Book of a Lifetime
Book of a Lifetime: The Blue Fox, by Sjón
It is possible to compress all one has to say about The Blue Fox by the Icelandic author Sjón in two words, "Enchantingly poetic".
However, I am afraid these won't do, because other terms will suggest themselves and these will include "spellbinding," or "magical", or simply "exceptional." In addition, there are several other elements in this novella, which will require that one use the loose descriptive "thriller" too. I recall meeting Sjón in Berlin a couple of years ago, when he reminded me of my own visit to Iceland in the early 1980s to compare Somali oral poetry to Icelandic poetry in its written form. He had been 18 at the time. Such is his excellent memory – the natural gift of a born poet – he reminded me of the points I made and later sent a newspaper clipping about the event.
The Blue Fox reads like a folktale. It's about Baldur Skuggason, a pastor-turned-huntsman, who is intent on tracking down a mysterious blue fox roaming the snow-covered mountainous landscapes of Iceland and killing it for its fur. To achieve his aim, he braves the inclement weather. The fox does everything to avoid death. We gain via its perspective some valuable access to the pastor's innermost self, right into the depths of his inhumanity. Along the way, we meet two other characters: Fridrik Fridjonsson, a nature-loving lotus-eater, who has come home to settle his deceased parents' estate; and Abba, a Down's Syndrome girl, the pastor's daughter, albeit abandoned and banned from her father's church. They encounter each other by chance in the outhouse of Fridjonsson's property. At the time, he was undecided whether to set fire to the estate and then return to his lotus-eating or to stay. He chooses not to leave and then adopts her.
The human characters and the fox are not only bound in a deep-seated way, but equally fascinating, both for what they may or may not represent and for the manner in which they impact upon one another in important aspects. Our hearts go out to the fox, a victim of the pastor's avarice; and our sympathy goes to Abba, whom we see as a casualty of the pastor's cruelty – a parent who won't care for his daughter, given her Down's status.
The narration is done skillfully too. There is a lot of poetry in this novel. Fridjonsson claims that in his travels he has seen the universe, which according to him, "is made of poetry". Baldur, meanwhile, kills the fox, consumes its heart and wears its fur. The Blue Fox received the 2005 Nordic Council Literature Prize.
Nuruddin Farah's new novel is 'Crossbones' (Granta)
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
Film review: The Hangover Part III (15)
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.