recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : sjón   10

Place and Displacement: Sjón on Surrealism and Folk Stories on Vimeo
"Icelandic author Sjón talks about the connection between Surrealism and folk Stories."
sjón  folklore  iceland  surrealism  folktales  storytelling  2012  place  displacement 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sjonorama | The Information Site about the Icelandic Author Sjón
[See also: http://sjon.siberia.is/books/ ]

"Born on the 27th of August, 1962, in Reykjavik, Iceland, Sjón began his literary career at the tender age of 15 when his first poetry collection, Sýnir (Visions), was published in 1978. He was one of the founding members of the neo-surrealist group Medúsa and early on acquired a high profile on the Reykjavík cultural scene. He has published numerous poetry collections and seven novels, as well as written plays, librettos and picture books for children.

In 2005 Sjón won the prestigious Nordic Council’s Literary Prize for his fifth novel Skugga- Baldur (Schattenfuchs in German) which has been sold to publishers in 21 countries. In 2009 the English edition of Skugga-Baldur was nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Sjón’s latest novel Rökkurb!snir (From the Mouth of the Whale in English/Gleißen der Nacht in German) from 2008 has recently been published to much acclaim in German by S. Fischer, in Spanish by Nordica Libros, in English by Telegram Books, among others. In 2013 The Whispering Muse (Argóarflísin) was published in the USA and Canada by Farrar, Straus & Giroux gathering great reviews on both sides of the border.

His latest novel Mánasteinn – drengurinn sem aldrei var til (Moonstone – The Boy Who Nevere Was) was published in October 2013 and has won every literature prize there is in Iceland. It has been sold for publication in the USA, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Czech republic.

Sjón’s poems have been translated into more than twenty languages. and have appeared in anthologies and magazines as well as in separate editions in French, figures obscures (Cahiers de Nuit), German, Gesang des Steinesammlers (Kleinheinrich), and Macedonian, Anatomija na gladniot (SPV). His latest collection of poems söngur steinasafnarans (the song of the stone collector) was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize in 2007.

During the academic year 2007/08 Sjón held the Samuel Fischer Guest Professorship at the Freie Universität in Berlin. He was the guest of the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramme in the year 2010/11. Sjón resides in Reykjavík with his wife and two children.

Currently Sjón is writing the final volume of a trilogy started in 1994 with Augu “ín sáu mig (De te yeux, tu me vis in French, Tus ojos me vieron in Spanish) with the two earlier books already published in several languages, most recently in French.

Alongside his work as writer Sjón has taken part in a wide range of art exhibitions and music events. His long-time collaboration with the Icelandic singer Björk led to an Oscar nomination for his lyrics for the Lars von Trier movie Dancer in the Dark.

The Blue Fox, the English translation of Skugga-Baldur, was nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the International Jan Michalski Prize for Literature. From The Mouth Of The Whale (Rökkurbýsnir) was shortlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize."
sjón  iceland  literature  poetry 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sjón, Happy Nihilist - The Reykjavik Grapevine
"It is understandable, then, why Sjón would be so excited about our own great moment in history.” We are torn,” he says. “On the one hand we have created technology which demands we use our potentials more fully, and on the other hand we have used technologies to devise our own demise.” The theme of the extinction of the human race lurks throughout our conversation like a hunter stalking his prey. Albeit less quietly, like an unseasoned hunter, crashing through the woods raucously, swinging a machete and screaming. But the idea is no less intense than it is real. Which is precisely why Sjón turns to the fantastic. Specifically, to the myths.

“Myths are always about the ‘big’ realities we are facing. All the ‘big’ questions can be found in mythology,” he says. They are yet another tool that Sjón wields in the face of the “here and now,” another platform to stand on and observe things in their entirety. He elaborates: “The myths allow us to think about these things on the scale they really are. They place man in the universe, they bring us down to scale. For an author, the myths are really an amazing tool to work with.”"
sjón  iceland  literature  2014  nihilism  history  climatechange  myth  myths  mythology  storytelling 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Icelandic Author Sjón on Myths and Crackpot Theories - Publishing Perspectives
"The Icelandic writer Sjón, whose international breakthrough came with his novel The Blue Fox, is a renaissance man. Sjón started his career as a poet at age 15, and took part in Reykjavik’s cultural explosion in the 1980s when “there was no hierarchy in the arts.”

