Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

The Whispering Muse, by Sjón

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The Whispering Muse, by Sjón. This edition published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 6, 2014. Translated by Victoria Cribb. Originally published in Icelandic as “Argóarflísin” by Bjartur, 2005.

In The Whispering Muse, the first person narrator is “Valdimar Haraldsson”, who is something of a pompous ass who has spent his life obsessed with the connection between fish and the superiority of Nordic Culture, and was the publisher of an obscure publication on that subject. The elderly Haraldsson gets a trip on a voyage of a Danish merchant vessel, courtesy of a wealthy benefactor. He is a pretty pedantic fellow, and thinks nothing of lecturing to others, being convinced of his own importance. He dutifully records the everyday happenings on the vessel, on which he is the only non-commercial passenger. He does not notice that, right off the bat, the whole thing is odd. He is, for one, in a luxurious two-room cabin. And, oddest yet, the first mate, called “Caeneus”, is the story-teller or chief entertainer at the captain’s table every night. Caeneus gets his inspiration by holding up a small piece of wood to his ear. The wood whispers to him, so it seems, and it is the “Whispering Muse” of the book title. (Continue reading…)

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