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In a remote part of Iceland, a young man joins a boat to fish for cod, but when a tragedy occurs at sea he is appalled by his fellow fishermen’s cruel indifference. Lost and broken, he leaves the settlement in secret, his only purpose to return a book to a blind old sea captain beyond the mountains. Once in the town he finds that he is not alone in his solitude: welcomed into a warm circle of outcasts, he begins to see the world with new eyes.

Heaven and Hell navigates the depths of despair to celebrate the redemptive power of friendship. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, it is a reading experience as intense as the forces of the Icelandic landscape themselves.

215 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2007

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 788 reviews
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,291 followers
February 27, 2023
De muuuuuult n-am mai citit o carte de plăcere, cred că de juma de an, cel puțin. Am lăsat totul (studii despre speciile lecturii, despre „cititorii buni și răi” etc.) și am străbătut deja trei sferturi din romanul lui Jón Kalman Stefánsson.

Notă biografică. Autorul e islandez; născut în 1963; a făcut de toate, a avut diverse joburi, apoi a urmat niște cursuri pe care nu le-a terminat încă, a lucrat și la un ziar, apoi într-o bibliotecă municipală, și acum s-a retras și trăiește din scris. În Islanda, se poate. E un loc friguros și ciudat.

Volumul poate fi privit ca un Bildungsroman, dar este în primul rînd o meditație asupra fragilității și finitudinii umane, din perspectiva unui (foarte) tînăr pescar. E bine scris (cît poți ghici dintr-o traducere după o versiune franceză), cu fraze complicate, care mi-au adus aminte de frazele lui Saramago. Sînt lungi, dar le poți urmări cu ușurință, dacă ești atent și guști ironia finalurilor. Iată o frază de tip Saramago:

„Se sprijină o clipă de zidul cimitirului, Satul e ascuns de o perdea de fulgi, casele din preajma bisericii abia se desluşesc, tremură cîte o lumină palidă la vreo fereastră şi aproape toţi oamenii dorm la ora asta, căci aşa se cade, oricum, nu dorm la fel de adînc precum cei din spatele lui” (pp.118-119).

Dacă vă vine să credeți, romanul are un narator colectiv, cel care povestește întîmplările este un noi, „gura satului”, cum ar veni, numai că e vorba de gura unui sat post-modern, care intervine adesea în narațiune și oferă instrucțiuni de lectură: „Dar să-l lăsăm liniştit [pe „băiat”, eroul acestei povești nu are un nume propriu, n.m] cîteva clipe, sau chiar mai mult. Ca să aibă vreme să se obişnuiască şi el cu gravitaţia, cu greutăţile din spate, să-l lăsăm în pace şi mai bine să mergem cu căpitanul Brynjólfur...” (p.175).

N-am rezumat intriga, „topicul” cărții. Nici n-o voi face. Mai degrabă, transcriu un pasaj:
„Ne trecem viaţa căutînd o dezlegare, ceva care să ne aducă mîngîiere, care să ne umple de bucurie şi să depărteze de la noi necazul. Ca să-şi găsească rostul, unii o apucă pe un drum tare lung şi greu; poate nu vor găsi niciodată nimic de-adevăratelea, poate nu vor vîna altceva decît umbra unui ţel, urma unei dezlegări, sau poate îşi vor găsi liniştea chiar în căutarea asta, iar noi, noi le vom preţui, fireşte, tăria, dar, oricum, nouă ne e deja tare greu să trăim, aşa că ne vom mulţumi să înghiţim rachiul chinezesc, în loc să pornim şi noi în căutare, ne vom mulţumi cu asta şi nu vom înceta să ne întrebăm care e cel mai scurt drum către fericire, iar răspunsul îl vom afla privind către Dumnezeu, către ştiinţă, către butelca de brennivín ori către licoarea sosită tocmai din China...” (p.37).

Fain, nu?
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,116 reviews3,959 followers
May 27, 2020

Nothing is sweet to me, without thee.”
I just don’t know who I am. I don’t know why I am.
And I’m not entirely sure I’ll be given time to find out

And I’m not entirely sure what I’ve read.
But I am sure that it was profound, beautiful, and brilliant. A tribute to the tenacity of life and the dark depths of one person’s loyalty, even beyond the watery grave.

It’s one thing to be able to read and another to know how to read.

There is a short, ethereal introduction, whose significance I didn’t fully appreciate until later. It then launches into the story described in the blurb: a century ago, a nameless boy of 19 and his bookish friend, Bárður, leave Iceland with four others: experienced fisherman, but non-swimmers, in an “open coffin”. Tragedy strikes, after which the boy goes on a perilous journey to return the borrowed Paradise Lost. The reader is hooked as surely as an arctic cod.

But then the tide turns and philosophical digressions and peripheral characters almost swamp the main story. The “we” who narrate, cast their tangled lines through the minds and lives of villagers, all of them lonely, isolated, regretful, and all of whom daily live the pain of the words quoted at the top of this review. And finally, the waters recede, and the narrative returns to the boy.

The harsh and dangerous beauty of an arctic environment is ever present. Dandelions and stars may be kindled, but there is resigned respect for the capricious sea that sustains life - even as it snatches it away; the mountains, too. The fishermen trust God, and “perhaps a minuscule amount of ingenuity, courage, longing for life”. There’s edgy camaraderie, deep bonds of unusual friendships, and the power - and danger - of words, leaving me touched by “snowflakes… born of the heavens… white and shaped like angels’ wings”.

Words as Rescue Teams

We might not need words to survive; on the other hand, we do need words to live.

The words of this book spoke to me, especially the words about words.

Some words can conceivably change the world, they can comfort us and dry our tears. Some words are bullets, others are notes of a violin. Some can melt the ice around one’s heart, and it is even possible to send words out like rescue teams when the days are difficult and we are perhaps neither living nor dead.

The joy of that is that words can be whispered in an ear, shouted across a room, printed in ink, carved in stone, written in blood, typed or spoken into a computer, and sent across the world, and across time. However helpless we sometimes feel when we see those we love and care about floundering in the treacherous waters of life, we can always cast a net of rescuing words.

Bárður and the boy adore literature, but the captain, Pétur, has a more visceral verbal power, reciting obscene verses: “This is a primitive force, a language with deep roots in a dim subconscious sprung from harsh life and ever-present death.”

Memories, important and comforting as they are, “don’t keep us afloat”. Telling how someone died is almost like resurrecting them:

break into the kingdom of death armed with words. Words can have the might of giants and they can kill a god, they can save lives and destroy them. Words are arrows, bullets, mythological birds that chase down gods… they are nets vast enough to trap the world and the sky as well, but sometimes words are nothing, torn garments that the frost penetrates, a run-down battlement that death and misfortune step lightly over. Yet words are the one thing this boy has.

Horizon, Boundaries, Balance

One character dies because of his love of literature, leaving another obligated to live, at least for a while, for the same reason.

Almost everything here is perfectly balanced - except the title. Life and death. Good and evil. Ebb and flow. Winter and summer. Sky and earth. No wonder the horizon is mentioned so often.

* “The sea is the wellspring of life, in it dwells the rhythm of death.”

* “The more light, the more darkness.” And “The light of the moon… makes the shadows darker, the world more mysterious.”

* “The world is gone and a dense black cloud where the horizon should be. The storm is approaching.”

* “Those who live in this valley see only a piece of the sky. Their horizon is mountains and dreams.”

Hell - but no Heaven?

Despite the balance, there are many explicit examples of Hell, but none of Heaven. Heaven comes from the writing itself, and the dedication of the boy.

"Hell is having arms but no-one to embrace."
“Hell is not knowing whether we are alive or dead.”
“Hell is to be dead and to realize that you did not care for life while you had the chance.”
“Hell is being seasick in a sixereen… many hours from shore.”
“Hell is a library and you’re blind.”
Hell is also injustice, where ravens come from, and being too drunk to remember your wife’s name.

Joy is simpler: “It is ridiculously good to have solid ground beneath one’s feet. Then you haven’t drowned and can have something to eat.”

The (un)Dead

This is not a ghost story with supernatural themes. However, a dead person is seen and heard (or imagined), and there are two types of spirits in limbo who are neither seen nor heard. These aspects reflect traditional Icelandic beliefs, as well as being a novel lens through which to see the corporeal world.

The large group of fishermen who ramble about the seafloor, jabbering to each other about the jogtrot of time, waiting for the final call… Waiting for God to pull them up, fish them up with his net of stars, dry them off with his warm breath, permit them to walk with dry feet in Heaven, where one never eats fish, say the drowned, always just as optimistic, busy themselves with looking up at the boats, expressing amazement at the new fishing gear… but sometimes weeping with regret for life, weeping as drowned folk weep, and that is why the sea is salty.

We died and nothing happened… Here we are, above ground, restless, terrified and embittered, while our bones are likely peaceful down in the ground”, with “something invisible between us and you who live”, so we “ask constantly, why are we here? Where did the others go?... Where is God?” It’s not fair that “God certainly called her… while we, who ramble here, dead yet still alive, listen and listen but never hear anything.” Their mission is nothing less than “to save the world” - and the boy - by telling this story. “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.

Blind Eyes See

Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost, but he could certainly see into hearts and minds. Kolbeinn is a retired captain, now blind. “His dead eyes slip through the boy like cold hands.” His Hell is that he can no longer read his 400 books, something Jorge Luis Borges, who also went blind, would have understood when he wrote "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library".

* “Eyes are invisible hands that stroke, feel, touch, find.”

* “Eyes must be somewhere… We must think about where we point them and when… They can be canons, music, bird song, war cries. They can reveal us, they can save you, destroy you.”

* “Both of them blind, he physically, she morally.”

* “No living being can stand to look into the eyes of God because they contain the fountain of life and the abyss of death.”

* “Eyes so bright they vanquish night.”