He was a member of a neo-surrealist group called Medusa. “We then all became anarcho-surrealists,” he added.

It was during this period that he met singer-songwriter Björk and began his collaboration writing lyrics for her that has lasted until today; Sjón has three songs on Björk’s newly released album Biophilia. In 2000, one of his songs for Björk was used in the Lars von Trier’s film “Dancer in the Dark” and nominated for an Academy Award. Sjón went to Hollywood for the ceremony. “That was one of the experiences in my life that I can truly call surreal,” he said.

Sjón is not foreign to the world of film as he also pens screenplays. He wrote a screenplay for a film that made the rounds of horror film festivals several years ago entitled “Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre.”

“It’s a nitty-gritty splatter film, a dark comedy about innocent tourists massacred by disgruntled whale hunters,” he commented.

The Blue Fox, a story about a priest hunting for an enigmatic blue fox, won the Nordic Literary Prize and has been translated into 21 languages. Sjón is currently finishing his eighth novel, which is the last volume of a trilogy that he began in 1994. His UK publisher, Telegram Books, has world rights to his works in English. Besides The Blue Fox, Telegram has published From the Mouth of the Whale and next year will bring out The Whispering Muse (working title) that was published in Iceland in 2005 and has already been translated into six languages.

“It’s the story of an 80-year-old guy, a former editor of Fish and Culture magazine that focuses on the Nordic race and its consumption of fish. He is invited on the maiden journey of a ship exporting paper pulp from Norway to Russia. One of the crew members claims to have been on the Argo with Jason. They begin to tell each other tales,” said Sjón.

Sjón’s inspiration has always come from melding ancient Icelandic traditions with the avant-garde. “I go into pockets of Icelandic history . . . I love to bring diverse cosmologies alive on the page. I mix myths and crackpot theories together with my need to tell a story.”

Working with 17th century Icelandic texts is also a motivation for Sjón, who said he enjoys managing “the peculiarities of the Icelandic language and its twists and turns.”

This is not easy for his translators, he acknowledges, but because of his excellent grasp of English, he has been able to work closely with Victoria Cribb, his English translator. In other languages Sjón said, “of course I can’t know if the translation is good but I can tell if the person is a good translator by the questions they ask. I am open to working relationships with translators and always find a way.”

At Frankfurt, Sjón said he was enjoying meeting some of his foreign publishers for the first time from Serbia, Portugal, Lithuania and Turkey, where The Blue Fox was published last week. His experience with foreign publishers has taught him that, “it’s better to go with small publishers who are truly dedicated.”

Sjón is currently working on an adaptation of his novel The Whispering Muse for opera (his wife is a mezzo soprano) and is putting the finishing touches to his eighth novel.

In the end, said Sjón, “Man is a narrative animal.”"
sjón  narrative  iceland  myths  mythology  literature  storytelling  belief  myth  2011 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Inspiration Information: “The Whispering Muse” - The New Yorker
"At the beginning of my novel “The Whispering Muse,” the two main narrators meet for the first time in the mess room of a freighter on its maiden journey from Denmark to the Black Sea. As the octogenarian racial theorist/fish enthusiast Valdimar Haraldsson sizes up the ship’s muscular second mate, a man of the hesitant, storytelling type, he is surprised to see that his rival uses a primitive gadget to help him tell his tale:
Before embarking on his tales the mate had the habit of drawing a rotten chip of wood from his pocket and holding it to his right ear like a telephone receiver. He listened to the chip for a minute or two, closing his eyes as if in sleep, while under his eyelids his pupils quivered to and fro.

When the ship’s captain sees how flabbergasted old Haraldsson is by the second mate’s pantomime with this piece of wood—which looks like nothing so much as the rotten driftwood that used to wash up on the shores of his youth, “bored by worms, gnawed by insects, polished by wind and water, hammered by rocks”—he leans in and whispers, “That’s where he gets the story from … ”

The chip of wood turns out to be a splinter from the bow timber of the great ship Argo, the famous vessel steered through the Mediterranean Sea by the legendary Jason, the son of Aeson, and powered by his crew of heroes, the Argonauts. Because the bow of the Argo was fashioned from one of the talking oaks of Zeus, the splinter keeps a spark of its old power, a whisper of its original voice. It carries across the millennia the tales of its travels and the adventures of its crew:
At first it is wordless, like crooning over a cradle, then it swells into a song. The singer is a woman.

