This book jolts you into a world that feels simultaneously very long ago and far away, and startlingly modern. Maybe a century ago isn’t that long ago, after all?
The orphan boy of the title is rooted in both a very local and very global context. His Rekjavik is racked by Spanish influenza just as Iceland finally gains its independence from Denmark, at the end of the Great War ‘to end all wars’ (not that it did). He escapes the harshness of his life into the magical world of the movies, never missing a picture.
Sjón interweaves personal and political history, little stories and big stories, amazingly skilfully. He gives life and voice to queerness and gay culture in a time when it could not speak its name. I devoured it in one sitting.
Sjón’s Moonstone: The boy who never was, translated by Victoria Cribb, is one of 48 books in translation up for the International Dublin Literary Award. If you read one a week, that’s your new year’s reading list pretty much sorted for 2018. I’ll still be sharing what I enjoy reading in translation with you this year here too, but less frequently, aiming for fortnightly rather than weekly. This is partly because I have a new website to maintain (kswtranslations.com), but also because I want to have more time for reading in the original languages, too.
Have a wonderful new year, full of discoveries, inside and outside good books!