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From the Mouth of the Whale: A Novel

From the Mouth of the Whale: A Novel

De Sjon

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From the Mouth of the Whale: A Novel

De Sjon

avaliações:
3/5 (13 avaliações)
Comprimento:
198 página
3 horas
Lançado em:
Apr 30, 2013
ISBN:
9780374709945
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

From the Mouth of the Whale is an Icelandic saga for the modern age. The year is 1635. Iceland is a world darkened by superstition, poverty, and cruelty. Men of science marvel over a unicorn's horn, poor folk worship the Virgin in secret, and both books and men are burned.
Sjón introduces us to Jónas Pálmason, a poet and self-taught healer, banished to a barren island for heretical conduct, as he recalls his gift for curing "female maladies," his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjáfjöll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers, and the deaths of three of his children. Pálmason's story echoes across centuries and cultures, an epic tale that makes us see the world anew.

Lançado em:
Apr 30, 2013
ISBN:
9780374709945
Formato:
Livro

Sobre o autor

Born in Reykjavík in 1962, Sjón is the author of the novels The Blue Fox, The Whispering Muse, From the Mouth of the Whale, Moonstone, and CoDex 1962, for which he won several awards, including the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize and the Icelandic Literary Prize. He has also been short-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and his work has been translated into thirty-five languages. In addition, Sjón has written more than seven poetry collections, several opera librettos, and lyrics for various artists, including Björk. He was nominated for an Oscar for his lyrics in Dancer in the Dark, and he cowrote the script of the film The Northman with its director, Robert Eggers. In 2017 he became the third writer – following Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell – to contribute to Future Library, a public artwork based in Norway spanning one hundred years. He lives in Reykjavík, Iceland.

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From the Mouth of the Whale - Sjon

yourself.

I

(AUTUMN EQUINOX, 1635)

