Summer Night , and Then comes the Night by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Summer Night, and Then Comes the Night by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Sumarljós og svo kemur nóttin

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – review copy

I am now back on to the last few titles to squeeze in before the booker international longlist comes out at the end of the month. Here we go back to a writer that I have featured on the blog three times before he was a winner of our shadow prize a while ago. He taught at the high school level for a time and also wrote for a newspaper. He spent time in the 80s living in western Iceland doing odd jobs. This is  where the book is set, though the book is set in the 90s there. The book come to us in English now, but it was published a number of years ago in Iceland. Before the Heaven and Hell trilogy of books that came out here. This is a collection of interconnecting stories around the village of 400 souls as the days are full of light before that dark or winter arrives.

Back in the day, the post office was one of the hubs of the village, through which letters and parcels streamed, where there were two telephone booths for those who needed to make calls outside the country, and at which queues would often form on tuesdays- the deadlune for ordering alchol from the south that was supposed to be drunk over the weekend. But now those phone booths have been taken away; are goneare the days when agusta could listen in. Now the village even has its own off-licence open from 1pm to 2 30 pm. Tuesdays and Thursdays; thus does everything change.

The village is full of life but in ways dying off with things disappearing over time.

When the stories open with the line that the houses are younger than the ninety-year-olds that live there but no one of any note has really come from there and there is no church or graveyard there we get the sense this is a strange place and here we see the inner lives of some of those that live in the village. The action opens up with a girl in a black velvet dress and an astronomer a girl that got a job as the director at the knitting factory a few years ago. She is the dream of many a man in the village. Then we see a summer affair and a wife’s revenge on the couple leaves Kjartan on the end of revenge from his wife. Characters like the nosey postman who has read everyone’s mail and knows what is going on in the village. A lawyer who has some strange beliefs about how the world is !! A man loses his virginity, a doctor keels over when a dog barks.

Destiny takes strange paths – that is, of er acept that it exosts that our exostence isn’t dependent on the terrible power of coincidence. Hannes breaks beneath the wieght of the darknessthe shadows catch him, he hangs himself, leaves a letter for his son and another for Gudmundor and Solrun, in which he asks his friends to see to it that jionas had be given a full-time postition as a police office: “I belive this to bethe only way to make him a man. It will be difficult schooling, but that’s life, he has the bones to bear it: underneatrh his meekness is an unexpected and mysteryous strength” Hannes was probably alone in his view, which, at best, seemed merely preposterious, wishful thinking.

Detstiny has run all over the village over time.

This a glimpse of a strange world cut off from the rest of Iceland the ordinary lives of the locals. Now one review I read of the book mentioned a comparison to Undermilk wood I can see that there is the same sense of every day and the bizarre of every day that was Llareggub Dylan Thomas distant Welsh village. But for me, there is a little more of Iceland lit in there. One of the Laxness work I reviewed a while ago under the Glacier which is another work set in a remote Icelandic village like the village in this story had a church but hasn’t anymore but the vicar has never been to our village wherein Laxness work the vicar went rogue. The locals now a sense of the otherworldly just a distance away from the rest of the world. I was also reminded of another book from Iceland And the wind sees them all especially the story of Elisabeth and her velvet dress which folks dreamed of her was similar in feel to Kata in her polka dot dress cycling through the village. This is a great collection of interlinking stories of a small insular community that has drifted away from the world. the stories re glimpse into ordinary folks at those times when the world is a bit mad and it is all Brilliantly brought alive from Stefansson. Have you a favorite book from Iceland?

Winstons score – A-

 

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: That was the month that was March 2021 and Booker reaction | Winstonsdad's Blog

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