Ice­landic au­thor sur­ren­ders com­pletely to mercy of sto­ries

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

LYRI­CIST, au­thor, poet, play­wright: Sig­ur­jon Sig­urðs­son — bet­ter known as Sjón — wears many hats. Over the last few decades, the 52-yearold Reyk­javik na­tive has come to be one of Ice­land’s most prized lit­er­ary trea­sures, no mat­ter what genre he’s tack­ling. Out­side of Ice­land, Sjón is best­known as a reg­u­lar lyri­cal col­lab­o­ra­tor with Bjork, that coun­try’s big­gest mu­si­cal ex­port. His work on the song I’ve Seen it All, a duet she sang with Ra­dio­head front­man Thom Yorke for the sound­track for Lars Von Trier’s 2000 film Dancer in the Dark, earned him an Academy Award nom­i­na­tion. But Sjón’s lit­er­ary out­put is equally im­pres­sive, hav­ing been trans­lated into 30 lan­guages world­wide, and has gar­nered him the most praise — he has won nearly ev­ery award avail­able to writ­ers in Ice­land and Scan­di­navia. On this side of the pond, im­print Far­rar, Straus and Giroux re­cently pub­lished trans­la­tions of three of Sjón’s nov­els: 2003’s The Blue Fox, 2005’s The Whis­per­ing Muse and 2008’s From the Mouth of the Whale (which was short­listed in 2013 for the In­ter­na­tional IM­PAC Dublin Lit­er­ary Award). Folk tales, myths, his own his­tory and Ice­landic sagas fig­ure promi­nently in in­flu­enc­ing Sjón’s lit­er­ary out­put. “Th­ese sto­ries don’t only be­long to the past, they’re be­ing writ­ten as we speak,” says Sjón from his Reyk­javik home prior to his first proper Cana­dian book tour (which stops in Cal­gary and Win­nipeg be­fore tak­ing him to Van­cou­ver). “Folk tales are sim­ply sto­ries peo­ple tell about hap­pen­ings in the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple. They will al­ways be there as long as there are hu­mans to swap tales. I en­joy the fact that they’re a tes­ti­mony to hu­man be­ings as sto­ry­telling an­i­mals.” Sjón sees his own out­put as di­vided be­tween col­lab­o­ra­tive and soli­tary works. “On the one hand, there’s the world of col­lab­o­ra­tions — writ­ing lyrics or li­bret­tos or plays or screen­plays — and on the other hand, there are my nov­els and my po­etry. With the lat­ter, I’m in my own lit­tle world. With col­lab­o­ra­tion I bring my know-how and tool­box and try and be of use in dif­fer­ent projects. Then I can bring new tools and ex­pe­ri­ences back with me to my writer’s desk for nov­els or po­etry.” Sjón’s cur­rent work in­volves two col­lab­o­ra­tions — he is work­ing on a

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