* “A woman staring at nothing, she has big eyes, recalling a horse that has stood all of its life outside in heavy rain… Once, it was a long time ago, she laughed quite often and then her eyes were suns above life… where now is the joy in these eyes?”

The Meaning of Life - and Death

Is it a loss of Paradise to die?

"Our existence is a relentless search for a solution, what comforts us, whatever gives us happiness, drives away all bad things... We take cure-alls instead of searching, continually asking what is the shortest path to happiness, and we find the answer in God, science, brennivin, Chinese Vital Elixir."

We often ponder the meaning of life, but this also considers the meaning and the purpose of death - especially for the several characters who consider choosing it. But we are reminded that “When there is a choice between life and death, most choose life”. Most.

Miscellaneous Quotes

* “The evening condenses against the windows, the wind strokes the rooftops.”

* “The sea floods into the dreams of those who sleep on the open sea, their consciousness is filled with fish and drowned companions who wave sadly with fins in place of hands.”

* “Memories turn to nothing, fish come and nibble the lips that were kissed yesterday.”

* “A dead man is so much heavier than one who lives, the sparkling memories have become dark, heavy metal.”

* “It is not possible to thread the tears together and then let them sink like a glittering rope down into the dark deep and pull up those who died but ought to have lived.”

* “April comes to us with a first aid kit and tries to heal the wounds of winter.”

* “She likely only knows the verb to hesitate by reputation.”

* “Bryndis, he whispers softly… as if to get his bearings, discover the taste… The air trembles.”

* “Music is unlike anything else. It is the rain that falls in the desert, the sunshine that illuminates hearts, and it is the night that comforts.”

* “Sometimes one world needs to perish so that another can come into being.”

The author* indirectly credits his country for his lyricism, “There is nothing to see in Iceland except mountains, waterfalls, tussocks and this light that can pass through you and turn you into a poet”.

Three-Volume Novel

This is not a trilogy; it’s one novel in three, very closely-related parts, covering just a few weeks:

1. Heaven and Hell, this book.
2. The Sorrow of Angels, reviewed HERE.
3. The Heart of Man, review HERE.

For a more concrete idea of setting, plot, characters, and writing style, see my overview HERE.

Photo is of Jón Gunnar Árnason’s sculpture “Sólfar” (Sun Voyager).
The photo source is HERE.
Information on the sculpture is HERE.

*Note: “Jón Kalman Stefánsson. The last name is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Jón Kalman”. From Wikipedia.
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,260 reviews5,356 followers
November 5, 2022
الماضي و الحاضر و المستقبل
كلها تفاهات لا يكترث لها الموت
جحيمنا على الارض:اننا نعرف اننا ميتون
ميتون مهما كنا أشرار او اتقياء
ميتون لو كنا قراء او جهلاء
ميتون مهما كانت خياراتنا
كلنا تحت جناح الموت في كل لحظة(و هل تفرق طريقة موتنا حقا؟)ا
و لا نرى الجنة؛ الا في اللحظات التي تغيب فيها عنا هذه الحقيقة الجحيمية

بسرد شاعري فخم بعيد عن الفلسفة؛ و بلغة  أدبية جزلة مستقاة من الفردوس المفقود يحكي لنا" يون كالمان"عن المصير و الاقدار؛ عن حيوات تهدر و تهدر في أعمال عبثية لم نخلق لها
في بيئة معادية شديدة القسوة نتعرف على سبعة  صيادين لسمك القد  في أيسلندا؛ يصارعون يوميا لأجل الرزق و ينامون سويا و يملحون السمك و يستمتعون بأبسط الحقوق الآدمية من قهوة ساخنة و خبز بالزبده ؛و اثنان يلتهمان الكتب المستعارة. . لقد رضوا بالهم؛ فهل رضي الهم بهم؟
بالطبع لا.. فما بين العواصف و شرود الذهن نفقد اهم بطل لدينا Screenshot-20200204-043104

جحيمنا على الارض :هو أن نتخذ القرار المناسب في الوقت المناسب
و قد فاز بالجنة من ينجح في اتخاذ القرار الصح

و في رأيى ان صيادنا مات لان القبطان لم يتخذ قرار العودة في الوقت المناسب و هو: فور اكتشافهم لنسيانه معطفه.. لكنه لم يغامر بالقوت و الرزق و فضل المقامرة على روح صياده الشارد.. و خسر

و في انعطافة حادة بالرواية يختار الكاتب لبطله ميتة شديدة العبثية..تثير غيظ اكثرنا ثباتا
زحف الصقيع على قلبه؛ دخله  و بدخوله"
تلاشي كل ما جعل منه ما كان عليه"ا

عن الأسئلة التي تموت في أعيننا بلا اجابة*
عن الرغبات التي نقمعها و تدفن مع جوارحنا التي عذبتنا طويلا*ا

ثم ينطلق الكاتب في ثلثي الرواية مثرثرا عن
عن الجليد الكامن بداخلنا و الذي لا تفلح في اذابته النيران
من خلال عدة نماذج بشرية متناقضة لكنهم لا يثيرون اهتمامنا مثل الصيادين..عدا القبطان القارىء الكفيف

يتساءل هل نهين الموت عندما نختار موعده؟
فقط ليؤكد اننا عندما نختار بين الموت و الحياة.. غالبا نختار الحياة.. رغم شعورنا بالذنب لأننا نجونا .. هذه المرة

و لم يكترث الكاتب كثيرا لابراز
طبيعة أيسلندا في القرن ال١٩ فهي رواية انسان لا مكان
و يبدأ في التساؤل من جديد عن جنتنا و جحيمنا بعيدا عن البحر
من يدري لعل الجحيم مكتبة و انت اعمي؟
هل نحن الأموات الذين مازلنا احياء ؟
هل الأنسان يسيطر على الارض بما عليها و تعتمل داخله فوضى   خطيرة غير قابلة للترتيب ابدا؟

*بين الناس خيوط قوية تربطهم؛ و هم يشعرون عندما تنقطع*
فلنتذكر اخيرا ان ديون الحياة تسدد بالموت و انه ليس دوما عقاب؛ بل قد يكون طوق نجاة؛ و ان
الأنسان يبقى سخيفا حتى اللحظة الاخيرة و ستظل. الغربان تفيقه دوما من غفلته عن جحيمه الأرضي

كانت قرائتي لجنة و جحيم من أكبر القراءات الجماعية التي مرت علي و استمتعت جدا بالمناقشات مع الأصدقاء و انشغلت للأسف في نصفها الثاني و لكن لدي انطباع انها تحتاج مزاج خاص لهضمها بدون الإصابة بقضمة صقيع؛لذا سأترك لينك مراجعة صديقنا العزيز: نادر لانه ممن فهموها حقا
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,632 followers
May 22, 2020
“… human life is a constant race against the darkness of the world, the treachery, the cruelty, the cowardice, a race that often seems so hopeless, yet we still run and, as we do, hope lives on.”

This novel is nearly impossible to review. It is beautiful, highly introspective and thought-provoking. It needs to be truly experienced because it is a very personal book. It’s about life and death, grief, love and companionship, books, poetry and words. It is about Heaven and Hell, not as physical places, but as they exist in our lives – what happens to us as well as the absence of certain things. How we live the life that has been gifted to us.

“Hell is to be dead and to realize that you did not care for life while you had the chance to do so.”

The setting is an Icelandic fishing community in another century. Yet, the story is truly timeless. It is about a boy, his friend, and the residents; yet it’s about mankind. Tragedy strikes and the nameless boy sets out to return a book to its rightful owner. With Paradise Lost in hand, he treks across a landscape that is harsh, treacherous and unforgiving. The journey is one that tests not just the physical body, but the spiritual as well. The boy’s soul is snared in darkness from the immeasurable losses he has endured in his short life. How does one go on living when all those one has loved are now lost? The dreams of a future are scattered to the winds, to the imperious mountains and the merciless sea.

“He wants to accomplish something in life, learn languages, see the world, read a thousand books, he wants to discover the core, whatever that might be, he wants to discover whether there is any core…”

What sustains the boy throughout his odyssey are the responsibility of returning the book and the words that his friend murmurs in his ear, “Nothing is sweet to me, without thee.” Much of this novel is about the love for books, poetry and reading. Each of us knows that words can be a treasure and a lifesaver. There is a blind man that cherished his library full of books. It is his personal hell to no longer be able to read those books with his own eyes. The boy recalls that his parents, despite a life full of struggle and toil, recognized the value of books and blessed their son with the same reverence for words.

“Words still seem able to move people, it is unbelievable, and perhaps the light is thus not completely extinguished within them, perhaps some hope yet remains, despite everything.”

Eventually we come to know the people as the boy is introduced to each of them. The narration takes a turn as we begin to follow some of the other townspeople. Their sorrows and feelings of isolation are as tangible as those of the boy. What ties them all together is the need for human companionship. Perhaps words alone are not always enough to preserve a life. Each reflects on love that has been lost or love that one yearns toward. Words may be a balm, but humankind needs one another to survive.

“… we often have to hold onto something in order not to get lost or tumble over the edge, it can be a handrail but preferably another hand.”

My heart ached not just for the people in this novel, but for all human beings, everywhere. Stefánnson writes not merely about his characters, but more broadly about humanity. He does so with a divine, lyrical and metaphorical prose. I was entirely captivated by both the writing as well as the highly contemplative exploration of what it means to not only survive but to be truly ‘alive’.

“What are you, life? Perhaps the answer is found in the question, the wonder that is implicit in it. Does the light of life dwindle and turn to darkness as soon as we stop wondering, stop questioning and take life like every other commonplace thing?”
Profile Image for Dolors.
527 reviews2,210 followers
July 28, 2015
The world as we know it is composed of a succession of clashing opposites.
Sky and sea, mountains and valleys, ice and water, uproar and serenity.
Life and Death.
Heaven and Hell.
Of the last pair, the nameless boy in Stéfansson’s tale is more familiar with hell.

