I recently finished reading From the Mouth of the Whale by the mononymous Icelandic writer Sjón. It first caught my eye while visiting Iceland last year, but I only just recently got around to reading it.
It’s good, you guys! My one-line review is:
This book is the sum of its parts — which is great, because all its parts are really good.
The book is set in Iceland in the 1600s and revolves around a man named Jónas Pálmason, a polymathic poet/physician/natural philosopher who has been banished from his home by greedy and jealous men. The style of the novel’s telling draws heavily from mythological tradition, and many of Jónas’s anecdotes feel like they could have come straight out of an Icelandic epic1 or ancient Greek myth2 His world is brutal and cruel, but also full of humor and sublime wonder.
I’m not exactly sure what all of it adds up to, but it was a terrific read nonetheless. If the book sounds like something you’d be interested in, I’d certainly recommend it.
In truth, however, the real reason I’m making this post is to share with you a passage I found particularly amusing.
But before I could pursue this thought any further, and before Láfi had finished his wailing, the ghost launched its attack. The parson’s dead son sprang onto the crag, squatted on the edge, and loosed the back flap of its breeches. Before we could dodge, it released a torrent of almost every imaginable kind of human filth: the excrement of men and livestock, human feces and horse manure, lamp droppings, rotten eggs and animal bones, maggoty bird skins, the squitters of babes and fish guts, dead men’s rags, and all kinds of other muck. Under this deluge we scrambled to our feet, flinging out our arms to ward off the seemingly endless diabolical flood that continued for a good while even after we had fled onto the moor.
Ha ha! Poop!