The Whispering Muse

The Whispering Muse

3.45 (1,714 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by 

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The year is 1949 and Valdimar Haraldsson, an eccentric Icelander with elevated ideas about the influence of fish consumption on Nordic civilisation, has had the singular good fortune to be invited to join a Danish merchant ship on its way to the Black Sea. Among the crew is the mythical hero Caeneus, disguised as the second mate. Every evening after dinner he entrances his fellow travellers with the tale of how he sailed with the fabled vessel the Argo on the Argonauts' legendary quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece. En route the heroes happened upon the island of Lemnos and discovered to their astonishment, and considerable delight, that it was inhabited solely by women. An ode to storytelling, The Whispering Muse evokes a time gone by with wit and verve, from the rogues and oddities among sea-faring types, to the long-lost romance and mystique of ancient mythology.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 144 pages
  • 130 x 200 x 12mm | 142g
  • Telegram Books
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1846591244
  • 9781846591242
  • 213,774

Review quote

Endorsements for 'The Whispering Muse': 'The Whispering Muse is a quirky, melodic, ticklish, seamlessly-translated, lovingly-polished gem of a novel. Sjon's work deserves space on any self-respecting bookshelf of European fiction.' David Mitchell "An extraordinary, powerful fable, travel-log, adventure story and metaphysical mystery. A marvel." Alberto Manguel "A wonderful tale - The Whispering Muse ties together tales from myth and antiquity with the modern age. Sjon writes like a man under a spell, filled with enchantment and magic and great wit. He is a rogue of the first order." Keith Donohue "Sly, dry and elegant, with diamond brilliance - Sjon's The Whispering Muse is a wonderful story about stories, evoking comparisons to Borges, Nabokov and Calvino while remaining completely original. What's more, it's a bundle of fun." Christopher Wilson, author of 'Gallimauf's Gospel' "This writer inspires a devoted following. Although his prose here is economical (and perfectly served by Victoria Cribb's translation), the effect of The Whispering Muse is prismatic: the reader feels that just beneath the surface there are strange and luminous things moving, leaving a series of small hidden detonations." Barry Forshaw, Independent "Long-term fans of Sjon, the Icelandic bard whose projects have included lyrics for Bjork, volumes of surrealist poetry and several prizewinning novels, will recognise this trademark interweaving of myth and postmodern playfulness...For those interested in retellings of Greek mythology, such episodes as this one, the rape of Caenis and the grubby denouement of the argonauts' enchanted sojourn on the all-female isle of Lemnos will make The Whispering Muse essential reading." Michel Faber, Guardian "It's a wonderful book. There are very few writers, and Sjon is one, who make everything from a phrase to a sentence all the way to the roof of a structure resonate like this from page one and long after the book is closed." Ali Smith, Scotland on Sunday "Just like Caeneus's many metamorphoses, Sjon expertly evokes the rich details of life at sea, reflecting the cadences of mythology in his spellbinding writing and tickling the reader with the dry wit that increasingly laces the protagonist's narrative. That the narrator transforms in so few pages engagingly attests to the power of Sjon's characterization and storytelling. The Whispering Muse is a rollicking seafaring tale and an ode to the storytelling traditions that reclaims Iceland's great heritage and enchants with its magical blend of Greek mythology, Norse legend and sharp observations of modern manners." We Love This
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About Victoria Sjon

Author: Born in Reykjavik in 1962, Sjon is a celebrated Icelandic poet and novelist whose works include From the Mouth of the Whale and The Blue Fox (both by Telegram). He has won the Nordic Council Literary Prize, the equivalent of the Man Booker Prize, and 'Best Icelandic Novel' in 2005 for The Whispering Muse. His novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Sjon is the president of the Icelandic PEN Centre and the director of the board of Reykjavik UNESCO city of Literature. Also a songwriter, Sjon has written lyrics for Bjork, including for her most recent musical project, Biophilia. Translator: Victoria Cribb lived in Iceland for many years. She now lives in England, where she is completing a PhD in Old Icelandic Literature at the University of Cambridge. Her translations include three novels in collaboration with Olaf Olafsson, as well as numerous other pieces of fiction and non-fiction.
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Rating details

1,714 ratings
3.45 out of 5 stars
5 12% (214)
4 36% (618)
3 38% (643)
2 12% (201)
1 2% (38)

