Published by Comma Press
Winner of the 2011 Nordice Council Literature Prize.
Gyrðir Elíasson’s stories take us out of ourselves. Situated on the lonely western shores of Iceland, or out in the vast mountain ranges or barren lava fields of this spectacular country, each one is a study in self-exile. We follow a Boston ornithologist, speeding through the landscape in a fourby-four, chasing Arctic Terns; a schoolboy relocating to the northernmost town of Siglufjördur to compete in a chess tournament; a husband packing his wife off to visit her aunt in Sweden. In almost every story we find people taking leave of their normal lives in order to take their dreams more seriously.
But even in the most desolate surroundings Elíasson’s characters find strange company; ghostly presences in the early hours, enviable neighbours, fellow writers turning up at the same retreat, with the same ambitions. Like the wide canopy of stars under which they’re told, these stories plot a constellation of single, glittering images: a child defacing a new piano with a chisel in the middle of the night; a freezer packed with carefully wrapped dead birds, candles floating in a pond at night… Elíasson’s images are always unresolved, but are also somehow complete; like the dreams he shares with us, that lead us, through their own solitude, into other people’s. As Elíasson writes, "all dreams are joined at the edges, like the squares in a patchwork quilt."
"In vivid and haunting prose, Eliasson shows how no man can be an island, as community intrudes upon their self-exile in the most unexpected ways."
The Independent on Sunday
Gyrðir Elíasson was born in 1961, and has been a full time writer almost all his adult life, well-known in Iceland for his poetry and novels as well as his short stories. His collection The Yellow House was awarded the Icelandic Literature Prize and the Halldor Laxnes Prize for Literature in 2000, and he has received numerous other nominations since. He is also a prolific translator of American literature into Icelandic, having translated four of Richard Brautigan’s novels. In April 2011 he won the prestgious Nordic Council Literature Prize for his new short story collection, Milli trjánna (Among the Trees).
Translated by Victoria Cribb.