The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

SOrrow of angels

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Harmur englanna

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – review copy

I might have speculated on my chances of going to Heaven; but candidly I did not care. I could not have wept if I had tried. I had no wish to review the evils of my past. But the past did seem to have been a bit wasted. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions: the road to Heaven is paved with lost opportunities.

Apsley Cherry Garrard from his book the worst journey in the world .via goodreads

Well yesterday I covered part one of this trilogy Heaven and Hell  ,so far Jón Kalman Stefánsson has written nine novels and in 2005 won the Icelandic Literature prize .Like the first in this trilogy I read this on more than one occasion the prose are very rich and need to be savoured on more than one occasion I feel .

It’s snowing .The snowflakes fill the vault of the sky and pile up on the world .The wind is gentle and drifts hold their shape ,The surface of the sea is calm and ceaselessly swallows the snow .

Weather but a little calmer than in other parts of the book .

Well I think that quote sums this book up well ,the book follows a journey taken by the still unnamed boy who was one of the main characters in the first book and Jens a postman as they seek to deliver a package for a doctor in the hinterland of Iceland .Now the boy an orphan whom in the first book lost his good friend seems a much more rounded character in this book one who because of his past has fallen in love with books .The journey sees the two battle each other and the elements around them and maybe grow to know each other from this shared journey .As they move from farm to farm to get the item delivered .

The coffee brews .

Oh, the aroma of this black drink !

Why do we have to remember it so well ;it’s been so very long , since we could drink coffee , many decades ,yet still the tast and pleasure haunts us .Our bodies were devoured to the last morsel long ago .

As a coffee lover Stefanssson often mentions coffee .

Snow ,snow ,snow ,cold ,wind this is maybe the book summed up in five words what we have here like the first book is a book is about man and his surrounds ,how we can conquer most things but the elements still even now (although this book is set a hundred years ago ) we struggle in the worst conditions to get by .Again the book is told in a collective voice ,an echo of a past gone but kept alive in these pages .The journey they are  undertaking is maybe an eternal one that man has been taken since the beginning of time  , the one that isn’t about getting there but about taking the journey .Philip Roughton has caught what I call the cold feel of the book ,I assume there is more in Icelandic about cold and cold weather but he has still managed to make you feel a real chill down your spine ,this would be a great book to read on a hot summers day as it will cool you down .This is another from this years IFFP it is on our shadow shortlist .

Have you read either of the books by this writer ?


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jacquiwine
    May 13, 2014 @ 11:13:42

    I loved the understated, yet heartfelt, bond that developed between Jens and the boy as they journeyed across the mountains – each fighting their own personal battles with their emotions, alongside the physical journey against the elements.

    As you say, Philip Roughton has captured the chilly atmosphere of the environment.


  2. Trackback: The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson, tr. by Philip Roughton | JacquiWine's Journal
  3. Tony
    May 13, 2014 @ 12:44:26

    A wonderful book, and I can’t wait for the next one (March next year, I believe…).


  4. Caroline
    May 13, 2014 @ 13:30:38

    I’ve got him high on my list of authors to read. This sounds so good.


  5. Judith
    May 13, 2014 @ 23:29:03

    I’ve got to read this book, Stu. Thank you so much for letting me (us) know about him. It seems that most of the Icelandic authors who cross my path here in the US, that is, the ones who get published here, are all crime novels. And I know that can’t be the sum total of Icelandic literature, for heavens’ sake.
    Best wishes to you and Winston!
    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


  6. Trackback: Winston’s books of the year | Winstonsdad's Blog
  7. Trackback: Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson | Winstonsdad's Blog

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May 2014


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