Our customer reviews

A story or set of stories relevant to or having a significant truth or meaning for a particular culture, religion, society, or other group. Anything delivered by word of mouth: a word, speech, conversation, or similar; a story, tale, or legend, especially a poetic tale. A tale, story, or narrative, usually verbally transmitted, or otherwise recorded into the written form from an alleged secondary source. The interrelationship of value structures and historical experiences of a people, usually given expression through the arts. The year is 1949, the year Iceland joined NATO, sparking off what is arguably Iceland's most famous riot in March of this year. The riot was prompted by the decision of Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, to join the newly formed NATO, thereby involving Iceland directly in the Cold War, opposing the Soviet Union and re-militarizing the country. All this appears to have bypassed the hero of Sjon's book The Whispering Muse, the self obsessed eccentric Valdimar Haraldsson, who has little regard for his fellow countrymen and whose thoughts are elsewhere because, also in March of this year, Haraldsson received a letter inviting him to join a Danish merchant ship on its way to the Black Sea. Haraldsson has been invited on this voyage because of his promotion of the idea that the predominantly fish diet of the Nordic race has led to their superiority, an idea he shared with the recently deceased son of the Danish shipping line owner, Haraldsson is a solitary man obsessed with this ideal and who has spent his life writing his journal Fisk og Kultur with aim of recording this perceived superiority. Every evening on board the ship, everyone gathers round the captains table and one member of the crew regales them with tales of his adventures and exploits as a member of the crew of the legendary Argo. This crewmember, claims to be Caeneus, who according to Greek mythology was originally a beautiful maiden named Caenis and was raped by Poseidon, who then promised to grant her anything she wished; she wished to become a man, so that nothing like this could ever happen to her again. Poseidon granted her wish, and in addition, made her/him invulnerable to all weapons. At the wedding of Pirithous, when fighting broke out between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, Caeneus slew many of the Centaurs but remained unharmed himself. The Centaurs tried in vain to kill him. Finally a mob of Centaurs began piling pine trees upon him, because they could not kill him, but Caeneus changed again and he flew away as a bird. We learn this & much more as each evening Caeneus enthralls his fellow travellers, starting every tale by removing a piece of wood, a splinter from the bow of the Argo and holding it to his ear appearing to listen to its whisperings, then the telling unfolds as Caeneus entwines both Greek and Scandinavian mythology into his own story. Each evening he holds the passengers in the palm of his hand as he unfolds the tale of Jason and his heroes, of himself. Mythos = anything delivered by word of mouth: a word, speech, conversation, or similar; a story, tale, or legend, especially a poetic tale, is an apt description of this fantastic (with all its meanings) yarn. Sjon's fiction trawls the world of myth and fable, gaily highlighting the absurdity and surrealism inherent within the genres. He has the ability to astonish with his storytelling and yet the language is precise, appearing to be pared back to the marrow with nothing extraneous or out of place. This is the second book of Sjon's I have read and I'm amazed how he can create a world that is, at the same point on the page, both totally believable and yet is also hallucinatory, grotesque, phantasmagorical and fabulous, this is a writer I want to know more about. Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (Sjón) was born in Reykjavik in 1962,. His pen name is formed from his given name (Sigurjón), and means 'Sight'. Poet, novelist and playwright, he has received numerous literary awards, including the Nordic Council's Literature Prize for The Blue Fox, which was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2009, as was From The Mouth of the Whale in 2012. He was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Brit Award for the music, which he collaborated on with Bjork, for Dancer In The Dark. His work has been translated into twenty-two languages, his works include numerous books of poetry, prose and even children's novels. This book shares the same translator Victoria Cribb , as the previous two mentioned, Victoria works as a freelance translator from Icelandic to English. She has an MA in Icelandic and Scandinavian Studies from UCL, a BPhil in Icelandic from the University of Iceland, and lived and worked in Iceland for a number of years as a publisher, journalist and translator. In a review of From the mouth of the Whale featured in the Guardian, AS Byatt wrote: 'Sjón is an extraordinary and original writer. And his translator, Victoria Cribb, is also extraordinary in her rendering of the roughness and the elegance, the clarity and the oddity of this splendid book.' This I believe also holds true for this more
by parrish lantern
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