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
'In vivid and haunting prose, Eliasson shows how no man can be an
island, as community intrudes upon their self-exile in the most
- The Independent on Sunday, 10 May.
'I really enjoyed this book. Each little tidbit of a story whetted
my appetite all the more. It was one of those books that I did not want
to end. I wanted there to be more stories in which to immerse myself.'
- Lögberg-Heimskringla, May 2012.