Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was, by Sjón

This novel is set in 1918 Reykjavik and has themes of homosexuality, the first movies, the great Spanish flu epidemic, the arrival of the independence of Iceland, the eruption of the local volcano, Katla, the First World War, the cruel treatment of lepers and homosexuals, and the Icelandic obsession over the “perversion” they believed was caused by watching too may films.

Moonstone -The Boy Who Never Was, by Sjón. Translated by Victoria Cribb. First American edition published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 2016. Originally published as “Mánasteinn – drengurinn sem aldrei var til” by JPV/Forlagið, 2013.

This novel is set in 1918 Reykjavik and has themes of homosexuality, the first movies, the great Spanish flu epidemic, the arrival of the independence of Iceland, the eruption of the local volcano, Katla, the First World War, the cruel treatment of lepers and homosexuals, and the Icelandic obsession over the “perversion” they believed was caused by watching too many films. Yes, all that. The main character is a teenage prostitute, a boy who roams the city getting money for sex with sailors and the men of the city who come from all levels of society. The sex scenes are depicted in detail, but so plainly (as Sjon puts it, “without ceremony”), that after the first shock to the reader it seems business as usual. The boy in question, “Máni Steinn” (literally in Icelandic, moon/máni + stone/steinn = moonstone) seems a one-dimensional figure. (Continue reading…)

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