Hell is being seasick in a sixereen out on the open sea, needing to work and many hours from shore.
Hell is having arms but no-one to embrace.
Hell is a dead person.
Hell is not knowing whether we are alive or dead.

But what about heaven?
Heaven is to be found in words, words that are the rescue teams in sea vessels that sail the turbulent currents of remote oceans, where the dividing line between life and death is smeared like the dark horizon on a stormy night.

The first-person plural narrator of this introspective journey roams around the minds of several inhabitants of a remote fishing community in Iceland as if trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead. These ghostly voices speak from the bottom of the sea, this natural wonder both miraculous and treacherous, source of sustenance and merciless executioner that claims daily sacrifices from the humans that disturb its untamed spirit.
Everybody is aware that life equals hardship in “The Village”. The boy knows it is one step away from death and he has to summon all his strength to resist the call of the lullabying darkness that cradles his soul. And so he embarks on a trip across the hostile beauty of the Icelandic fjords in search of the meaning of existence. A picturesque array of casual encounters, from bearded curmudgeons to delicate nymphets, will draw a vivid mosaic of the motivating forces that keep the human heart afloat and will show the way to the thirteen-year old wanderer. Lost and newfound love, God, music and Brennivín will be recurrent elements in the contemplative reveries of many characters that cross paths with the anonymous protagonist.

Stéfansson’s story is delightfully written. Deliberately lyrical but with a realistic vocation that is tastefully seasoned with the musical cadence of poetry, the ethereal naturalism blends with plastic metaphors exuding a rare literary sensitivity that was perceived almost like a sensorial experience by this bewitched reader. And in the midst of carefully phrased sentences, the redeeming power of words, which can also be useless, even deadly, gets hold of you. Words that invoke a collective lament that sets forth with a blind skipper who owns a large library replete of books he can’t read and a returned copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which serves as backdrop and sets the inner rhythm of this tender story that is not undermined by its figurative language.

A modern odyssey that comes from the land of the frozen seas that require of no ax to smash the emotions locked inside, because words in this book reach out and pierce right through you. They stir the becalmed waters within oneself and warm hearts that would be petrified by the frosty uncertainty that is so wide that life cannot cross it. But maybe Stéfansson’s words can, despite everything.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,858 reviews513 followers
September 18, 2022
The history of this book exerts remarkable power over the human imagination. Figurative speech can help the trans-figuration of what we see, feel, and think. In this sense, those who hope to find definitions or stereotypes about Hell or Paradise are deceiving. The fabric of human relations and the symbolic space of the world is too costly and complex to be crystallized or statist in rigid concepts.
Heaven and Hell do not widen into complex philosophical reflections that, if truth be told, break the rhythm of novels and exude vain pretensions when wrongly thought. But on the other hand, Stefansson reaps much of the practical Judeo-Christian wisdom in the wisdom books and the gospels.
This parable arises in the context of an Icelandic fishing community. Situated at the end of the 19th century, the sea's violence and the world's separation from the mountains in local and human geography seem to leave no room for the "dream of light" (Victor Erice).
This geography of physical isolation is a symbol of human distance indifferent to the death of Bárður. Water symbolizes life and the agitated possibility of dying, the sea interrogates the men who navigate it, and Hell is now incarnated and now Paradise. At the bottom, "the depths of the sea are free from all evil, they are only life and death, while there would be a need to bless the lines, not just one, but at least ten thousand times, if we had to send them down into the depths of the human soul " (p.53)
Romance is full of sensuality, silence and initiative; here, prayer is the expression of a dancing body, syncopated by the sea waves. It is not apart from life but springs from the depth of events. The sea is the temple that teaches sharing and the breaking of bread and feels the weight of the words addressed to the Creator. So prayer that comes from life, conjugated with daily life, is a knowledge not exclusively thought but felt and effective.
There is here a profound theology and Christology. That's a prayer that evokes the servant as a condition for a believing acceptance of human living, a worshipper that does not appeal to mere assistance or a reductive game of giving and receiving. On the contrary, it brings forth the time and space existing in the Word that makes all things. The evocation of the blessing of God is not magic or ritualism but a sign of our precariousness. Faith nurtured with trust, without excess or defect, elevates all that we are to one another in the love of God.
There remains the call for a close reading of this small masterpiece of contemporary literature. Italo Calvino affirmed that "a classic is a book that never finished saying what it had to say". All about Paradise and Hell has not yet have said. The fundamental condition for apprehending it may be silence, the suspension of our pre-judgments without refusing to think seriously about the text.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
September 18, 2019
The sea gives and the sea takes away. She is a very harsh mistress as two young men, our handles main character and his friend Baldur. They both love reading and Baldur carries a borrowed copy of Paradise Lost. The need to make money and sign on to work with a fishing crew, a hard, way to make a living. Yet, poverty leaves one with little choice. A terrible event will send our nameless boy off to find a different way of life.

The story is slow, very detailed, but the descriptions are those one can feel. Cold that envelopes the reader, relentless, unabating weather. Tiredness, the kind that never leaves. This is not an easy job and the men's lives are not easy. The language is absolutely gorgeous, one can find a myriad of quotable material on ever page.

The prologue is narrated by an anonymous source and begins the story, two people long gone that want to tell the take of those who should not be forgotten. This is rural Iceland, one hundred years ago and one can literally feel and get to know the beliefs of that time. The poverty and desperation, the fear that when the men go out all may not return. A read that show that there are different versions of heaven and hell, and that friendship is beyond value.
Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books25.4k followers
May 13, 2016
هذه القطعة السماوية من الكتابة سوف تأخذ بتلابيبك.
320 reviews348 followers
February 15, 2020
لم أحبها على عكس الكثير من الأصدقاء الذين أحترم أرائهم وتعليقاتهم
وجدتها فى أغلبها وصف زائد عن الحاجة، دون أحداث تذكر المائة صفحة الأولى قرأتها بروية قبضت قلبى فآثرت السلامة وقرأت المائة الأخرى بإسراع أكبر دون تأمل زائد يقبض الروح ويحبس الأنفاس
شعرت بأن الكاتب يريد أن يأخذ بأيدينا كقراء إلى مأساة، الموت فى حد ذاته ليس غاية يا سيد كالمان هذه هى الرسالة التى وددت أن يسمعها الكاتب منى
لن استفيض أكثر من ذلك فى استعراض أسباب عدم تقبلى أو حبى لهذه الرواية
Profile Image for Sue.
1,241 reviews533 followers
September 27, 2014
It is the language, the glorious language, that totally won me with this book.

This first book in a trilogy is set in Iceland sometime in the 19th century in a fishing community. It is the story of the boy, a teen who spends some of the year on the fishing boats with his friend, Barthur, a slightly older young man, enthused with life, enjoying reading Paradise Lost, who is about to become another of the thousands of fishermen to lose their lives to the elements. The boy then must determine what his life will become.

These are the very bare bones of the novel. What makes the novel soar are the words themselves and how they are arranged, poetically in almost every paragraph, almost every page. If I had read this on a kindle, who knows how much might have been highlighted (and I may still buy my own copy as I am crazy when a book strikes me this way).

Moonlight can leave us defenseless.
It causes us to remember, wounds tear open and we bleed.
His mother wrote to him about the moon and the heavens,
about the ages of the stars and the distance to Jupiter.
she knew many things, despite having been raised by folk
outside her own family, had had it hard there, was
reprimanded for thirsting after knowledge but learned to
read by following along when the boys on the farm were
at their lessons....It was reading and the desire for
knowledge that drew his parents together....[their] small
home field so tussocky that it was no doubt quicker to gnaw
it down than mow it, and the pastures were wet. The sea kept
them alive, it keeps all of us alive who live here at the
outer limit of the world.
(p 31)

But the sea has been taking lives and hurting families for generations.

People are alive, have their moments, their kisses,
laughter, their embraces, words of endearment, their joys
and sorrows, each life is a universe that then collapses
and leaves nothing behind but a few objects that acquire
attractive power through the deaths of their owners,
become important, sometimes sacred, as if pieces of the
life that has left us have been transferred to the coffee
cup, the saw, the hairbrush, the scarf. But everything
fades in the end....
(p 32)

I have so many more places marked, but it becomes useless. You should read the book, especially if you enjoy poetry and descriptive prose and the dark night of the soul that Icelandic literature can embody so well. The boy is a wonderful creation, as are the other characters who surround him.

Strongly recommended.

Profile Image for Araz Goran.
816 reviews3,514 followers
December 15, 2018

"الرواية الأجمل التي قرأتها منذ سنوات، شعرٌ سماوي عن جحيم الأرض... "

الحقيقة أنه من أجمل النصوص السردية الشاعرية التي قرأتها في حياتي ، هذا ما أسميه الوعي بالأدب، الدخول في عالم اللغة، الكتابة التي تصاحبها كتابة لاواعية، غارقة في بسط رداء اللغة فوق جسد النص، نصٌ خفي يعري نصاً آخر أكثر دهشة من سابقه، المعنى يلاحق المعنى ، كأنه الثلج المتراكم، أجنحة الملائكة الساقطة على أرض آيسلندا..

سرد مذهل، ثائر، رومانسي، مدهش، متغلغل في فضح النفس البشرية والقسوة عليها، نصٌ جريء، يوصل القاريء لحدود الدهشة، تدرك أن للكلمات سطوة على الاشياء، على العالم الوحشي، على الوجود، مغامرة ، إبحار في محيط اللغة الأكثر إثارة للحساسية البشرية والعمق الوجودي، أسماك، بحارة مجانين، جليد يكسو كل شيء، جحيم ثلجي، ليلي لا يكاد ينتهي، وحشية الصراع، صراع مع الموت في عرض البحر، همنغواي جديد، ميلفل يستيقظ من سباته لكتابة أسطورة جديدة عن البحر، خشوع أمام الموت، أمام صراع الحياة الجامح، الخاسر مسبقاً، الذي ينتهي دوماً مستسلماً لمشيئة الموت والإله ..

