HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Heaven and Hell by Jon K Stefansson
Loading...

Heaven and Hell (original 2007; edition 2010)

by Jon K Stefansson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
113None106,330 (4.15)2
Member:acqua
Title:Heaven and Hell
Authors:Jon K Stefansson
Info:Quercus (2010), Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:"read 2012", sea, iceland, words

Work details

Heaven and hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (2007)

  1. 10
    Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (anglemark)
    anglemark: There's something about the laconic prose and the description of a young person's plight that made me associate these two books with each other.
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 2 mentions

French (3)  Dutch (2)  English (2)  All languages (7)
Showing 2 of 2
How to describe Jon Kalman Stefansson’s novel of early 20th century Iceland, HEAVEN AND HELL? I will characterize it as an odd and mournful mix of Icelandic Saga-story, with nods to Paradise Lost, The Old Man and the Sea and, in general, lost innocence, all loosely organized and written in the manner of Cormac McCarthy, and narrated by a Greek chorus of Dead Souls, who “intend to tell of those who lived in our days, more than a hundred years ago, and are little more to you than names on leaning crosses and cracked headstones ... Our words are a kind of rescue team on a relentless mission to save past events and extinguished lives from the black hole of oblivion ... bewildered, scattered rescue teams, unsure of their task, all compasses broken, maps torn or out of date, yet you should welcome them.”

It’s the “unsure of their task” part that stands out here, because, although the protagonist of this jumbled tale is quite obviously “the boy,” there are perhaps a score of other characters here whose points of view and inner thoughts intrude at seemingly random intervals as we follow ”the boy” after he loses Bardur, his best and dearest friend, on an ill-fated fishing voyage on the Polar Sea, and then journeys through a threatening snowstorm over the mountains to the valley where Bardur was born, to tell what happened and to return a book, Milton’s PARADISE LOST, to a blind sea captain Bardur had borrowed it from. (How’s that for a long run-on?) There in the Village he is taken in by a wealthy widow, part of a “trinity” that includes the blind man and another alcoholic ship’s captain. The Village is never identified beyond mentioning that it lies on a remote spit of land in a fjord below the “Eyrarfjall peak.”

The connections between the blind captain, Kolbeinn, regarded with suspicion by the locals because he loved books, and the blind poet Milton, are many. The captain had amassed a library of over four hundred books - an enormous collection for the time and place - but went gradually and inexplicably blind. The boy, an orphan, who can read - a rarity - considers possessing a library such as this, and then going blind, a kind of hell in itself. Hell too, “is a dead person,” he thinks, as he remembers his friend. “Is it a loss of Paradise to die?” And “Hell is having arms but no one to embrace.”

Heaven, on the other hand, seems inconceivable. ”The heavens have never needed to explain anything, they arch high over our heads, over our lives, and are always as distant, we never come close to them ...” And indeed, God Himself seems all but absent in this brooding tale, or, at the very least, indifferent to the petty doings of men. (The village priest is a sad drunkard.)

I suspect, that to fully appreciated Stefansson’s story, one should be more knowledgeable about Icelandic story traditions, and certainly Paradise Lost, than I am. Because I found HEAVEN AND HELL to be something of a slog, albeit with flashes of brilliance. The narrative moves sideways as often as it does forward, and the ending seems inconclusive, with yet another look at the ubiquitous falling snow, “large hovering snowflakes shaped like angels’ wings.” But perhaps more will be explained, will become clear in THE SORROW OF ANGELS, the sequel, which rests now in my to-read pile. Recommended, but with reservations. ( )
  TimBazzett | Mar 6, 2014 |
One of the best books I have ever read. This book is heart-wrenching, awesomely beautiful and deeply literary. It is a book for book-lovers, about book lovers, about lovers, about books, about the sea and its depths, about loss and the despair of youth, about everything. it was recommended to me by a woman I met in a cafe in Reykjavik. Thank you, the secret writer somewhere in a Belgian government legal HRs Dept. ( )
  Mijk | Oct 5, 2012 |
Showing 2 of 2
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jón Kalman Stefánssonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Myklebost, ToneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Has the (non-series) sequel

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Information from the Swedish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Questa storia è dedicata alle sorelle Bergljiót K. Þráinsdóttir (1938-1969) e Jóhanna Þráinsdóttir (1940-2005)
First words
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
C'était en ces années où, probablement, nous étions encore vivants. Mois de mars, un monde blanc de neige, toutefois pas entièrement. Ici la blancheur n'est jamais absolue, peu importe combien les flocons se déversent, que le froid et le gel collent le ciel à la mer et que le frimas s'infiltre au plus profond du cœur où les rêves élisent domicile, jamais le blanc ne remporte la victoire.
Quotations
Last words
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

In a remote part of Iceland, a boy and his friend Barour join a boat to fish for cod. A winter storm suprises them out at sea and Barour, who has forgotten his waterproof succumbs to the ferocious cold and dies. Appalled by the death and by the fisherman's callous ability to set about gutting the catch, the boy leaves the village.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
8 wanted5 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.15)
0.5
1
1.5
2 1
2.5 1
3 2
3.5 4
4 11
4.5 3
5 11

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 89,408,648 books! | Top bar: Always visible