A majestic, breathtaking novel by one of Iceland's greatest writers: 'an extraordinary and original writer' - AS Byatt
'This is a work of great ambition ... above all it feels like a work of virtuoso narrative for its own sake; an Icelandic 1001 Nights.' The Sunday Times
Jósef Loewe can recall the moment of his birth in August, 1962 and everything that has happened since - or so he claims to the woman listening to the tale of his life . . .
A love story
He begins with his father, Leo, a starving Jewish fugitive in World War II Germany. In a small-town guesthouse, Leo discovers a kindred spirit in the maid who nurses him back to health; together they shape a piece of clay into a baby.
A crime story
Leo escapes to Iceland with the clay boy inside a hatbox, only to become embroiled in a murder mystery. It is not until 1962 that his son Jósef can be born.
A science-fiction story
In modern-day Reykjavík, a middle-aged Jósef attracts the interest of a rapacious geneticist. Now, what lies behind Jósef's tale emerges. And as the story of genesis comes full circle, we glimpse the dangerous path ahead for humankind.
In this epic novel, Sjón has woven ancient and modern material into a singular masterpiece - encompassing genre fiction, history, theology, folklore, expressionist film, poetry, comic strips, myth, drama and, of course, the rich tradition of Icelandic storytelling.
Victoria Cribb has translated more than twenty-five books by Icelandic authors. Her translation of Moonstone was long-listed for the Best Translated Book Award and the PEN America Translation Prize in 2016. In 2017 she received the Orðstír honorary translation award for services to Icelandic literature.
Sjón is a raconteur of talent. He can flick from angelic frolics to seedy violence as if each tale were a smooth refraction of the last. He has a knack for high comedy, too. ... Victoria Cribb deserves equal praise for bringing all this zest into English so well. — Cal Revely-Calder, The Daily Telegraph
This is a work of great ambition ... above all it feels like a work of virtuoso narrative for its own sake; an Icelandic 1001 Nights. — The Sunday Times
Sjón writes with a poet's ear and a musician's natural sense of rhythm. This extraordinary performance, consisting of three books in one, sets out to entertain, but also to prod the reader towards a stark realisation of human mortality and the games fate plays . . . The influence of Günter Grass's The Tin Drum is evident. Sjón has mastered the earlier fabulist's technique of merging history with high-speed comedy and surreal profundity. With a man made of clay and a bewildered angel struggling to get rid of a symbolic trumpet, there are shades of the Bible as well as Milton. Sjón, an heir of Mikhail Bulgakov and Laurence Sterne, eases literary references into the text as mere suggestions. With the light, fluid touch of Victoria Cribb, a resourceful, often inspired translator who is alert to Sjón's quick-change vocal register and genre-hopping artistry, the effect is hypnotic. The reader becomes a gleeful collaborator in an extravaganza in which Bosch meets Chagall, with touches of Tarantino . . . His wild, subversive imagination is among his great strengths, not only in CoDex 1962 but throughout his work . . . This wayward, exciting odyssey confronts death throughout. Nothing is quite what it seems, and there are no easy answers. Here, instead, is an artist preoccupied with questions. — Eileen Battersby, Guardian, Book of the Day
Bewitching . . . His stories compound the dreamscapes of Surrealism, the marvels of Icelandic folklore and a pop-culture sensibility into free-form fables. Call it magic realism under Nordic lights . . . Sjón's finale anchors his ingenuity to a moving plea for solidarity Hrolfur, the entrepreneurial geneticist, yearns to "soar heavenwards into a world where imagination is the only law of nature that matters". CoDex 1962 applauds the aim, but distrusts his means and motive. The wild flight remains a mission not for scientists but for story-tellers. — The Economist
One blindingly beautiful section comprises a list of surrealist images, the nightly dreams of a group of townspeople . . . This book is a Norse Arabian Nights. Each section is a honeycomb. Stories are nested in stories and crack open to reveal rumour and anecdote, prose poems, tendrils of myth. This abundance isn't an empty show of virtuosity but rooted in Sjon's belief in the power and obligation of old-fashioned storytelling . . . [It] consumed me for the better part of a week. I can only echo Loewe, with gratitude, exasperation and awe. "This book's a bloody thief of time." — Parul Sehgal, New York Times
Sure to delight the reader . . . irresistibly sweeps the reader away . . . a masterpiece, meticulously executed from the first page to the last — Sigridur Albertsdottir, National Broadcasting Service Iceland
This book is psychedelic, it's potent and it wants to consume the whole world . . . Sjón is a prodigal storyteller in all senses of the phrase . . . he is a master of atmosphere, a fine observer of the cross-hatchings of human motivation and a vivid noticer of detail. — New York Times Book Review
Sjón's novels are brilliant collisions of history and fable, psychology and fantasy — Chris Power, Guardian
Dazzlingly funny and entertaining in sections, dramatic and tragic, light and serious, woven with the artistry we recognise in Sjón's other work ... he creates with his inexhaustible imagination a gorgeous and relevant ending — Fridrika Benonysdottir, Frettabladid
Iceland's literary spell-binder ... A tantalising smoke of marvel and magic drifts through Sjón's work — Boyd Tonkin, Economist 1843
Sjón is one of our era's great writers. Like Ovid, Kafka, and Bulgakov, he is fascinated by metamorphosis and, from apparently limitless resources of the imagination, can convey what it must feel like — Charles Baxter, Nation
An extraordinary and original writer — A.S. Byatt