إيسلندا قبل مئة عام في عريها وقسوتها وفضائح الموت هناك تحت سقف المساء، فوق الجليد، فوق سطح البحر الهائج، إيسلندا الجامحة التي يكتبها ستيفنسن هنا يعد لها المجد البدائي، عالم الظلام والقسوة والوحشية، عالم الإنسان الجائع للحياة، للأمل، لشعاع من نور الشمس، يعود بك عميقاً نحو الصراع الإنساني للبقاء، نحو عالم أولي تنعدم فيه كل مقومات الراحة، ما بال هؤلاء الرجال يخاطرون بحياتهم من أجل بضعة أسماك طرية وخوض تلك الصراعات في وسط الجحيم الثلجي، قصة الفتى المجهول، المغامر ، الطائش الذي فقد كل شيء، كل مايربطه بالحياة، الصديق، العزيمة، رأى الموت أمام عينيه، صعُق لمشهد الموت، للعينان المنطفئتان فوق جمر الحياة السابقة، وسط العواصف والثلوج والقسوة والضعف والأنانية البشرية، ثم الضياع، البحث عن حياة أخرى، أكثر أماناً، وأقل إكتراثاً ربما ..

رواية أبهرتني وسحرتني ، خضت معها الكثير من التشويق والمغامرة السردية الشعرية واللغة العظيمة التي لا تُقدر بثمن..
هذه الرواية هي الجزء الأول من ثلاثية " جنة وجحيم " يليها الجزء الثاني (حزن الملائكة) ، ثم (قلبٌ الرجل) ، متحمس لقراءة البقية بلا شك ..
Profile Image for Himanshu.
73 reviews223 followers
November 24, 2016
We might not need words to survive; on the other hand, we do need words to live

My backpack was set, stuffed with all the essentials that I'd need for a trip of my lifetime, as I hoped. I spent a month planning and collecting all the things that I would need, might need, or even might not need, to survive. And pff of course, my Kindle and a paperback, but little did I know that I was carrying a meaning so ethereal yet panoptic until the flight took off and I started reading the first few pages of this wonderful book.

The setting was cold, real cold, in the book I mean, the kind which touches your fingers holding those words and then slowly creeps up to your chest. And there came a storm in the heathen sea. A reluctant dawn, one boat, six men, five jackets, a verse from Paradise Lost, and a motherly woman at the shore with her feet in the sand and her heart in that boat. Who is to say if there was only one soul that danced with death that day?

The depths of the sea are innocent of all evil, they are just life and death, while there would certainly be a need to make a sign of the cross over the lines not just once but at least ten thousand times if we were to sink them into the depths of the human soul

A tap on my shoulder woke me from the trance and a finger pointed me towards the window by my side. The sight was nothing I haven't seen before but this time it had a whole new meaning. Looking out of that safe interior into the infinity of clouds and skies I felt as if I was in that boat, having my feet on the same uncertain ground and my thoughts circling around the same verse. Their raging ocean and my unrelenting sky; their dawn and my dusk; their coming alive and my abeyance from the world. But how did that happen? Jón Kalman Stefánsson.

Our existence is a relentless search for a solution, what comforts us, whatever gives us happiness, drives away all bad things. Some travel a long and difficult road and perhaps find nothing at all, except for some sort of purpose, a king of liberation or relief in the search itself, the rest of us admire their tenacity but have enough trouble ourselves simply existing, so we take cure-alls instead of searching, continually asking what is the shortest path to happiness, and we find the answer in God, science, brennivin, Chinese Vital Elixir.

A poem that this book is sings not only the songs of dreams and death and purpose of life, but also of the absurdities and the longings we are prey to. It celebrates the fact that most important questions of life are unanswerable and mourns our inability to stop questioning. It dreams of red lips, sugary nights, soft hair, and sea deep eyes. It challenges the deep calm of mountains, the shadowy moonlight, and the power of a verse to save a life. It is, more than anything, a poem that summons faith through the chariot of words that rides on horizon that separates Heaven and Hell.

Some poems take us places where no words reach, no thought, they take you up to the core itself, life stops for one moment and becomes beautiful, it becomes clear with regret and happiness. Some poems change the day, the night, your life. Some poems make you forget, forget the sadness, the hopelessness....

My trip came to an end but the boy is still wandering through his uncertainties. I shall catch him up soon in the remaining two books of this series when I get to it but for now I know one thing for sure, I have created a memory for myself stitched by thread of words, coloured by dreams and longings, and textured by the landscape of Ladakh which will come to life spotless whenever I think of this book or the trip. They are both married forever now.

Tso Moriri Lake, Ladakh
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews593 followers
April 19, 2017
Hell is not knowing whether we are alive or dead.

Life is that expanse of time that could be green, blue, silver, or black. What color will life take? We don't know the color we will get, nor the moment the tide will change. We are all fishermen, traversing this beautiful and painful sea called life. Life is Heaven and Hell.

"There is hardly anything as beautiful as the sea on good days, or clear nights, when it dreams and the gleam of the moon is its dream. But the sea is not a bit beautiful, and we hate it more than anything else when the waves rise..." this is the juxtaposition of life on the sea. A small village exists mostly through work provided by the sea: cod fishermen whose lives in a boat sometimes depend on the simple things, like waterproof boots from America. And poetry. For how else can one dream, in spite of the darkness, if one cannot even have words? Milton wrote without sight, so imagine the metaphorical weight this Icelandic novel pulls when it introduces a character infatuated by Paradise Lost in the midst of his darkness and despair.

Poetry is centralized in this lyrical novel, and the words flow smooth and clear, like the sea on a sunny afternoon. Like the sea, it meanders occasionally, flows over rocks and sharp edges, loses the reader who is distracted by the eerie undulation. Exposition toys with story, subtleties are caressed, and philosophy is embedded with lucidity. The pace teases, is dilatory, and then in those still moments it is shrill and surprising, especially sixty pages in when a jolting scene is unveiled.

Everything, story and style, seems to mirror the sea, as life itself does draw a parallel to this divine expanse of water; living beings live and die, struggle and succeed,
and the only thing we can do is hope deep inside, where the heart beats and dreams dwell, that no life is wasted, is without purpose.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,019 reviews457 followers
August 3, 2020
I read this book in two sittings — I read the first part of the book in the morning and the second part in the afternoon. After I had read the first part, I was blown away by the plot and the writing and was looking forward to giving it 5 stars when all was said and done. But I had work to do in the morning so had to put the book aside for later on in the day. When I was reading the second half of the book, I stopped at one point and scribbled in my notes “I don’t know what happened. This book is so boring!” Then fortunately, the book “picked up” again. So while overall I am glad to give it 4 stars, I wanted to give it 5 but couldn’t because of the temporary boredom. And I know what caused the boredom — it was a distraction that the author deliberately put into the novel, and it beats the hell out of me why he did it — see spoiler alert below for the distraction. ☹

That being said, there was so much to admire in this somewhat short novel (211 pages, softcover) that I hope everybody who reads this review who has not read this book considers it for their to-be-read list (and read the reviews in the web addresses below). It was such a wonderful find! 😊

The first part of the book is about fishermen and their loved ones in a coastal area of Iceland, shortly before they go out on a bleak day in March to go fishing for cod, and then when they are out on the sea. The writing is just pitch-perfect in which one of the main protagonists is introduced as “the boy” (he is actually a young man) and we learn about him and about his slightly older friend, Bárður. Bárður right before he leaves the fishing hut to go onto the boat has to read one more line from a book an old blind sea captain has lent him, Milton’s Paradise Lost (Bárður is in love and the line is: Nothing is sweet to me, without thee). It turns out to be fateful. The impending snowstorm, and when it hits them when they are nearly done with the fishing, is terrifying and suspenseful and agonizing. They make it back to land but something tragic has happened when they were at sea. And you know me…my lips are sealed. 🤐

“The boy” after the tragedy at sea doubts that he wants to live anymore. In the second part of the book we learn what he finally decides to do…

As I said one reason to read this book is for the writing…sometimes the prose was uber-awesome. To wit, this is “the boy” ruminating while writing a letter to a friend about the tragedy at sea:
• “He stares confusedly at the pen. Absolutely doesn’t want to die. The will to live sits in his bones, it runs in his blood, what are you, life? He asks silently but is so incredibly far from answering, which isn’t strange, we don’t have ready answers, yet have lived and also died, crossed the borders that no-one sees but are still the only ones that matters. What are you, life? Perhaps the answer is found in the question, the wonder that is implicit in it. Does the light of life dwindle and turn to darkness as soon as we stop wondering, stop questioning and take life like every other commonplace thing?”

A note about the names of the characters. They are Icelandic (different fonts and accents over letters) and they all sounded the same to me. ☹ For the first half it wasn’t difficult but I was having a tough go of it in the second part. Because they were all important names in the novel…and I had a hard time differentiating them: Guðrún, Guðjón, GeirÞrúður, Brynjólfur, Ragnheiður, Þorvaldur…I would get flummoxed when reading the names Guðrún, Guðjón, GeirÞrúður all in one paragraph. I kept on having to refer back to my notes…ah, Guðrún is Reverend Þorvaldur’s wife and Guðjón is a rich old man who was married to the younger GeirÞrúður…

Cod have lived for 120 million years. I did not know that. Did you?