Just as the second mate relies on his instruments of wood and words to inspire his narration, so did I use a handful of metaphorical whispering devices to inspire and inform my writing of the novel: five books made from tree pulp, their pages sprinkled with letters.

The first of these was “Innan lands og utan” (“Home and Abroad”), a suspiciously boring book of travel stories written by my great-grandfather, Matthías Þórðarson frá Móum, an avid but forgotten author of books about the fish trade and himself. In it, he tells three stories: the first about his return to Iceland from Copenhagen after years abroad; the second about a visit to the Setes Valley, in Norway; and the third about a sea journey in the late nineteen-forties from Copenhagen to the Mediterranean.

Each story has its particular charm. In the first, he describes how happy and honored his countrymen were to see him again after all his years away; in the second, he is captivated by the traditional costumes and rhymed poetry of the Setes Valley people, their pale skin color, ruddy cheeks, and fine body postures; and, in the third, he is more occupied with the inside of the ship than anything that happens outside it—even when he steps ashore, in Morocco, and visits one of its Grand Bazaars, the narration falls flat compared to his enthusiastic descriptions of his cabin. It was this third story that caught my eye as possible material. Its “anti-narration” had the flavor of modernist writing in its main character’s insistent refusal to engage with what is supposed to be noteworthy in a story. Yet it wasn’t enough to sustain a whole novel.

Then I came across a two-part essay that my great-grandfather published in an Icelandic journal in 1936. It is called “Fiskur og menning” (“Fish and Culture”), and, while I read it, the image that I had had of him as a rather amusing but boring old fart got both weirder and darker. In the essay, he proposes, in all seriousness, a theory about the relationship between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race. With its overt agenda of genetic purity, it’s quite an unsavory piece of writing. I figured that enough shadows had now been added to the old man’s character to keep a writer and his reader busy for at least a hundred and fifty pages. But the thought of being locked up for weeks on end on a ship with my fish-obsessed, racist great-grandfather instantly brought on an intense feeling of suffocation. I had to find a way to make it bearable.

Aboard his freighter, my great-grandfather had mentioned a crew member who continually told stories. He could be my ally against boredom! But, because my great-grandfather had found the sailor’s tales too cheap and dirty to record, I had to look elsewhere for tales from the salty seas. Two years earlier, at the annual used-book market in Reykjavík, a book had caught my eye by virtue of its ridiculous cover. It was garishly bedecked with photographs of a sturdy man in situations that clearly showed that he had sailed the seven seas, had feasted in many a harbor, and flexed his muscles both fighting and embracing. Of course, I had brought it home. The book, “Enn sigli ég minn sjó” (“More Life on the Ocean Wave”), was the seafaring memoirs of Hrafn Valdimarsson, and it was a horn of plenty when it came to tales of hardship on the seas and adventures in faraway lands. To my joy, I soon discovered that it was the sequel to “Ég sigli minn sjó” (“Life on the Ocean Wave”), in which the events described so shamelessly were even more delectable.

I had definitely found a figure strong enough to counter the lectures on racial superiority and seafood. But, as I started pitching him against the old man in my novel, who by now had acquired the name Valdimar Haraldsson, I realized that even these tales left no bigger mark on my fictional character than they had on my great-grandfather. I needed something that would clash like a titan’s shield against the overwhelming banality of one of the poorest excuses for a myth in modern times: the myth of the Nordic Übermensch.

The year before, I had traveled to Greece to be at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games, in Athens, where Björk sang the song that she and I had written for the occasion. The lyrics had been inspired by the Greek myths, with their cycles of metamorphosis and their complicated interactions between man and the superior powers that surround him, and so I made a point during my stay to visit the ruins of the great Temple of Poseidon, at Sounion. There, I discovered that Poseidon had never left the dilapidated temple, that in fact he still lay, in his magnificent blueness, at the bottom of the cliffs that supported this structure that men had so long ago built in his honor. With the memory of that year’s Indonesian tsunami fresh in my mind, I knew that, although he was calm and beautiful on the day of my visit to his temple, Poseidon remained an uncontrollable, unpredictable force. He and his fellow gods from Mount Olympus had not forsaken us, even if we had forsaken them.

