From the Mouth of the Whale A Novel

Sjón; Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

240 Pages



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From the Mouth of the Whale is an Icelandic saga for the modern age. 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 burned.
Sjón introduces us to Jónas Pálmason, a poet and self-taught healer, banished to a barren island for heretical conduct, as he recalls his gift for curing “female maladies,” his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjáfjöll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers, and the deaths of three of his children. Pálmason’s story echoes across centuries and cultures, an epic tale that makes us see the world anew.


Praise for From the Mouth of the Whale

“Sjón is the trickster that makes the world, and he is achingly brilliant. From the Mouth of the Whale is strange and wonderful, an epic made mad, made extraordinary.”—Junot Díaz

“Hallucinatory, lyrical, by turns comic and tragic, this extraordinary novel should make Sjón an international name. His evocation of seventeenth-century Iceland through the eyes of a man born before his time has stuck in my mind like nothing else I’ve read in the last year.”—Hari Kunzru

"Something strange and wonderful has washed up on our shores for these long winter's nights . . . [From the Mouth of the Whale] is a kind of Robinson Crusoe of the northern climes, an entrancing novel about the wonders and cruelty of a changing world . . . Sjón writes like a madman. His novel is by turns wildly comic and incandescent, elegant and brittle with the harsh loneliness of a world turned to winter . . . there is no other way to navigate such waters but to dive right in."—Keith Donohue, The Washington Post

"In his second book to appear in English, From the Mouth of the Whale, the acclaimed Icelandic novelist and poet Sjón transports the reader to a different world and time. The tale of his supremely odd protagonist, who is based on a historical figure, makes for a terrific read . . . Victoria Cribb's superb translation conveys the intricacies of Sjón's language, Jónas's strange turns of phrase, and the novel's meandering narrative."—Lucy Popescu, The Independent

"Sjón . . . 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, The Guardian (UK) 

In the Press

Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Björk Introduces Sjón
Scandinavia House, The Nordic Center in America, 2013 Dear friends, I'd like to introduce a dear friend of mine, Sjón. I met him first when I was sixteen. With others he had started the first and only surrealist movement in Iceland, a group of six or so members called Medúsa. I was in a punk band at the time.
Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Sjón & Hari Kunzru
Authors in Conversation A heartfelt introduction by Björk is a hard act to follow. But when Sjón and Hari Kunzru took the stage at Scandinavia House, The Nordic Center of America, they pulled out all the stops: David Bowie, the Sex Pis...

Reviews from Goodreads



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Dazzling light: when the day is such a brilliant blue-white that the firmament is no longer a frame for the burning sun, rather the sun has become the kindling for a brilliant silver curtain that rises at the horizon and is drawn across the entire visible world, while the mountain ranges to the north, west, and south shimmer as if in a mirage, sometimes in shadow, sometimes in sunlight, but never still; and the sea is a sheet of billowing velvet, stretching from the shores of the island to the hem of the sky, while the island itself, glittering in its midst, is
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  • Sjón; Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb

  • Sjón is the author of, among other works, The Blue Fox and The Whispering Muse. Born in Reykjavík in 1962, he is an award-winning novelist, poet, and playwright. His novels

    have been translated into twenty-five languages. Also a lyricist, he has written songs for Björk, including for her most recent project, Biophilia, and was nominated for an Oscar for the lyrics he co-wrote (with Lars von Trier) for Dancer in the Dark. He lives in Reykjavík.

  •  Sjón Krsitinn Ingvarsson




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