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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.
“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)