Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
The mesmerising new novel by Iceland's internationally renowned writer Sjón - 'the trickster that makes the world, and he is achingly brilliant' Junot Díaz, 'an extraordinary and original writer' A.S. Byatt.
Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize
The year is 1918 and in Iceland the erupting volcano Katla can be seen colouring the sky night and day from the streets of Reykjavik. Yet life in the small capital carries on as usual, despite the natural disaster, a shortage of coal and, in the outside world, the Great War grinding on.
There, sixteen-year-old Máni Steinn lives for the new fashion - the movies. Asleep he dreams altered versions of them, their tapestry of events threaded with strands from his own life. Awake he hovers on the fringes of society. But then the Spanish flu epidemic comes ashore, killing hundreds and driving thousands into their sick beds. The shadows of existence deepen and for Máni everything changes.
Capturing Iceland at a moment of profound transformation, this is the story of a misfit in a place where life and death, reality and imagination, secrets and revelations jostle for dominance. With not a word wasted, this mesmerising and original novel is the work of a major international writer.
Born in Reykjavik in 1962, Sjón is a celebrated Icelandic author. He won the Nordic Council's Literary Prize for his novel The Blue Fox and the novel From The Mouth Of The Whale was shortlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was was awarded the 2013 Icelandic Literary Prize. Also a poet, librettist and lyricist, he has worked with his countrywoman Björk, written three operas and published eleven volumes of poetry. His novels have been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Reykjavik with his wife and two children.
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- Publication date:
02 Jun 2016
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Sjón's prose is never histrionic or overwrought, balancing rage and hallucination . . . with a gentleness of spirit, an affection for precision and the small scale. The result is sure to delight his fans and convert many new ones. — Hari Kunzru, Guardian
MOONSTONE is Sjón's slim, simmering masterpiece. Vibrant and visceral, briskly paced but meditative, unsettling yet droll and flecked with beauty, it is a pitch-perfect study of transgression, survival and love. — David Mitchell
A work of miniaturist perfection: a brief, brilliant jewel of a book in which each paragraph is precision-cut, each sentence burnished. — Sarah Crown, Guardian
I always enjoy Sjón's books, but Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was is an experience like no other. The author confronts his own limits, and raises the bar for the reader too. His portrayal of Reykjavik in 1918 is magical. The scene where a movie theatre falls silent, because all the musicians have succumbed to an outbreak of Spanish flu, is marvellous and very amusing. The novel has given me my best reading experience this year. — Eka Kurniawan, Best Books of 2016, Financial Times
Tender, elegiac and occasionally surreal — Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times, Summer Books
When the meaning of the book's subtitle is finally explained, the effect is powerful. MOONSTONE is about human decency, courage and respect for the individual. It is a small book with a large heart. — Chris Power, New Statesman
A magical book, the work of a great illusionist. You see the historical moment unfurl, luminous with desire and imagination and the flames of an erupting volcano, dark with repression, disease and death. You see it all through the poetic, poignant images of Máni Steinn's story. And then in a final flourish you see it all vanish in a way that makes it unforgettable. — Adam Foulds
Sjòn's Moonstone is a marvel of a novel, queer in every sense of the word - an impeccable little gem — Rabih Alameddine