Reviews and such:

https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.co... (Jim: Well after reading this review I just found out there is a sequel to this book and that it is the first of three-part trilogy: Heaven and Hell, The Sorrow of Angels and The Heart of Man)

Profile Image for Ubik 2.0.
918 reviews224 followers
November 9, 2018
“Il mare…nutre tutti noi che viviamo qui agli estremi del mondo”

Affascinante romanzo dotato di una bellezza cristallina e singolare che, a pochi anni dalla pubblicazione, presenta la solennità e ha assunto la potenza evocativa di un classico, in grado di rievocare lo spirito e l’essenza di un popolo attraverso il lento ritmo di vita della piccola comunità di pescatori nella punta nordoccidentale dell’Islanda.

La prima parte, incentrata sulla battuta di pesca, è un capolavoro assoluto e folgorante: ci catapulta in un’esistenza stretta fra il paradiso della natura e del mare che elargisce la vita e l’unico nutrimento, e l’inferno del gelo che incombe e della morte immanente per annegamento o assideramento.

Attraverso gli atavici movimenti del remare, del gettare le reti, dell’osservare il mare e il cielo e prevenirne il mutamento omicida, si snoda un’attività tramandata da generazioni nel silenzio assoluto del paesaggio circostante sullo sfondo dei fiordi dalle colline nere, chiazzate di bianco.

Poi nella seconda parte la tensione inevitabilmente si allenta e la narrazione vaga fra gli abitanti delle austere casette di legno che compongono il villaggio, le storie che in brevi tratti significativi ne delineano le esistenze, le tragedie del passato, gli imprevisti legami che stringono le coppie, in nome non tanto dell’amore quanto dell’impossibilità di accettare la vita in solitudine sotto questo cielo buio.

Il legame fra le due parti è costituito dall’unico personaggio, il protagonista e testimone, di cui non viene mai menzionato il nome, “il ragazzo”, che attraversa con la sua timidezza e il suo coraggio le prove del destino fino alle soglie dell’autoannientamento, quando sembra finalmente trovare una parvenza di quiete interiore; anche se l’ultima pagina ce lo lascia sospeso, quasi simbolicamente, fra il sonno di un vecchio capitano ubriaco e il triste sorriso di un compagno già divenuto fantasma.
Profile Image for Edward.
419 reviews398 followers
October 27, 2018
The environment of the novel is harsh and capricious: a physical manifestation of the unseen forces of nature to which we are all subject. Between these elemental forces there is conflict and contrast, darkness and light. But this frame creates diverse subjective experiences; it affects us all in different ways. Jón Kalman explores the inner world of his characters individually and successively, in a manner that reminded me somewhat of Woolf's The Waves. The epic tone is diminished a little in the second half of the novel, but what remains is an unflinching seriousness towards the profound challenges of life, death and change. These forces that move us are perhaps more subtle than the physical ones, but equally fickle; equally unfathomable. The human capacity toward art and love provide a counterbalance to the natural world - the heaven to its hell - and are the key to our endurance.
Profile Image for Carmo.
654 reviews467 followers
September 21, 2017
Encontrei muito pouco Paraíso neste livro. Encontrei mais Inferno; o Inferno dos vivos, não dos mortos que esses repousam em qualquer fundura e o mais certo é já estarem em paz.
Pensei ler os três livros de enfiada mas não sou capaz; encheu-me de uma tristeza peçonhenta e deixou-me um peso no peito.

Inferno…eu diria que Inferno é viver onde não há sol, e Paraíso pode ser viver perto do mar, vê-lo e visitá-lo amiúde. Com sol. E amigos.
Também podia acrescentar gatos, mas depois não me levam a sério.
Porque este é nitidamente um livro escrito por um nórdico habituado à neve e à escuridão.
( Aí está um local onde eu nunca seria feliz!)
Quanto à leitura, tive sérias dificuldades em orientar-me com as personagens. Com exceção do rapaz - designação que não confunde ninguém – todos os nomes são pesadélicos. A maioria são semelhantes, nada me indicava ser um nome feminino ou masculino, muitas vezes tive que ler a frase completa para perceber no contexto se era homem ou mulher.
Inconfundível foi a personagem principal: presente a toda a hora, apanágio de vida, prenúncio de morte - MAR - mar de esperança, mar de sonhos, mar de dor. Toda a vida daquela gente depende da ida ao mar, do sucesso da pescaria ou do mergulho eterno nas profundezas.
Gostei da escrita, um pouco densa mas de uma profundidade que nos atinge. Depois dei-me conta que essa profundidade era uma banalidade poética. Todas as frases que mais me tocavam referiam-se a situações que de alguma forma nos fragilizam. Não era nada de inédito, acontece em qualquer parte do mundo, seja aqui, na Islândia ou noutro lugar onde o homem se tenha instalado. A humanidade partilha os mesmos receios: o medo de perder aqueles que amamos, o medo de perdermos a nossa identidade e o nosso caminho, o medo da morte, o medo da vida, o medo do medo. Assim como precisa de proximidade e envolvência, do calor de um aperto de mão, de criar bases para uma convivência solidária.

Acabei-o ontem e ainda estou a pensar por quantos atravessaria eu uma tempestade tenebrosa para devolver um livro…
June 28, 2020
Θα Σας ενθουσιάσει· από εμένα, πάλι, είναι... Όχι ! Αξιόλογη προσπάθεια καταβυθισης στην σκέψη των ανθρώπων ενός ου-τόπου όπως η Ισλανδία, ενός κόσμου παγερου με εξίσου παγερους ανθρώπους, όπου ζωή κ θάνατος - ο πραγματικός πρωταγωνιστής του έργου - αναμετρώνται συνέχεια.
Ποιητική πεζογραφία γεμάτη εκφράσεις λυρικοτητας και βαθεως νοήματος κλπ καλολογικων στοιχείων (που λέγαμε και στο σχολείο "με λεν Αρτέμη" στυλ), τρανή απόδειξη ότι δεν μπορώ να ταυτιστώ με αυτή την νέα πεζογραφική λογική που περιγράφει κ περιγράφει σκέψεις κ σκέψεις και παραθέτει λέξεις και λέξεις, δίκην νοήματος αλλά άνευ ουσίας επί του κειμένου. Ωστόσο διαθέτει μερικές πολύ καλές περιγραφές προσώπων και σκηνές άγριας φύσης · αλλά ως εκεί.
Δυστυχώς όταν ο συγγραφέας γράφει όλες αυτές τις λέξεις και λέξεις (το ίδιο κάνει και ο Κορμαν ΜακΚαρθυ) με σκοπό να δείξ��ι την βαθύτητα της σκέψης των ηρώων και της πολυπλοκοτητας της ζωής, δίκην ποιητικής απεικόνισης, η δική μου σκέψη αυτόματα ΠΕΤΑΕΙ σε σοβαρά θέματα της καθημερινής (μου) ζωής, απείρως πιο ενδιαφέροντα, χειροπιαστα και συναρπαστικά από τον γεμάτο λυρισμό κόσμο του συγγραφέα, αναγκάζοντας με να επανέρχομαι πίσω και να ξαναδιαβάσω πιεστικά την σελίδα, αλήθεια γιατί;
Ομολογώ ότι δεν δύναμαι πλέον να αντέξω αυτήν την... πεζογραφία, η ζωή είναι απείρως πιο ενδιαφέρουσα από όσο προσπαθούν να την απεικονίσουν οι σημερινοί πεζογράφοι...
Λυπάμαι! :-(
Profile Image for Emilio Gonzalez.
169 reviews62 followers
November 6, 2020
Que hermosa novela! Fue una lectura que disfrute muchísimo por lo poética y cautivadora de su prosa y porque tiene un poder visual tremendo.
Los hechos se desarrollan a fines del siglo XIX, cerca de los fiordos de Islandia, en un poblado que vive de la pesca del bacalao, donde los hombres se levantan a la madrugada y reman 4 horas soportando tormentas, nevadas y olas enormes solo para adentrarse en el mar abierto a fin de capturar y llenar las barcas del preciado bacalao y volver a tierra firme intentando no congelarse y morir en el camino.
Una historia muy sencilla, para nada extensa, que habla de pérdidas, de la fragilidad de la vida, de caer y levantarse una y otra vez y resistir los embates de la vida.
Es una novela super recomendable, a la que solo le criticaría el abuso en la cantidad de nombres propios que hay y que son tan similares que pueden llegar a confundir, pero es una gran novela para leer con mucha serenidad y disfrutar de su impecable prosa.
Profile Image for Nader Qasem.
59 reviews25 followers
January 27, 2020

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في الدول النورديه، وخاصه في أيسلندا، يكون الشتاء باردا جدا، ويتسرب الصقيع الى قلوب البشر قبل أجسادهم !

نعم !
كل شي في ذلك الجزء من العالم يكون بارد.
ف الجبل بارد
والبحر بارد
والمحيط بارد
والقارب بارد
وحده شوق الصيادين دافئ ذو أدخنه.

فمن منكم يرغب ان يعيش التجربه ؟!
من منكم يريد ان يعيش تفاصيل ذلك الشتاء الخضل ؟!
من لديه النيه في سماع صوت المحيط الهادر ؟!
من لديه الرغبه في ان يلمس ذلك التمزق الجليدي
واكتساح البحر الغادر ؟!

ل أؤلئك الذين يريدون خوض التجربه ولكن تصدهم وعوره ظروفهم ...
ل أولئك الذين يريدون خوض التجربه ولكن تمنعهم أشياء اكبر من طاقه البشر بهم ...

هذا العمل كُتب أليكم .... ف أمانه عليكم اغتنموا فرصه العمر ومرو على هذا الكتاب الأسر.

أليكم روايه تفوق الخيال ، ومثل شواطئ أيسلندا ... واسعه ومليئة ب الحياه ولكنها ايضا مليئة ب الموت ، موت عميق بعمق المحيط الذي يحيط أيسلندا ، روايه كتبت ل أجلال الثابتين وولاءهم ل العيش ... ومقاومتهم لذلك القبر المائي المسمى ب المحيط.