A medium-size fellow … Beady brown eyes set close to his beak within pale surrounds … The beak itself quite long, thick and powerful, with a slight downward curve at the end, dark in color but lighter at the top … No neck to speak of; a spry, stocky figure with short, tapering legs, a barrel chest, and a big belly … Head a dark grizzled brown, with a ruff extending from nape to mid-crown … Clad in a gray-brown coat of narrow cut, with a faint purple sheen in the twilight; bright stockings, a speckled undershirt … Importunate with his own kind, garrulous with others … So might one describe the purple sandpiper and so men describe me … I can think of many things worse than being likened to you, my feathered Jeremiah, for we have both crawled from the hand of the same craftsman, been carved with the same knife: you quickened to life on the fourth day, I on the sixth … But what if the order had been reversed? If I had entered the stage with those who soar beneath the firmament while you had been appointed lord of the Earth? Would a bird then be sitting here on a rock, thoughtfully watching the insensate man scurrying along the water’s edge, querulous with fear that when the sea recedes from the land it might never return?… Man and bird, man with a bird’s heart, bird with a man’s brain, bird with a man’s heart, man with a bird brain … We are alike in most things … And why should we not be? Lately I held your skua-bitten brother in my hand and probed his corpse with my fingers … Under the breast feathers I felt first sternum, then ribs, then the soft parts that contain kidneys and bowels … And as I examined the bird I ran my free hand over my living body … This was during the Dog Days, when the hot weather paid a visit to Gullbjörn’s Island, and my self-examination was made easier by the fact that I was wearing nothing but my birthday suit … I was free to walk about so, for I was alone with no one there to see me but the Master-smith, who, after all, knows all his works better than they know themselves … There was no mistaking the Creator’s template, for my whole body was cast in the same mold as my feathered friend … Yet, although our vessels are almost identical, our life journeys are like the hands of two scribes who have learned from a single exemplar and are now copying the same story, one seated under the sheriff’s roof at Ögur, the other at the bishopric of Hólar, both taking care to read the manuscript aright … Yet to an informed reader the ascender appears foreshortened on the d of the scribe who works under the tyrants’ patronage, whereas it exhibits an elegantly curved forward slant from the hand of the scribe who is the guest of God’s representative during his flight from those same villains … You, bird, are the letter that was deftly penned during a quiet hour in the Lord’s house, whereas I must endure having my image scored out or scraped off the vellum by those who envy and hate me: Jónas is a rogue, Jónas is a sly, disreputable fellow, Jónas is a braggart, Jónas is a liar, Jónas is a foolish dreamer… Yes, thus am I portrayed in the slanderous letters and oral reports that precede me wherever I go … I say this because, according to the old Jerusalemites, the building blocks of the world and its inhabitants were formed of the alphabet at the back of God’s tongue when He pronounced the world, as if it were a tale so tremendous that no one but He Himself would live to hear it all; and wretched man is grateful for every hour that he is permitted the grace of hearing those scraps of the tale that concern him … Little creatures like us two, Jónas and the sandpiper, are scarcely more than a word of the genus of the smallest words, formed from a single syllable: oh, ah, ee, ow … Words comprehensible to all, for so Adam’s kin, the tormented ones, cry their name when sorrow comes upon them or one of them breaks a toe … Now why did I think of the letter d and not of some other? What does d signify in Abraham Salómonsson’s alphabetical tree? On what branch did that letter flower? Is it Daleth? Did a bird sit there chirping at the morning sun? Did a man hang upside down from a rope slung over the branch? Here I am blind, bereft of books … You trip along at the foot of the glaciers, on the remotest shores, poking your kelp-brown beak into the gray sand, grateful for the strip of land allotted to you by the Lord … Heaven besides, there is nothing more sought-after, and it is the most ardent prayer of well-nigh every human Icelander that exactly thus might they arrange their lives; here you are born, here you seek your sustenance, and here you will die … You are a delight to the eyes during your lifetime, sandpiper, and wherever you may be summoned after death, even then you often prove a source of pleasure … Our acquaintance began half a century ago and five years more when a flight feather loosened from your decaying skin blew across the foreshore, in over the marshes, out over the farming district, and high up the hillside to settle at the feet of my grandfather, Hákon Thormódsson, son of Thormódur, son of Salómon the boatbuilder … He had gone berry-picking with the boy Jónas and, despairing of preventing the child from stuffing the fruit in his mouth, had begun to sing me edifying verses, as was his custom when we were alone together … That day it was Eysteinn’s blessed Lily, and he had just reached the part where I always started to giggle, the description of Lucifer’s visit to the suffering king on the holy tree … I was six years old and well aware that my laughter was both foolish and sinful … But from the moment he recited the first words of the praise poem I would dread his pronouncing peep at the cross, the devil did then, and the fear of losing control of myself tightened still further Folly’s grip on my mind … Naturally, the blame lay not with the glorious story of mankind’s redemption nor with the poet’s delightful verses, but with the mask that Grandfather assumed when he intoned the word peep … He would lean back with his weight on his left leg so his right shoulder lifted and the other one sank, simultaneously shooting up his eyebrows and pouting his lips to pronounce the word peep; it was quite inadvertent, he was blithely unaware of the effect … And I would dissolve into laughter … Nothing seemed more absurd to me than the idea that the countenance of the hellish serpent Satan should have appeared as comical and mild to the Son of Man as my grandfather Hákon’s expression did at that moment to me … I hung my head and clamped both hands over my mouth but gouts of laughter spurted out between my fingers, quick as a horde of croaking demons escaping from a bag … Grandfather stopped abruptly and subjected the child to grave scrutiny … But in that instant the sandpiper’s feather settled by the toe of his shoe … He said:

I think you’re going to have a good memory, Jónas…

Grandfather squatted on his heels, leveling out the difference between us, and reaching for the feather, held it for a moment between his fingers before poking it into the hair above my right ear:

And now we must teach you to read…

I used this purple-gray feather of yours as a pointer all the time it took him to teach me to read … And this happy meeting between child’s hand and quill also served to define the difference between boy and bird … For although the tip of the quill touched the parchment as I stumbled from word to word, none of the wisdom found its way into you, sandpiper, but engraved itself entirely on my childish mind … Though until the moment when I bent to my books our understanding had begun and ended in the domain of the flesh; in how our two minds interpreted the wind and the rain … Oh, that I had never learned to read! There old Jónas began his long march of torment over the libertine Earth, scorched by the twilight portents of the Reformation, by the burning of holy crucifixes and the destruction of old books, while the little sea mouse lives on in innocence and blessed ignorance … I do not doubt, feathered earth apple, that God’s mother will look kindly on you, whether the Blessed Orb splinters into a thousand suns in the Easter dew on the wing that hides your simple head or the moon whitens your snowy breast during the vigil on Christmas night: remember this in the wild joy of the high tide and the despair of the spring ebb …

