsdottir. Calling herself Abba, Fridrik finds the young girl with Down's Syndrome manacled and ill-treated in a ship which had run aground.
His life with Abba since has been one of pure revelation and when events with Abba weave inextricably with those surrounding the blue fox and Rev. Skuggason, I realised that I was reading one of those deceptively simple but deeply meaningful fables with a hint of fairy tale and perfect elements of myth and mysticism.
Poets, if they can successfully make the transition to fiction, do it with that special word-gift. That minimalist approach, a paring down to the very essentials and you know every single word holds power and meaning. In The Blue Fox, a single sentence on a page requires careful thought, not a quick flick onto the next page and I was frequently stopping to consider
' The sun warms the white man's body, and the snow melting with a diffident creaking, passes for birdsong.'
Or this beautiful description of the Northern Lights and my apologies, I can't credit this photo, it arrived in one of those e mails that do the rounds but I had to use it, it fits Sjon's words perfectly.
'The rim of daylight was fading.
In the halls of heaven it was now dark enough for the Aurora Borealis sisters to begin their lively dance of the veils. With an enchanted play of colours they flitted light and quick about the great stage of the heavens, in fluttering gold dresses, their tumbling pearl necklaces scattering here and there in their wild caperings.'
The book has its amusing moments too.
Man stalks fox who lures man on deeper and deeper into unknown territory, fortunately man has packed lunch with him,
'Hand thick slabs of lamb, rye cakes with sheep's butter, sour as gall, topped with mutton sausage, a dried cod's head, pickled blood pudding, dried fish, curd porridge and a lump of brown sugar.'
Good, sounds worse than...than...yes, bubble and squeak or heaven forfend...um...tripe and jellied eels (I'll bet someone out there loves tripe as much as all the b&s fans) because even this early on in the book I'm beginning to think this may be just what Reverend Skuggason deserves.
As always hats off to the translator Victoria Cribb. I have always understood that Icelandic is a fiendishly difficult language to grasp, making that capture of the essence of a book like this all the more impressive.
This one would make a splendid book group read because even as I have written this new revelations have come to mind, that fox is still beckoning and I know there is plenty that I have missed in my first reading. All adding to the value of a book like The Blue Fox, it will hold up to many visits and countless interpretations and actually I can't wait to read it again.