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The Blue Fox by Sjon
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The Blue Fox (2003)

by Sjon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2841639,700 (3.97)33
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  1. 00
    The Swan by Guðbergur Bergsson (Tinwara)
    Tinwara: Not just because it's also set in Iceland. Both books are written in an evocative poetic style and animals play an important role
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» See also 33 mentions

English (9)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Strange, spare, and kind of great. ( )
  beckydj | Dec 23, 2013 |
Story of relentless pursuit of a blue fox inan Icelandic, surreal landscape. It reflects the harshness of Icelandic life and culture at an earlier time including rather barbaric treatment of Down's Syndrome children. There is also a mysticism that continues even today. Trolls, elves and hidden people are real. ( )
  EKAdams | Jul 13, 2013 |
22 Sept 2011
It may have the cutest cover of any book I've read as an adult, be described as a "fairy tale", with a recommendation from Bjork, but this story is far from twee.

The original Icelandic title is "Skugga-Baldur", also the name of one of the central characters - not a nice man - whom we first meet as he hunts the blue fox. The harshness of that sound, and the use of his name as the title, far better reflects the tale and its brutal environment. This is not "The Snow Goose" featuring a rare fox instead.

Whilst it's very quick to read, I cannot agree with descriptions of this book as light, given that the plot includes abuse and other ill-treatment of people with learning disabilities, and details about animal hunting.

The book contains two nearly-separate stories, of characters in the same community in nineteenth century rural Iceland. They are only woven together in the final pages, and in such a short novella, this feels disjointed and ultimately rushed.

The style is sparse but descriptive, in the manner of a fairy-tale or myth - but I think the book could have benefited from occasional intrusions of a modern authorial voice in commentary, along the lines of "as people did / said in those days".

This is particularly in the case for the wording sometimes used to describe characters who have Down's syndrome. Having worked with people with learning disabilities, I may be more aware of the relevant issues than some, but even translators and publishers who've never worked in other fields should have some knowledge these days, and should think to check. (Likewise the use of "suffering from" on the back cover blurb.)

Given that this book won awards in its native country and that the author is a poet, I wonder if the language of the original was maybe very beautiful, almost overshadowing the book's faults. Whilst it is somewhat lyrical in English, it is not exceptionally so.

June 2014
I've now read all three of Sjon's novels currently available in English, so I had a look back over The Blue Fox to see if my opinion of it would change. The combination of ultimately grim subject matter, plus the sense of distance in the writing, means I never like it for more than a few sentences at a time. Goodness knows I don't insist on books and films always being happy, but this is all awfulness with no substantial connection to any character, and I just want to shut it out - except some descriptions of the landscape. It would be more miserable to re-read in full. This time I've more appreciation for the disappearance of the priest and his transformation into a fox "before the days of man". But the deaths of Abba and especially - because we follow her long chase and tricks - of the vixen, are harrowing. There's evidently some ancient lore at work in being changed into a fox by eating one's heart, but to this English animal-lover it felt too much like he'd been given a gift for it, worse than if he was just another Victorian gone home with a valuable fur. And the writing is really not amazing enough to make up for any of this. ( )
  antonomasia | Apr 4, 2013 |
I think I might have made a quite simplistic recommendation for this to someone, as 'kind of like 'Old Man and the Sea', only with a fox instead of a fish and a twat instead of an old man'. Worst recommendation ever for such an awesome book.

Pretty, sparse and lyrical prose; a short book which I read as slowly as possible because it's such an oddly comforting read, something that makes you want to stay within its pages and keep reading. It is funny as it is moving.

A lot of myths sprung to mind when I was reading this, which really makes me think that it's worth more than one reading because this story is a bit of a glacier with way more beneath the surface, I'm sure. Awesome. ( )
  h_d | Mar 31, 2013 |
A hunter stalks a blue vixen on a mountain-side in Iceland. Odd, and very good. ( )
  annesadleir | Dec 31, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sjonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cribb, VictoriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Blue foxes are so curiously like stones that it is a matter for wonder.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 184659037X, Paperback)

The Blue Fox is a magical novel.”—Bjork

The year is 1883, and the stark Icelandic landscape is the backdrop for this spellbinding fable that is part mystery, part fairy tale. The fates of a priest, a naturalist, and a young woman with Down syndrome are intrinsically bound and gradually, surprisingly unraveled.

"Sjon's fable...describes its world with brilliant, precise, concrete colour and detail while at the same time making things and people mysterious and ungraspable...The world of 19th-century Iceland is brilliantly and economically present: the bareness of the dwellings, the roughness of the churches and congregations, the meager food...The novel is a parable, comic, and lyrical about the nature of things."—A.S. Byatt for The Times

Sjon was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1962. A novelist, playwright, lyricist, and poet, he wrote the lyrics to Bjork’s hit songs “Isobel,” “Joga,” and “Bachelorette” and was nominated for an Academy Award for his lyrics to the music for the film Dancer in the Dark, directed by Lars von Trier.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:10 -0400)

An elusive fox leads a hunter on a transformative quest, while a naturalist endeavors to build a life for a young woman with Down syndrome whom he rescued from a shipwreck years earlier.

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