Twit-tweet… comes my answer from the beach and the sandpiper flies off the rock … It flaps its stubby wings rapidly, heading out to sea, then veers abruptly and returns to shore, and in the brief instant that my eye follows its flight I catch sight of the blue rim of the mainland … Otherwise one cannot see it from my seat here on top of the Gold Mound … No, I prefer not to point so much as my cold nose in that direction … How the sight perturbs my mind! It is too painful to smell the mingled perfume and putrid stench that emanate from that quarter … I was ordered to clear off to this rock and from here there is no going back … It is my home now … On the blue horizon nothing but torture and thumbscrews await me; cudgels and slander, poisonous powder and serpents split to the groin so that they appear to walk on two

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13 avaliações / 14 Análises
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Avaliações de leitores

  • (4/5)
    It took a few attempts to really get into this story and in the end I am glad that I finished. There is a lot going on and so it is not a book that one can easily skim through. Jonas is a man exiled to a remote, barren island and the story is his thoughts on what occurred to bring him there. It is not an easy novel but if you are wiling to dig deep into the story, there is a thread of hope running through it.
  • (4/5)

    1 pessoa achou isso útil

    I get very annoyed with all those TV shows set in the Middle Ages that are full of clean bodies, white teeth, dust-free floors and brightly-lit rooms. This is not a problem that From the Mouth of the Whale suffers from. Its appeal lies primarily in the dirt under its fingernails; it revels in the mess and violence and, also, the transcendence of its pre-modern milieu. It's a novel that smells of unwashed bodies and sea-salt.We're shown this world through the travels, visions and tribulations of Jónas Pálmason, a scholar-cum-magician-cum-natural-philosopher in seventeenth-century Iceland – ‘this unlovely splat of lava in the far north of the globe,’ as he calls it. Exiled by his political enemies to a remote uninhabited island off the coast (all islands are off the coast, Warwick), he reminisces about his life, research and the metaphysics of this worldly existence.Importunate with his own kind, garrulous with others…So might one describe the purple sandpiper and so men describe me…This is Jónas's voice – gruff and wordy and distinctive, marked by blurry, shifting thought processes and studded with practical knowledge, with flora and fauna, and with a worldview of almost Cabbalistic mysticism.Jónas is a fictional creation, but the quote above, where he compares himself to a purple sandpiper, is a clue to his real-life model, Jón Guðmundsson ‘The Learned’ (1574–1651). The old name in Icelandic for a purple sandpiper is fjölmóður, which was also the name of an epic poem that Jón wrote about his life. I can't find an English translation but it seems to have included major stories from this book including the exorcism of a ghost and the coming of Basque ships to Iceland; in a sense, this may be seen as a kind of expansive novelisation of Jón's poem.The real star of the English version of this book is its translator Victoria Cribb, who has produced something that feels natural and yet genuinely odd in all the right ways. An Old Norse scholar, she has said in interviews that she's not very comfortable translating most modern fiction and isn't sure of what the English terms are for a lot of social media or technology vocab. But here, in a world of old manuscripts, fishing traditions and magico-scientific theorising, she is clearly in her element.Though short, it's a thick, silty book that I felt I could wade right into; at the start I loved the experience, but I did find it a little exhausting towards the end just because there is not a lot in the way of plot to give the narrative focus. Rather, it expands in different directions according to occult criteria, its chief objective, perhaps, not to give shape to a story but to find formal connections between disparate parts of the world:The antlers of a hart, coral, spread fingers, birch twigs, a loosely knotted fishing net, crystals, river deltas, ivy, mackerel clouds, women's hair…diverse as these phenomena are, they all revolve around the invisible joints, their opposite forms touch even though they are far apart…It's a strange, windswept, mind-expanding little book, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a short but bracing read.