Now I turned to them for help.

After a short search through my library that included quickly rejecting the Odyssey (for the obvious reason that it has already been used with good results by diverse novelists and poets, such as James Joyce and Derek Walcott, to name but two), I found a story, a setting, and a character that matched the journey I had already set out on. The story was the Argonautica, by Appollonius of Rhodes. It was a story that I thought I knew well from repeated viewings of the Ray Harryhausen film “Jason and the Argonauts” at the Sunday matinées of my childhood. But now I discovered an episode in the original that takes place well before the Argo sails through the Symplegades in search of the Golden Fleece, a tale of how the fearless captain and his crew of mighty heroes become trapped on Lemnos, an island of women who take the Argonauts on as lovers/sex slaves while they repopulate their nation. It is a gem of a seafaring tale—the germ of a tale—that has been told in an endless variety of ways ever since. And it was a tale that I knew a sailor like Hrafn Valdimarsson would have loved, and would have loved to tell.

From the crew list of the Argo (as it is proposed by Robert Graves), I hired a little-known hero who, I believed, brought the most interesting point of view on the situation of a group of men held captive by their lust for womanly flesh: Caeneus, who had been born a girl but metamorphosed into an invincible man after being raped by Poseidon; after life as a soldier, he transformed into a bird in a battle with the centaurs. Now he could take on the unlikely guise of the second mate aboard my novel’s merchant ship.

That is how an alliance was made between the ancient hero Caeneus and the Icelandic seaman Hrafn Valdimarsson, how their voices, their fates, were joined to fight the intolerable drone of my great-grandfather. But even great men like those two need an amazing tool to help them to tell their tale: a talkative, rotten chip of wood that came from the great ship Argo itself. At the end of “The Whispering Muse,” the old man does indeed learn a lesson, but the cost to his rival storyteller is dear.

My great-grandfather died in 1959, having completed his magnum opus, “Síldarsaga Íslands” (“The History of Herring Fishing in Iceland”). It is said that Hrafn Valdimarsson spent his last years in Greenwich Village. Caeneus is eternal and flying around the world on his seagull’s wings.

As I walked through the Village during my stay in New York for the World Voices Literary Festival, I heard a seagull’s scream: “ARRK! ARRK!”

That is a tale for another day, but now you know where I got my story."
sjón  2014  iceland  writing  literature  howwewrite  research  storytelling  odyssey  ancientgreece  combinatorywriting  fish  culture  history  argonautica  appollonius  rayharryhausen 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Interview with Sjón | The White Review
"Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Where are you from? And how did you come to write?

A: SJÓN — I was born in Reykjavík in 1962. From the beginning I read everything, from children’s books to newspapers – whatever printed material came into the house. At the age of 8 I discovered Icelandic folk stories, which is when I truly started waking up to literature. A year later, I discovered poetry. In school we were given a big collection of poetry, which was to last us throughout our school years, and I started reading this book for pleasure at home. I was reading detective novels, Icelandic folk stories, and Icelandic romantic poetry from very early on. Early reading teaches you the different possibilities of text.

When I came into my teenage years I became a huge David Bowie fan. To be a David Bowie fan in Iceland you more or less had to teach yourself English – to translate the lyrics, to be able to read the interviews in NME. My infatuation with Bowie prepared me for my discovery of modernist poetry, first in translation. At the age of 15 I found a book of Icelandic modernists from the end of the Second World War. That’s when modernism came to Iceland – and they were very much influenced by the surrealists. Somehow, I was bitten by the bug. It simply fascinated me that you were allowed to use the Icelandic language in this way, to create these incredible images and metaphors, and to present such ideas with the Icelandic language. I felt like I should be a part of it. So I started writing poetry and in a few months time I had written enough poetry for a book. I published my first book of poetry the summer I turned 16.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You speak of an early interest in the various kinds of text, and your own writing is not easily assimilated into any single textual mode. As a writer, lyricist and poet, you move in and out of these different formats. What do you classify yourself as first and foremost, if anything? How might this resistance to categorisation link in to your interest in surrealism?