الحبكه بسيطة جدا، لكنها عميقة في أبسط حالاتها ، فهي تدور حول صبي بسن مبكر صبي لم يذكر اسمه في الروايه، لكني سأحمل ذكراه معي ل عمر بأكمله ، صبي قاسئ المعاناه ، والمشقة ، والخسارة ، ومع ذلك يجد لنفسه طرق ل الوصول الى حاله من الملاذ التعويضي بوقت لاحق.

يفتتح الكاتب الروايه بعبارة "نحن شبه الظلام"، عباره تنبئ عن المأساة التي ستنزل على قارب من الرجال الذين كانو قد أبحرو نعش مفتوح بحثا عن سمك القد ، أبحروا في ليلة فاترة من موسم قاسي، وبين هؤلاء الصيادين هو الصبي بطل قصتنا وصديقه بارور ، بارور والذي بسبب ولعه ب كتاب شعري ينسي معطفه المضاد للماء ويتسبب لاحقا نسيانه تجمده حتى الموت، موت أخر يكابد حياه الفتى ويسلب شخصا اخر من قائمه أحبابه، نعم فبالنسبة للفتى ، تأتي هذه الخسارة بعد أعقاب من خسائر متواترة في عائلته، موت اخر يخلف الفتى بسؤال عميق يطرحه على نفسه ويتساءل بحرقه "إلى أي مدى يمكن أن يتحمل قلب الإنسان؟"

حنق الصبي على موت صديقه يدفعه على كره الكتاب الذي تسبب بموت صديقه، على كره البحر الذي جمد جسده ، لكن ب الحنق ذاته يقرر ان يحارب عواصف شتائيه بأكملها حتى يعيد الكتاب ل صاحبه الذي استعاره بارور منه حتى يخبره عن شؤمه ونحسه.

تبداء رحله الصبي ومعها تبداء رحله فلسفيه يصبغ عليها طابع المد والجزر ، ففي قريه جديده وعالم جديد تمسي احداث الروايه استطراديه وتصبح الشخصيات طرفيه وتختلف عن ابطال الجزء الرئيسي منها، ويخوض الصبي حياه جديده استطاع الكاتب عبرها ان يرسل لنا رسائل فلسفيه عميقه مرميه في كل تجربه او فرد يمر في حياه الصبي.

الجمال الخيالي لبيئة القطب الشمالي موجود وبقوه بين صفحات هذا الكتاب، لكن ما يجعل هذه الروايه اجمل بكثير هي التشبيهات، والاستعارات، والصور ، والأمثال ، الأمثال التي كتبها جوان كألمان ب أسلوب غنائي خصب ولحن فريد وأنيق، في كثير من الأحيان كانت الجمل تميل الى ان تكون طويله ومتشابكة معا بفواصل غير مفهومه ومع ذلك كان المعنى واضحا وكأن السطور تغني هذا المشهد الايسلندي ك قصيده نثر تتبع القافيه.

هذا كتاب فيه الكلمات مهمه، تصل أليك الكلمات وكأنها بلسم مهدى عندما تفشل أذرع الأحياء في تخفيف ألمك،هذا هو الأدب أيها القارئ ، يرسل أليك الأدب الكلمات مثل فريق أنقاذ عندما تكون الأيام عصيبه عليك.

أدناه فرق إنقاذ مختلفه خطها لنا كالمان بطريقه شاعريه لذيذه، في الاقتباسات ستلاحظ ان اللغه بذاتها هي انعكاس الجحيم الذي أُخُذ منه الجزء الثاني ل اسم الكتاب، أما الجنه فوجودها ب اللغه ذاتها ... اي ما اقصده هنا ان لغه الروايه هي الجنه واحداث الروايه هي الجحيم.

"قد لا نحتاج إلى الكلمات من أجل البقاء، من ناحية أخرى ، نحن بحاجة أليها للعيش ".

"يمكن لبعض الكلمات أن تغير العالم ، ويمكن أن تريحنا وتجف دموعنا. بعض الكلمات عبارة عن طلقات ، والبعض الآخر عبارة عن كمان. يمكن لبعضها أن يذوب الجليد حول قلب المرء ، وحتى أنه من الممكن إرسال كلمات مثل فرق الإنقاذ عندما تكون الأيام صعبة وقد لا نعيش ولا نموت ".

"اقتحام مملكة الموت مسلح بالكلمات. يمكن أن يكون للكلمات قوة العمالقة ويمكنها قتل الإله ، ويمكنها إنقاذ الأرواح وتدميرها، الكلمات هي السهام ، والرصاص ، والطيور الأسطورية التي تطارد الآلهة ... إنها شباك واسعة بما يكفي لاحتجاز العالم والسماء أيضًا ، ولكن في بعض الأحيان تكون الكلمات لا شيء ، الثياب الممزقة التي يخترقها الصقيع ، معركة جريئة يفرح بها الموت بخفة. لكن الكلمات هي الشيء الوحيد الذي يمتلكه هذا الصبي ".

"لا يوجد شيء حلو لي ، بدونك".

"أنا لا أعرف من أنا، لا أعرف لماذا أنا،
ولست متأكدًا تمامًا من أني سوف أوُمنح الوقت ل اكتشاف ذلك ".

"البحر هو نبع الحياة ، ولكن ايضا في عمقه يسكن إيقاع الموت".

"كلما زاد الضوء ، زاد الظلام". و "ضوء القمر ... يجعل الظل أغمق ، و العالم أكثر غموضًا."

"ذهب العالم الى سحابة سوداء كثيفة حيث ينبغي يقبع الأفق، ف العاصفة تقترب ".

"أولئك الذين يعيشون في هذا الوادي لا يرون سوى قطعة من السماء. أفقهم هو الجبال والأحلام ".

"الجحيم لديه أسلحة لكن لا أحد يعتنقها."

"الجحيم لا يعرف ما إذا كنا أحياء أم ميتين".

"الجحيم هو أن تكون ميتاً وأن تدرك أنك لم تهتم بالحياة بينما كانت لديك الفرصة".

"الجحيم مكتبة وأنت أعمى."

"الجحيم هو أيضا ظلم ، حيث تأتي الغربان ، وتكون مخمورا للغاية لتتذكر اسم زوجتك"

"لا أحد يسلب الذكريات المشرقة الجيدة من رجل ،لكن الذكريات السيئة لا تختفي أيضًا ، إنها تزداد إصرارًا على البقاء على مر السنين"

"تجلس المرأه بلا حراك ، تحدق كما لو أنها كانت تنتظر شخصًا قد ذهب بعيدًا لدرجة أنه ربما لن يكون لديه ما يكفي من الوقت للعودة في هذه الحياة"

“فالكلمات هي أكثر رفقائه الصادقه ، لكنها دائما ما عديمة الفائدة اذا ما وضعت تحت الاختبار”

“ف الصمت بعد سرد طويل يشير الى اذا ما كان مهم ان انه سرد ل عدم، يشير إلى ما إذا كان السرد قد دخل ولمس شيئًا ام انه اختصر الساعات لا اكثر ولا اقل”

“يجب أن تعامل العيون بعناية ، ويجب أن نفكر في المكان الذي ننظر اليه ومتى. حياتنا كلها تطفو من أعيننا ، يمكنها أن تكشف أسرارنا ، يمكنها أن تنقذك او تدمرك”

“هذا كل ما يرقى إليه الرجل ، عندما يتعلق الأمر ب الواقع ، فإنه ينكسر مثل قطعة من الخشب الفاسد”

“لكن الظلام ظل ثابتًا أمامه، لم يتركه ، فقد استولى عليه وحاصره ، ويرفظ أن يفرج عن قبضته أبدًا”

“ك الشعر والبحر ، ف الشعر يشبه البحر والبحر مظلم وعميق ، ولكنه أيضا أزرق ورائع بجمال”

“ثم توقف، مذعورا ، وخائفًا تقريبًا ، غاضبًا،غاضبا على تمزيق قلبه بلا تردد وعرضه على امرأة غير لا يعرفها”

“ثم امسئ رأسه فارغا
ك المباني الفارغة التي هجرت بسرعه
كان يحدق في لا شيء والدم يدور في حروج أذنيه مثل نفخة الأمواج البعيده"

"الإنسان مخلوق غريب، وقد استغل قوى الطبيعة ، وغزا الصعوبات التي تبدو غير قابلة للتغلب عليها ، فهو رب الأرض ، لكنه مع ذلك لا يملك إلا القليل من التحكم في أفكاره"

"مع ان الذكريات ثمينة فهي لا تطفو بنا على البحر ، أنها لا تنقذنا من الغرق"

"في انتظار الله أن يسحبهم ، ان يصطادهم بشبكه نجومه ، ان يجففهم مع ب الدافئة ، ويسمح لهم بالسير ب أقدام جافة في السماء"

يمكننني القولً ان هذا هو كتاب الاقتباسات، نعم ، يمكنك ان تفتح اي صفحه بشكل عشوائي في الكتاب وتجد بها اكثر من اقتباس شعري مذهل يجبرك على قرائته مره بعد مره ، ستيفانسون هو أول كاتب أيسلندي أقراء له وانا ممتن للغايه لأنني تعرفت عليه ، هذا الكتاب هو الجزء الأول من ثلاثيه ولذلك انا سعيدا جدا أني في رحله قادمه مع الدهشة والانبهار.

calabash restaurant wilmington nc






Profile Image for A..
338 reviews48 followers
May 1, 2022
Solo una historia de pescadores de bacalao. Solo una historia de pescadores remando en la oscuridad de la costa de Islandia. La historia de los pescadores es solo una excusa para escarbar en el alma de los hombres, en el consuelo de la literatura, en el puñal de la soledad y en ese momento en el que la muerte se convierte en esperanza.