    1 pessoa achou isso útil

  • (2/5)
    I wanted to like this book, the writing is beautiful, but I just disliked the main character too much. He's really douchy, and that ruined it for me. The first scene about lucifer was the best part. Couldn't get past the halfway point though.
  • (1/5)
    Abandoned at page 51: I just don't care how it turns out.
  • (4/5)
    FROM MOUTH OF THE WHALEBY SJONAn Icelandic tale that takes place in the mid 1600’s. This is the story of one Jonas Palmason who lives an extraordinary life of tragedy, magic, torture and travail. His innate knowledge of the natural world gives him unique insight into the very essence of the natural order of life.Herbs, animals, how all living things are both connected and separate and how god’s hand created all, Jonas’ deep faith helps him to survive the superstitions of his fellow man who exile him to a barren island accompanied only by a shipwrecked tiny mouse.He retells much of his life’s journey, his marriage, his children some of whom died and the wonder of it all: life, land and sea, plant and creature, Jonas has a special wisdom that understands how it all works.This is a unique tale, a fable and more, that leaves the reader hauntingly mesmerized, not quite knowing what he has just read but thankful that he did.
  • (4/5)
    I've generally not had very good luck when I try to get into Icelandic fiction, but Sjón's "From the Mouth of the Whale" (English translation by Victoria Cribb published by Telegram in 2011) was really quite an enjoyable read. Perhaps it was the historical nature of the narrative that appealed to me, or maybe the natural history elements that the author incorporated into the text. But I liked it. The stream-of-consciousness style worked for me in a way it usually doesn't, and Sjón's lyrical depiction of 17th-century Iceland is lovely. It helps, I'm sure, that the great historical character Ole Worm makes an extended cameo appearance.Definitely worth a try if you tend to like historical fiction with lots of natural history worked in.
  • (3/5)
    In 17th Century Iceland, Jónas Pálmason's strange way of life casts him into a suspicion. His old pagan beliefs, superstitions, extensive learning, and naturalism are believed by many to be sorcery, and so he is sent into exile.When I saw the description of this book, I knew that I had to read it. I have read few books about Iceland, and certainly never one about Iceland in the 1600's. Also, the publisher is known for printing strange, atypical books that I more often than not find myself loving.Well, "From the Mouth of the Whale" was indeed strange, though not for the same reasons as the other books I had read. It was a stream of consciousness type of book, which I normally either love or hate. Here, I hated it. It prevented me from becoming absorbed in the book. Whenever I would put it down and then pick it back up again, I would find the style jarring, and it would take about 50 pages to get used to it. By then, it would be time to stop - and so it went until I finished, feeling sore as if I had just commenced a bumpy ride.It's a shame, because if not for the distracting writing style, I think that I could have really enjoyed this book. I think that naturalism can be quite interesting, especially in a historical setting. And Sjon often included intricate plot descriptions of animals that directly related to the story or characters. Also, I loved the opening scene, in which Lucifer first meets man. Sjon's version of a young Satan is a son of God, which I found intriguing. Satan is Jesus' brother? It sounds like a story. Satan's foreboding feeling regarding man, predicting their selfishness and insistence on destroying the rest of God's creation, was apt and insightful.I was annoyed that Lucifer never again appeared in the story, and his cameo seemed irrelevant except for proving a point.There were other enticingly interesting little things scattered throughout the book. Learned scholars study "unicorn's horns" and "mermaid sculptures," actually narwhale tusks and coral. Jónas' superstitions and pagan beliefs were intriguing. Occasional paragraphs about natural things pepper the story, almost always intertwined with magic. Jónas compares himself extensively to a sandpiper - does this mean something?Everything I felt mildly interesting in this book never led to anything, and it was never enough to overpower the distaste I felt toward the writing style.I wouldn't recommend this book unless you personally love stream of consciousness novels. If so, there is plenty to be enjoyed. However, if you, like me, find the writing style more likely to range from distracting to infuriating, it would perhaps be best to skip this one.
  • (2/5)
    I wanted to like this book - I like historical fiction and Iceland is a really interesting country, so I thought Icelandic historical fiction would be really interesting. But I just could not get into it, the writing style was really annoying. The book is full of long rambling paragraphs sprinkled with ellipses, which are just hard to read and made it unclear what was happening. It's possible that people who really like fiction written in a stream of consciousness style would like From the Mouth of the Whale, but it is definitely not for everyone.
  • (2/5)
    I feel completely unqualified to review this because I've never read anything like it before and I didn't understand half of it. It was difficult for me to piece a time line together or separate fact from fantasy or figure out even the basics of what was going on -- all the more so since the book had very few paragraphs and also, for the most part, lacked proper sentences. Most sentences ended with an ellipsis instead of a period. Apparently a sizable number of people who read this book thought it was wonderful, and it won an important literary prize, but it just left me bewildered.