A: SJÓN — I’m a novelist who occasionally writes poetry. I write librettos, lyrics and children’s books but these are all collaborations that I do in between working on novels and poetry. One of the wonders of the novel is how easily it absorbs diverse texts. Everything that is written, whether it is non-fiction, old archives, newspaper articles, lullabies – somehow it can always find its place in the novel, and for that reason the novel became more important to me than the poem.

The novel is encyclopaedic: all of the different manners of expressing oneself in words can find their place there. In the Eighties my friends and I formed a group of surrealist poets called Medusa. Surrealism brings so much with it and one of the first things I realised when I became excited by surrealism was its link with folk stories. Surrealism is always non-academic, always looking for the source of human activity, looking into the back alleys and the darkest clearing in the forest for excitement. Somehow it was always very natural for me to bring all these different things together in what I was doing.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Your novels are hybrids – a crossbreed of narrative fiction, historical fact, myth, music…

A: SJÓN — I like my novels to be made up of different parts, realities, states of consciousness. I now see my work as realist because everything I write is grounded in at least the experience of the character, here, in earthly life. The strange things that happen in the books are what happens in people’s minds, what they experience as truth. That of course creates a hybrid, when your standard is something normalised and accepted as the only way to experience reality.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Music is a great part of this assortment – you’ve mentioned Bowie as an influence, and you have collaborated with musicians such as Björk. Do you think that words can achieve the condition of music, which has a much greater immediacy and is far less freighted with multiple meanings?

A: SJÓN — I think it’s very important to be open to influence from diverse artistic forms and forms of expression. I have been very much influenced by music and one of the routes I took to literature was through the music of David Bowie. I have worked with musicians in all fields – contemporary composers, pop artists – and I’ve worked with very diverse styles of music. But there is a huge difference between words being sung, spoken or read. The emotion that the singing voice brings to the world when sung out loud is something you cannot recreate on paper. I don’t think you should even try.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You have spoken of realising that ‘you could take the classical string quartet as a model for the composition of THE BLUE FOX’. How did you achieve this?

A: SJÓN — I think the fact that I can take the form of the string quartet and use it as the basis of a novel is another proof of how dynamic the novel is. I’m sure that a composer writing a string quartet can learn something from a movie or the structure of film. It was music that gave me the idea of constantly breaking up the narrative. THE BLUE FOX would be a completely different novel if it were chronological. In it, there are constant cliff-hangers and repeated refrains – I’m playing with the element of two melodies that come together but never fully, only in the end finding a solution. It was very interesting that the first people who commented on the book were composers. They said it was very clear to them that I was always playing with volume of information versus text, which is the same thing they do – volume of tones versus time. You can take a melody and stretch it over five minutes, or compress it down to three seconds. They were very much aware of how I was playing with text versus information.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Does your involvement in the world of music, and the musicality of your novels, betray some sort of frustration with the limits of the written word?

A: SJÓN — No. I am in the position where I can move between those different ways of writing. For me, it is a celebration of the many possibilities given to an author. I play no instruments, my only involvement with music is in collaborations with people who know how to do it. It is a privilege to be working with these musicians and to be allowed to bring my words to their work. To hear the words sung is a wonderful present from these people."



"This view actually went against everything that I had been taught in school. The Reformation is presented in Icelandic history books as something very benevolent and it was convenient to ignore that in the first decade after the Reformation life was very difficult for the common man and for scholars. The Methodist church became very dogmatic, and everything that had to do with the old Nordic religion, with old wisdom or old medicine, was banished as sorcery. He is the only historical voice that we have speaking against this. It was an opportunity to put a seed inside somebody’s skull, and take a walk through those times with his eyes."



"The reason that I felt it right to enter this world, this state of complaint against a world going to pieces, is because he lived through the period when the Catholic Church, the only socially responsible institution, was all of a sudden taken away. In Iceland, it is a fact that the Catholic Church was the only welfare structure in the country – we had no king, no dukes, we had no one to take over the social responsibilities when the Catholic Church vanished overnight. All the monasteries were closed down, all the orphanages, the old people’s shelters – everything, overnight. And the duty that the rich had – to keep the livestock alive on behalf of the religious priests who fed the poor – that vanished too.

