"It is literature that allows us to retain our human conscience"
meet the author
Iceland’s most important writer is coming to Brussels! The completion of his historical trilogy (Heaven and Hell, The Sorrow of Angels and Hjarta mannsinsl, which still has to be translated) is the occasion of a convesation with Maria Vlaar on the power of words in a world where man is an insignificant creature in the face of inhospitable nature.
Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s trilogy is set in a wintery Iceland before the end of the nineteenth century, when the population of that magical island relied on fishing for their survival. The story revolves round ‘the boy’, an orphan with no name or age. A rural Icelandic triptych unfolds on the fringes of the inhabited world, where the snowstorms of winter seem to go on forever. Kalman Stefánsson exposes the human soul in graceful and lyrical descriptions of the barren landscape and the harsh lives of the fishermen and villagers.
It was as a poet that Kalman Stefánsson started on his literary career, and this can be sensed very clearly in his novels. Each word and sentence exudes the chill of the high, snowy plateau. In the opinion of Het Parool, the language in this novel is so beautiful that ‘you want to learn every sentence by heart’. The author combines poetry and prose in metaphysical phrases full of philosophical ideas. In a rare interview, Stefánsson said: ‘I use poetry, ... the music I hear deep in the language, to magnify the words so that they can stimulate both the intellect and the emotions’.
In 2011 Kalman Stefánsson received the Per Olov Enquist Prize for Heaven and Hell.
ORG. Passa Porta, Uitgeverij Anthos, Embassy of Iceland in Brussels