  • (4/5)
    It took a few attempts to really get into this story and in the end I am glad that I finished. There is a lot going on and so it is not a book that one can easily skim through. Jonas is a man exiled to a remote, barren island and the story is his thoughts on what occurred to bring him there. It is not an easy novel but if you are wiling to dig deep into the story, there is a thread of hope running through it.
  • (3/5)
    "A medium-sized fellow ... Beady brown eyes set close to his beak within pale surrounds ... The beak itself quite long, thick and powerful, with a slight downward curve at the end, dark in colour but lighter at the top ... No neck to speak of; a spry stocky figure with short, tapering legs, a barrel chest and a big belly ... Head a dark grizzled brown, with a ruff extending from nape to mid-crown ... Clad in a grey-brown coat of narrow cut, with a faint purple sheen in the twilight; bright stockings, a speckled undershirt ... Importunate with his own kind, garrulous with others ... So might one describe the purple sandpiper and so men describe me ... I can think of many things worse than being likened to you, my feathered Jeremiah, for we have both crawled from the hand of the same craftsman, been carved with the same knife: you quickened to life on the fourth day, I on the sixth..."Thus does Jónas Palmason's introduce himself when the story begins, in the autumn on 1635. Divided into four parts, ending with the Spring Equinox of 1639, the novel moves between Jónas' stream of consciousness, wherein bits and pieces of his past and present mingle in a confused and confusing soliloquy about what led him to be abandoned on an island off the coast of Iceland, and a central section where the crux of the story is told in a more straightforward narrative. Known as Jónas the Learned by some, he is a self-taught healer and a poet who has been exiled on charges of heretical conduct. A successful exorcism has earned him a good reputation in a time when superstition abounds and many still believe in unicorns and other mythical creatures, but his fate is sealed when he shows opposition to the local magistrate who is intent on carrying out his plan to massacre innocent Basque whalers. The novel is beautifully written and full of evocative and poetic imagery. The massacre is harrowing, but again interspersed with imaginative sequences. My main problem with this novel is that I felt utterly lost in the first section, as I imagine is the intention of the author, perhaps to render Jónas' own state of mind? but too much of what is said here was completely lost on me, and I quickly started feeling like I was just reading this book because I needed to write a review about it. Then the two middle sections were exactly what I imagined this novel could be like based on the short blurb I'd read about it and which had made me think I might enjoy this book. Here Jónas clearly describes the harrowing night of the massacre of the whalers which led to his banishment, as well as a trip to Denmark where he meets the fascinating Dr. Worm, who hires him as one of his research assistants to catalogue his unlikely collection of curios, and tries and fails to get our man acquitted. But then again, the final section with more vague recollections, from which other parts of narrative painfully emerge, felt frustrating more than anything. Here, the following words made me think perhaps I wasn't being quite patient enough: "I lean back in bed, stretching my arms and cracking my joints ... The mouse is still huddled cosily by the fire; it is quite extraordinary how she puts up with my ramblings ... The vetch porridge has hardened in the bowl; I scrape out the leftovers and scatter them on the floor ... In a place of entertainment like this it is the storyteller who must pay his audience rather than the other way round ..." Now that I’ve gotten the lay of the land, I see this is the kind of book that I might enjoy more on second reading, though I’m not sure it would be quite worth the effort given there are so many other books on my shelves calling out to me...
  • (4/5)
    It took me a little while to understand the story because it is so lyrical and uses imagery and metaphors. I tried to take it too literal in the beginning, but when I let that go and embraced the poetry, I enjoyed it. Although it was bleak and with little hope, it was the small things that gave life beauty and a reason to carry on.
  • (3/5)
    A bleak tale of early 17th century Iceland, told by an old man banished to solitary exile after his conviction for witchcraft. The story is told primarily in a stream-of-consciousness, and there is little that is positive or beautiful in Jónas Pálmason’s mind or memory. I think there are some readers who will find this story fascinating for its imagery and imagination, but I could not appreciate the unremitting grimness.
  • (4/5)
    I usually avoid "stream of consciousness" novels, but this one intrigued me since it was from Iceland. And, I was not disappointed. The author makes this style work with his blend of gritty detail and abstract philosophy. There are also sections of dialogue (some imagined) that break up Jonas's monologue.Jonas Palmerson has been convicted of sorcery in 17th century Iceland and banished to an uninhabited island. While he is there, the author takes us inside Jonas's mind -- his thoughts and memories. This paints for the reader a vivid image of life in the 17th century. And, we see the tension between religion and science that continues in some quarters today. The author blends real memories with hallucinations in a way that allow us to learn more about Jonas and his beliefs. Very well done.