Jón Guðmundsson is unique in that he is the only one who wrote about this. He bore witness to a world in which man had been relieved of his duty to show charity to his fellow men. This is very much what the last decade has felt like, at least in Iceland, if not many parts of the West. With the deregulation of the economic system, social responsibility was thrown out of the window and all of a sudden the rich became richer and they had no duties any more. This is something that happened with the fall of the Eastern Bloc – the message that we were told then was that capitalism had won and communism was the dark art. The Left lost its voice, at least in Iceland. The centre Left – the social democrats – they decided to start playing along with the capitalists, which is what you would call New Labour here. The real Left was all of a sudden presented as the losers of history, even though these people had been in opposition to the totalitarian regimes in the East for decades. All of a sudden everything that began with the word ‘social’ was a dirty word. The social contract that was established in most of the West after the Second World War, was dealt the final blow."



"In times where grand narratives are needed we look to the grand narratives of our culture. In our case it is the great myths, and sometimes it is to give name to something like the panic after September 11. Myth always puts man down to size, and man realises he is just this tiny figure moving from one meal to another on his way to the grave.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Oral tradition is very much a part of myth. Is this something that can still exist today?

A: SJÓN — You have a whole continent, Africa, which has so many languages that have still not found a written form. There are places that have an unbroken tradition, stretching thousands of years back, of telling the same stories over and over again. Mostly here in the West we have lost the ability to protect our culture orally, and maybe we are in danger. What will happen when all the books have flared up and all the Kindles lost their battery power?

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Literary translation and the rise of world … [more]
sjón  2012  interviews  iceland  poems  poetry  novels  literature  writing  music  björk  reality  collaboration  surrealism  existence  humans  storytelling  davidbowie  mogenrukov  dogme95  life  living  perspective  curiosity  translation  africa  diversity  myths  myth  mythology  charity  catholicism  history  capitalism  economics  society  collectivism  interdependence  individualism  insignificance  folklore  nature  reformation  religion  magic  mysticism  enlightenment  catholicchurch  9/11  oraltradition  ebooks  books  words  coldwar  socialism  communism  jónguðmundsson  sorcery  songs  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sjón & Hari Kunzru — Work in Progress — Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/72354976 ]
[Björk introduction: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2013/08/bjork-introduces-sjon/
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]

"Sjón: It writes me. I’m better sticking to being visual when I write. No, but for me, to go in that direction, I actually do think most literature is visual arts."



"Sjón: I think we were typical second-wave punks. I mean, obviously, the generation that started the punk movement in England, the first punk bands—The Clash and The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks and all these bands—these were all kids that were quite a bit older than we were. They were born around 1953, ’55, so they were all about the anger, and they were all about … I think Johnny Rotten said it came from the liver.

We came to it as teenagers, and it’s interesting that while you can clearly see similarities between punk and Dada, this absolute nihilism, and you can say that the punks were actually fulfilling one of Tristan Tzara’s battle cries where he said, “Musicians, break your instruments on the stage.”

Just as Surrealism followed Dada, something happened when you had seen all this raw anger leading to nothing but raw anger, maybe good old Surrealism became the good and right remedy to all that anger. Like Björk said, it really felt like it fit together, and we were really looking for the revolutionary, the rebellious aspect of Surrealism.

Hari: The idea that it’s sort of dreaming and an escape from reality can be rebellious and revolutionary?

Sjón: As a good Surrealist would say, an escape into reality through dreaming. Ah!

Hari: I was thinking about Jonas Palmason in From the Mouth of the Whale. He goes to Copenhagen, and it’s this huge city filled with more things and people than he’s ever seen before. He imagines that he’s in an ancient version of the city, and I was trying to square that kind of dreaming with this revolutionary dreaming. Are they the same thing? Are they different things? Is the visionary Sjón also an escapist dreamer?

Sjón: One of the first things I learned from Surrealism is that it’s not fantasy, that Surrealism makes a very clear distinction between fantasy and the marvelous. You’re always looking for the marvelous in reality, and that’s where poetry happens. It happens when you hit upon these incredible moments in your reality. In Reykjavik, we had a city of rather small size to go walking around, but this idea of walking around, getting into the spirit, surreal spirit, and awaiting the poetic to manifest in a marvelous way in your reality—that’s very much what I’m looking for."



"Sjón: No. [Pause.] I’m really interested in how people become obsessed with ideas and how they become obsessed with certain cosmologies, and how the obsessed mind starts finding proofs of its truths. How it looks for the manifestation of these truths all around it in reality. This happens all the time—that things start to manifest if you’ve got them on your brain. They start manifesting all around you.