Bella, pausada, incuestionablemente lírica, Stefánsson nos envuelve en un caleidoscopio de estímulos sensoriales y sentimentales que nos arrastrarán hasta una barca, una madrugada helada, con el viento aullando en nuestros oídos y una antigua poesía resonando en nuestra memoria.

Qué se yo, a mí estas historias me pueden. Cinco estrellas.
Profile Image for João Carlos.
646 reviews273 followers
February 12, 2017

Reykjavik Sculpture Solfar Viking Ship Iceland - Escultura de Jon Gunnar Arnason

“Paraíso e Inferno” do escritor islandês Jón Kalman Stefánsson (n. 1963) é a primeira obra e o primeiro livro de uma trilogia, sendo que o segundo livro “A Tristeza dos Anjos” foi recentemente editado em Portugal pela editora Cavalo de Ferro.
Na análise de “Paraíso e Inferno” existe uma questão determinante: Devemos fazer uma análise factual da história e dos acontecimentos nela descritos? Ou devemos procurar fazer uma análise alegórica dos factos - como num sonho - numa representação susceptível de múltiplas aparências ou interpretações? Ou no conjunto das duas anteriores interrogações?
Na crueza do enredo os factos são tão dramáticos, que poderiam ser reduzidos a uma página, em vez das cento e setenta e cinco do romance. Poupávamos no sofrimento e no dramatismo da história e por consequência nas atrocidades da vida.
Mas a mestria de “Paraíso e Inferno” reside precisamente no enquadramento real de uma paisagem inóspita e de um mar revoltoso e cruel com personagens que se tentam libertar da escuridão do mundo, da traição, da cobardia, da crueldade numa luta desesperada pela sobrevivência física e mental.
A história do “rapaz”, do Bárdur e dos pescadores revela uma vida feita de silêncios aterradores, da solidão do mar, da escuridão das noites, que vasculham nas profundezas da alma humana num misticismo religioso doentio.
A viagem que o “rapaz” empreende de volta à aldeia, libertado das inclemências marítimas, é igualmente dolorosa, repleta de sentimentos e de emoções contraditórias.
O título do livro “Paraíso e Inferno” é paradigmático, revelando um romance extraordinariamente comovente, com uma escrita poética, magistral e com uma simplicidade que nos arrepia.
“Paraíso e Inferno” é um livro de estado de espírito...
Como num sonho, a luz do dia liberta-nos dos nossos fantasmas…
Profile Image for Sandra Deaconu.
667 reviews103 followers
July 6, 2020
De la Backman încoace nu am mai fost atât de cucerită de complexitatea unei scriituri, iar Stefánsson este mult, mult mai intens, profund și copleșitor! Ce minte fascinantă trebuie să aibă autorul! Nici nu știu cum să exprim cât de mult mi-a plăcut.

,,Ochii nu sunt stăpâniți de nimic. Trebuie să ne gândim bine unde și când îi ațintim spre ceva. Ni se petrece viața întreagă prin ochii aceștia, pot la fel de bine să fie arme, cum pot să fie sunete melodioase, cântec de păsări sau urlet de luptă. Le stă în putință să dezvăluie cine suntem, să te salveze ori să te piardă. Ți-am întâlnit privirea și viața mi s-a schimbat. Mi-e frică de ochii ei. Mă pierd în ochii lui. Uită-te un pic la mine, ca să îmi meargă bine și poate ajung și eu să dorm liniștit.''

Profile Image for Rahma.Mrk.
717 reviews1,248 followers
August 31, 2020
في الاندلس زمن عصر الترف انتشر في بلاط السلاطين ضرب من الشعر يتميز ب الصنعة الشعرية .
و لقد كان هناك نقد دائم لهم(شعراء الصنعة)
من قبل شعراء الطبع اي بطبعه شاعر.

هذه الرواية تنتمي لتلك الفترة
هي صنعة شعرية او روائية
ستجد تقنيات السرد و بعض الأحداث و الشخصيات التي سوف تتعب و انت تتذكر اسماءها ووصفًا للصقيع و الشتاء حد ينطف القلب
لكن ما ربطها في ذهني بالصنعة الشعرية اللغة و اسلوب الكتابة الذي ينساب ك ليلة صيف مقمرة مع بحر الهادئ يهدهد صياد سمك الحالم بعروس البحر و صوتها السحري

لكن هل احتراف اللغة و إقتباسات المتميزة يجعل الرواية روايةً كائنة بذاتها؛ يجعل منها رواية متكاملة الاركان

هل الشاعر الذي يُجيد نظم الكلمات و رصفها مع أسلوب متميز يجعله منه شاعرًا بمعنى الكلمة ؟
حسب راي الشخصي لا .
هذه الرواية صنعة شعرية لكنها ليست عمل ادبي يخترقني .
كانت حفنة من اقتباسات و اللغة مع 3 احداث رئسية و شخصيات مسقطة كثيرة.

أعتذر لكل أصدقاء الرحلة على هذا الترشيح 😊
لكن عسى أن يغفر لي صدقي في التقييم زلتي 🌸

خيبة أمل 😔
29/janv/20 🌸
Profile Image for Sidonia.
301 reviews47 followers
April 19, 2023
Mai ce carte minunata!! Nu am mai citit de mult asa o carte profunda. Povestea e rece, e trista, e departe de a fi frumoasa, si totusi este atat de profund scrisa, fiecare cuvânt are ecou, te face sa reflectezi si sa prețuiești viata. Dacă ar fi sa subliniez citate preferate, cred ca as sublinia toata cartea. Este prima din trilogie, abia astept sa le citesc și pe celelalte doua.
Am descoperit o Islanda rece, inghetata, primitiva, unde moartea e mai puternica decât viata. Parca sciitura m-a dus cu gândul la Zafon, la atmosfera aia gotica si înfiorătoare. Si totusi mi-a placut atat de mult! La inceput as fi zis ca este despre Barour, dar de fapt personajul principal este cel intitulat simplu: Băiatul. Spre final l-am indragit putin, naivitatea si simplitatea lui m-au făcut sa zâmbesc. Va anunț de pe acum ca personajele sunt lipsite de culoare, sunt reci ca Marea Inghetata si nu va veți conecta cu niciunul. Daaar totusi, veți adora cartea!
Profile Image for Zhraa زهراء.
355 reviews205 followers
April 29, 2023
البحر من جانب وجبال حادة وشاهقة من الجانب الآخر. تلك هي قصتنا الكاملة في الحقيقة. قد تتحكم السلطات والتجار بأيامنا المعدمة، لكن الجبال والبحر يتحكمان بالحياة نفسها، هما قدرنا، أو هكذا نفكر في أغلب الأوقات،وهكذا سيشعر المرء حتما في حال صحا ونام لعقود في كنف تلك الجبال، هكذا سيشعر في حال علا صدره وهبط مع أنفاس البحر وهو على متن قواربنا الصغيرة الخفيفة. في الحقيقة لا يكاد يكون هناك ما هو أروع من البحر في الأيام الجيدة، أو الليالي الصافية، عندما يحلم ويكون وميض القمر حلمه. لكن البحر يكف عن أن يكون رائعا ولو قليلا، بل حتى نضمر له الكراهية أكثر من أي شي آخر عندما ترتفع الأمواج عشرات الأمتار فوق المركب، عندما تتكسر فوقه، فنغرق كأننا جراء بائسة. آنذاك يتساوى الجميع؛ الأنذال الفاسدون والرجال الطيبون؛العمالقة والمتخاذلون، السعداء والأشقياء. لا شيء سوى صراخ مدو، حركات مسعورة، ثم كما لو أننا ماكنا هنا مطلقا، يغرق الجسد الميت، يبرد الدم الساري فيه، تتحول الذكريات إلى هباء، يتوافد السمك ويقضم الشفاه التي قبلت البارحة ونطقت الكلمات التي عنت كل شيء، يقضم الكتفين والظهر الذي حمل أصغر الأبناء، وفي قاع المحيط تنتهي العينان اللتان تكفان عن رؤية أي شيء. المحيط بارد الزرقة ولايهدأ أبدا، مخلوق عملاق يتنفس، يرأف بنا في أغلب الأحيان، لكنه في بعض لاأوقات لا يفعل ونغرق؛ إن تاريخ البشرية ليس بالغ التعقيد.

هي ذي القصة كلها
الرواية تكبير لهذا المشهد وتوسيع له
تذكير بمدى هشاشتنا
نحن لاشيء أمام الطبيعة
أمام البحر والثلج والبرد
والوحدة والحزن واللايقين
يمكن أن يبتلعنا البحر في لحظة غضب
لكن يمكن أيضا أن تبتلعنا الكلمات
تغير بعض القصائد النهار والليل وحياة المرء
يستعير باردور فردوس ملتون المفقود من الربان الأعمى
بقي للحظة صامتا كما لو أنه يتفكر في الكلمات
أترى، سيقلب هذا الكتاب حياتك رأسا على عقب
وهذا ليس شيئا سيئا
لم يقلب حياة باردور فقط
بل أنهاها
نسي باردور معطفه الواقي لأن الكلمات أسكرته
قتلته قصيدة
هذا ما يفعله الشعر بنا
قوى الطبيعة والكلمات لا يمكن السيطرة عليها
يدمجهما كالمان ستفينسون في مشهد بديع
يغرق باردور بسبب العاصفة والشعر في آن معا
الراوي البديع في هذه الثلاثية هم الموتى
هم ظلمة تقريبا
الموتى العالقون بين الجنة والجحيم
الغرقى في البحر القطبي الذين بدموعهم صار البحر مالحا
يتابع هؤلاء الموتى حياة الفتى
صديق شهيد الشعر باردور
لكن ما تراه يفعل ؟
بعد أن أخذ البحر جميع أحبائه
ها هو وحيد سائرا في الثلج
يلتقي الثالوث الدنيوي
غيرترود وهيلغا وكولبين
أدخل وأعيد الكتاب ،شكرا على إقراضه لباردور،هذه نصوص بديعة ،لا شيء حلو في نظري بدونك .أودت بحياة أعز صديق لي. الشيء الوحيد الجيد الذي استطعت العثور عليه في هذه الحياة الملعونة. عموما ،شكرا على إقراض الكتاب