Hari: That’s there in all your fiction, this sense that a certain kind of attention is repaid by this. You start seeing the visionary aspect of the world.

Hari: You’re fond of mythic explanations for things that maybe other people wouldn’t use that for. I saw an interview where you started riffing on the idea that maybe 9-11 was something to do with the power of the great god Pan.

Sjón: I am actually absolutely sure that the great god Pan slipped through some sort of a gateway into our world, on that day.

We’ve been living in panic ever since. Actually, when we were in Athens for Björk’s performance of our song at the Olympics in 2004, I had direct experience of one of the gods there: One day, I was in a group that went down to the peninsula south of Athens, and there is a great Poseidon temple sitting there on a rock. As we came closer to the temple, we saw better and better what a sad state it was in. Obviously, this used to be the place of great sacrifices, 500 bulls sacrificed and burned in one day and all that, and the crowds coming to bow in front of the image of Poseidon.

I thought as we got closer, “Oh, look at you, great Poseidon. Look at the sad state you’re in.” This is how the Icelandic poet’s mind works. That’s how we think when we’re traveling.

We came to the temple and started walking around and looking at these sad ruins, but then I walked to the edge of the cliff. Who was there, who hadn’t moved and left his temple, but Poseidon? The whole ocean stretched out from the cliffs. Poseidon was still there, even though man had stopped sacrificing to Poseidon, Poseidon was still there. Then, Poseidon, of course, feeling a little bit annoyed that people were forgetting him, he moved just a little finger, his little finger a tiny bit, and we had the tsunami in Indonesia.

The myths are really about man confronting the fact that nature is always bigger and stronger.

Hari: It seems that in Iceland, there’s this particular kind of negotiation with nature that has to go on, because it’s a very unstable place, geologically if in no other way. I always think of the island of Surtsey coming out of the sea in the 1960s, and suddenly, you’ve got a new southernmost tip of Iceland that’s been generated by an undersea volcano. Is this sense that things are capable of shifting and that even the ground under your feet could potentially change, do you think this has any link to Iceland’s notorious belief in hidden folk and that sense that the landscape is actually populated with forces that are beyond our immediate understanding?

Sjón: Yes, I think we experience nature as a living thing, and a part of it is to go to the extremes of actually believing that nature has a character, or if not character, that it can manifest itself in different forms. We have folk stories about the hidden people, Huldufólk, who live in rocks and fields and cliffs, and they look exactly like us except they’ve only got one nostril. Apart from having only one nostril, they always lead a much richer and better life than those of us who have to survive above ground. They’re having musical parties all the time. They dress in silk, and whenever an Icelander gives a person from that nation a helping hand, he is rewarded with a cloth of silver or a goblet of gold. We know that the earth is rich, and we know that it’s more powerful than here, so I think when you live in a place that is obviously alive, you tend to populate it with different creatures.

For example, Katla, is this great volcano that possibly will explode fairly soon, and Katla is a woman’s name. It’s the name of a giantess. It’s more than likely that it will wipe out all the habitat that is sitting there on the beach. Man’s existence is—

Hari: Precarious."



"Sjón: I’m interested in the language of faith, and I’m interested in the literature of faith. In Iceland, like in so many Lutheran countries, the translation of the New Testament into the local language was a big moment. The church defined charity and love and all these terms.

I’ve always been interested in religious texts, not only because of the language but because I see religions as cosmologies, and I’m interested in cosmologies, and I’m interested in obsessed people and where to look for obsessed people. The best place is in religion. I think I’ve really taken advantage of the language of religion just in the same way that I’ve taken advantage of the language of myths and the world of myths.

For me, these are all attempts at explaining the same thing, which is to try to answer the question, “Is it possible that in the beginning there was nothing, and now we’re here sitting on these two nice chairs here in this Scandinavia House?”

We know that our cosmology will become obsolete, and it’s really amazing that the biggest given fact of our time is that cosmology, which is the hard science, is so unstable. I love it.

Hari: You take a real aesthetic pleasure in cosmologies, don’t you? What’s the joy of a big system, a big complicated system with lots of moving, whizzing, parts?

Sjón: My joy is the joy of the Trickster. It’s the joy of Loki. It’s the joy of the Coyote, because I know it’s an unstable system, and it will be overthrown, no matter how majestic it is. With the right little tricks, you will have an apocalypse. You will have the twilight of the gods. The gods will fight the last battle, and there will be a new world that rises up from it, and the Trickster can start thinking of new dirty tricks to topple that system."



"Audience Question: You were talking about how you enjoy cosmology and I wondered how you reconcile that with science and with your own art.

Sjón: Well of course it’s the scientists who are destroying each others’ cosmologies all the time. It’s very interesting that most people today live with a cosmology that absolutely ignores the theory of relativity, for example. Most people live as if the theory of relativity never happened because nobody understands it really.

It’s amazing how unaffected we are by these wonderful amazing things. We just continue. That’s one of the ways of overturning cosmologies: just keep brushing your teeth no matter how they say the universe was made."
sjón  iceland  harikunzru  2013  interviews  literature  poetry  davidbowie  surrealism  writing  escapism  punk  reality  björk  fantasy  fiction  nature  myth  mythology  trickster  greekmyths  obsessions  ideas  cosmologies  perspective  science  learning  unlearning  relearning  collaboration  translation  howwewrite  language  icelandic  loki  faith  belief  anthropology  hunting  geology  animals  folklore  folktales  precarity  life  living  myths 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Björk Introduces Sjón | Work in Progress
"Sjón was the leader. I remember liking him a lot. But also one of the first memories I have of him is debating with him in a bar about André Breton. Breton was his idol. I was probably about seventeen at the time. I felt André was all theory, style — cold — seeing things from the outside, not the inside. He was all about intellectual theory versus the things I preferred, like impulse, emotion, instinct. Then Sjón started introducing me to books: Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye, Jo Imog’s Demon Flower, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and I guess he somehow showed me the more impulsive, raw, and feminine side of surrealism. As you can imagine, this planted strong stubborn plants in me, which I build my work on, all the way until today."



"I feel Sjón and I have many mutual roots. Even though our work is very different. We both had to develop some D.I.Y. punk spirit to survive, publishing poetry and music from the age of twenty.

Iceland of course formed us both: the isolation and having only 300 thousand people in an island a little smaller than New York State, a lot of space and a strong, strong silhouette! Reykjavik is small enough to be a village but is still a capital in Europe.

We also have in common a strong relationship with nature. Both Sjón and I know that you don’t have to choose between nature and civilization. These two can coexist. And in this way I feel we are better equipped than some of the urban areas in the world to imagine a hopeful twenty-first century. Both in reality and in fiction."



"Sjón’s books are unique. I feel he has managed to take the thread of classic literature and continue into the future. Connect with the roots of authentic old Iceland and then bring it in a streamlined way into the twenty-first century. Take on Iceland’s strong relationship with nature and make it shake hands with the modern times. But more importantly he has managed to unite intelligence and the heart.

Because, for me, Sjón has always been first and last about the heart."

[See also: https://medium.com/work-in-progress/sjon-hari-kunzru-3e3f40e2a6b5
video https://vimeo.com/72354976
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]
björk  sjón  2013  iceland  poetry  music  literature  writing  surrealism  harikunzu  civilization  nature  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Blue Fox (novel) - Wikipedia
"The Blue Fox (Icelandic: Skugga-Baldur) is a 2003 novel by Icelandic writer Sjón. The book was originally published by Bjartur and first published in the United States in 2013.



The book takes place in Iceland in 1883. It opens with a priest hunting a blue fox, then jumps backward to the days following up to the hunt. An herbalist buries the recently deceased woman with Down syndrome that he rescued from a shipwreck. It details their life together before returning to the present. The priest shoots and kills the mysterious blue fox he is hunting, but the sound from his rifle causes an avalanche. While trapped underneath the snow in a glacial cave, the priest starts to go insane. The fox comes back to life and argues with him about the invention of electricity and the priest kills the fox a second time, this time skinning her and wearing her fur. He then transforms into a blue fox himself. The book ends with a letter from the herbalist, who explains the girl with Down syndrome was the priest's daughter, whom he sold into slavery several years before the herbalist rescued her. [1]"
sjón  books  animals  iceland  novels  skuggabaldur  skoffín 
july 2014 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read