هذا ليس كتابا عاديا
شعر سماوي، واقعية سحرية
جمال لا حدود له
لا أسأم من قصة الفتى والبحر وغياب الفردوس
بترجمة سكينة إبراهيم المبدعة
إذا كنت تقصد أحداثا وتشويقا
فهذه الرواية حتما ليست لك
هادئة هدوءا قاتلا، أحداثها قليلة
لكن السرد شعري
اللغة من عالم آخر
اعتدت على قراءة هذه الثلاثية قبل النوم
هو الوقت المناسب فعلا
بين النوم واليقظة
إنما لماذا نروي لكم هذه الحكايات؟
أي قوة مروعة غير اليأس الذي يقذفنا إلى ما قبل مالا اسم له كي نروي لكم قصصا عن الحياة المطفأة؟
كلماتنا فريق إنقاذ مرتبك معه خرائط ملغاة وأهازيج طيور بدلا من البوصلات.
مرتبك وتائه إلى أبعد الحدود
وعلى الرغم من ذلك مهمته إنقاذ العالم
إنقاذ الأرواح المطفأة

Profile Image for Yaqeen.
205 reviews93 followers
February 1, 2020
واخيراً أكملتها...


بعد طول غياب أكملت قراءة الرواية ،لولا السفرة المفاجئة والظروف التي تلت لكنت قد أكملتها بوقت أقل ...
أتمنى أن لا أظلم الكاتب بتقييمي لكن وجدتُ صعوبة في حفظ الأسماء، والتمييز بين الشخصيات،لا أعلم ما السبب، أعتقد لأنني قرأتها وعقلي مشوش..

تفتقد الرواية لشيء ما ،هل يا ترى عدم شرح الكاتب للشخصيات قبل البدأ في الحكاية ؟!
أم أن هناك سبب آخر!

الرواية خالية من الأحداث تتكلم عن الموت والحياة بأختصار ...

ولا أنسى الاقتباسات التي لامست جراح قلبي..

اعتذر منكم أصدقائي لانسحابي من القراءة الجماعية وعدم مواصلة القراءة معكم،
أرجو أن لا يتكرر الذي حصل معي في القراءة القادمة

Profile Image for Laysee.
498 reviews231 followers
December 23, 2015

"Nothing is sweet to me, without thee."- Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Set in a fishing community off the north Icelandic coast, “Heaven and Hell” is an achingly beautiful story about loss and the search for a reason to live when all the light has gone out. The central character is simply referred to as the boy. That he has no name suggests the universality of coming to terms with losing someone we love – an experience from which no one is spared in life.

The book opens with the words “We are nearly darkness”. It foreshadows the tragedy that will descend upon a boatful of men fishing for cod on a frosty night. The boy’s buddy, Bárður, forgot his waterproof coat and froze to death; the reason for that fatal act of forgetfulness is more than I or any lover of poetry can bear. For the boy, this loss comes on the heels of earlier deaths in his family and he wonders "How much can the human heart endure?" Why and how should he live? This is all the plot there is to this story.

Jón Kalman Stefánsson writes in a lush lyrical style that is melodic and elegiac. The book is translated from Icelandic language into English by Philip Roughton. The sentences tend to be very long, strung together by commas where periods perhaps ought to be. However, the meaning remains clear and the Icelandic landscape sings in the poetry of Stefansson's haunting prose.

On many levels, this is a book about contrasts: nature and man; darkness and light; heaven and hell; words and silence. The mountains are ancient, immovable, eternal; the sea is mighty and pitiless even as it holds out promise of freedom and fish. In contrast, the fishermen’s boat is an open coffin tossed to and fro by the murderous surf. The destiny of the skippers and fishermen are inextricably bound up with the vacillating forces of nature. Those interactions can spell Heaven or Hell.

Light is a key theme. Recalling news of his father’s drowning, the boy records, "It was a neighbor who came and extinguished the light of the world." Light is not always welcome because "Moonlight can leave us defenseless. It causes us to remember, wounds tear open and we bleed." Light is keeping beautiful memories alive. The boy’s mother writes him stories about his father so that he can always be warmed by the light of these precious memories.

True to the title of the book, heaven and hell are richly expounded upon and hold up powerful metaphors for elemental human needs. Hell is loneliness – “...having arms but no one to embrace". It is a dead person. Hell is ambivalence – “...not knowing whether we are alive or dead”. Hell is a world without books - “… a library and you’re blind”. It should not surprise us that Heaven is closer than we think or care to appreciate. It is being fed when we are famished: "...at such moment coffee and rye bread are Heaven itself". Heaven is the simple things in life because "Happiness is having something to eat, to have escaped the storm, come through the breakers that roar just behind the land...".

This is a book in which words are all important. Words reach out like a soothing balm when the arms of the dead no longer can. The words in this book are Heaven made flesh. The boy finds a measure of healing in sharing his story of loss with three new friends. It brings to mind Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” wherein she too finds solace in telling how she coped with the death of her beloved husband. I am reminded again that great literature “send out words like rescue teams when days are difficult”. Even so, Stefánsson reminds us that words are inadequate and "we become lost and die out on the heaths of life if we have nothing to hold but a dip pen". Alas, sometimes, words are all we have.

Stefánsson is my first Icelandic writer. I am very thankful to have made his acquaintance and look forward to reading more of his writing.
Profile Image for Roberto.
627 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2017
“Non esiste quasi niente di più bello del mare nelle giornate serene o nelle notti terse, quando anche lui sogna e la luna è il suo sogno. Ma il mare non è per niente bello e lo odiamo più di qualsiasi altra cosa quando le onde si alzano anche di dieci metri sopra la barca, quando i frangenti la travolgono e il mare ci beve come miseri cuccioli. E lì tutti sono uguali”.

Oltre al mare, descritto nel suo aspetto più brutale, in questo intenso romanzo si parla della lettura, intesa come valore fondamentale:

“Le parole possono avere il potere dei troll e possono abbattere gli dei, possono salvare la vita e annientarla. Le Parole sono frecce, proiettili , uccelli leggendari all’inseguimento degli dei, le parole sono pesci preistorici che scoprono un segreto terrificante nel profondo degli abissi, sono reti sufficientemente grandi per catturare il mondo e abbracciare i cieli, ma a volte le parole non sono niente, sono stracci usati dove il freddo penetra, sono fortezze in disuso che la morte e la sventura varcano con facilità”

ma anche i silenzi:

“Il silenzio che segue un lungo racconto ci fa capire se ha raggiunto il suo scopo o se è stato raccontato per niente, ci dice se la storia è penetrata in chi ascoltava e l’ha toccato o se è stata un semplice passatempo, e nulla di più.”

Il protagonista del romanzo è un ragazzo di cui non viene mai detto il nome, orfano, taciturno e solo, che ha un unico amico con cui si guadagna la vita in mare, a pesca di merluzzi. Barthour è un amico particolare; in un mondo difficile e aspro, i due sono uniti dall’amore per la scrittura, per la lettura e per la poesia. Le parole che trovano sui libri che riescono a procurarsi sono il filo conduttore della loro amicizia taciturna.
Barthour prima di mettersi in viaggio ha avuto in prestito da un vecchio cieco del villaggio una copia del Paradiso perduto di Milton. Quel libro è per lui più che una bibbia, ne impara interi brani a memoria, in serbo per la ragazza di cui immagina di essere innamorato...

“Nulla mi è delizia, tranne te”

Queste parole lo accompagnano nell’ultima uscita in mare; per Barthour non c’è scampo quando, distratto dall’intensità di quei versi, dimentica a terra la cerata, unica protezione contro il gelo dell’Artico. Il ragazzo, disperato per non aver saputo o potuto aiutare l’amico, torna al villaggio a riportare il libro preso in prestito al suo proprietario. Durante il suo viaggio oscilla tra la voglia di riportare a casa il “paradiso” e la tentazione di lasciarsi morire nell’inferno di freddo e ghiaccio che lo circonda.

Nel piccolo villaggio, lontano dal mare, la vita in un certo senso è meno dura e si apre per il ragazzo qualche possibilità di fare conoscenze e di instaurare rapporti umani.

“La gioia, la felicità, l’amore appassionato sono la triade che fa di noi degli uomini, che giustifica l’esistenza e la rende più grande della morte, eppure non offre riparo contro il vento del polo. Il mio amore per una cerata, la mia felicità e la mia gioia per un altro maglione.
La felicità è poter mangiare qualcosa, averla scampata nella tempesta, aver scavalcato gli imponenti marosi che mugghiano sulla costa…”

L’Inferno è amare ma non avere nessuno da abbracciare; una biblioteca di quattrocento libri ed essere ciechi, “essere morti e rendersi conto che non hai avuto cura della vita quando ne avevi la possibilità”; è non sapere chi sei, né perché, e averne paura. Ci resta solo da “sperare nel profondo di noi stessi, dove batte il cuore e si radicano i sogni, che nessuna vita sia stata invano”.

Ogni parte del romanzo contiene spunti per riflessioni e meditazioni, è un’intensa e coinvolgente meditazione sul significato dell’esistenza. Ovviamente la risposta su che cosa sia la vita non viene data; ma forse è “implicita nella domanda, nello stupore che cela in sé”.
La trama in sé non è, a mio parere, così importante. La bellezza del libro sta nei paesaggi, nei silenzi, nella profondità delle frasi, dei versi, nella ricerca di risposte all'ineluttabilità della vita che cancella amici, padri, mariti, affetti.
Difficile dimenticare certe atmosfere e certe parole. Molto molto bello.
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