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The Whispering Muse

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  1,195 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews
Already celebrated far beyond his native Iceland, the novels of Sjón arrive on waves of praise from writers, critics, and readers worldwide. Sjón has won countless international awards and earned ringing comparisons to Borges, Calvino, and Iceland's other literary superstar, the Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. The Whispering Muse is his masterpiece so far.

The year is 1
Hardcover, 143 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2005)
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Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An eccentric Icelander with lofty ideas of fish
consumption on Nordic civilization has been invited to join a Danish merchant ship on its way to the Black Sea. One of the crew members, a mythical hero, is disguised as a ship mate. Every night after dinner, he tells stories of how he sailed with the fabled vessel 'Argo' on its quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece.

"There it was fighting to free itself from the hook, bending the rod to breaking point for what seemed like an eternity--it took me a f
Henry Avila
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Quirky Icelander Valdimar Haraldsson, an octogenarian, living in a tiny apartment, in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a firm believer in the benefits of eating fish, frequently, he has written books and magazine articles, even lectured, to this, supposed fact, and views the Nordic people's healthy and robust bodies, as a confirmation of that undeniable truth. Nevertheless being twice a widower, he is an unhappy, lonely and rather bored man...until an unexpected invitation from Danish shipping magnate, M ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mi hermana
Recommended to s.p by: Peter
'The wind was in our favor.'

Stories are the building blocks for our lives and the whole of human history. We all have our own personal experiences which we share with others to create an image of ourselves in their minds, and through the stories of our ancestors we can chart the progression of history as it marches toward the present, while witnessing the creation and destruction of all the civilizations, religions and other governing systems of belief across it’s ever-growing timeline. Even our
Claire McAlpine
I loved this little gem of a book, that demands much more than the 143 pages it is written on. It is an invitation to embark on the adventures of The Argonauts, as told by the second mate Caeneus, who while voyaging on a ship in 1949 narrates his previous adventures on the Argo under Captain Jason in their quest for the Golden Fleece.

Not being familiar with the epic poem written by Apollonius of Rhodes, (Hellenistic poet, 3rd century BC) I diverged off course to familiarise myself with its plot
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
much like the blue fox, sjón's the whispering muse is possessed of qualities that linger long after the novel has concluded. combining elements of greek mythology with modern storytelling (as well as incorporating his grandfather's fascination with icelandic & nordic fish consumption), the whispering muse (argóarflísin) is a lyrical, imaginative work. set mostly upon a merchant ship in the spring of 1949, the crew is regaled nightly by the astonishing tales of mate caeneus's adventures saili ...more
Gia Scott
Jun 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a strange book. Essentially, it's the tale of a tale being told, with the telling occurring a long time ago (for most of us living souls) about an even more ancient tale.
It was okay, but...I just could not ever really get into the story. The main character comes off as somewhat pompous with an overblown sense of racial/ethnic superiority. I couldn't identify with him, or with his points of view. I wanted to shove him off the boat and into the sea, preferably with circling sharks in the
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Richard Derus
I am not surprise to learn that he wrote for Bjork. What doesn't Sjon cover in this slim little volume? Still thinking about it days after reading it. It's actually a wonderful novel. Thank you Richard.
Parrish Lantern
Myth or Mythos, From the Ancient Greek μῦθος (muthos, “report”, “tale”, “story”)

A story or set of stories relevant to or having a significant truth or meaning for a particular culture, religion, society, or other group.

Anything delivered by word of mouth: a word, speech, conversation, or similar; a story, tale, or legend, especially a poetic tale.

A tale, story, or narrative, usually verbally transmitted, or otherwise recorded into the written form from an alleged secondary source.

The interrelati
Oct 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sjón, the pen name of the Icelandic author Sigurjón Birgir Sigurosson, is only now being introduced to the English speaking world as his novels are beginning to be translated. I decided to read this work after reading a favorable review by the esteemed English author A.S. Byatt, whose work I have greatly enjoyed. This curious little novel is hard to pin down, almost impossible to categorize. Such may be Sjón’s intent. The tale begins in the first person, told by the pedantic and supercilious Val ...more
Julie Holmes
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Jason & the Argonauts meets Portnoy's Complaint meets the 100 year old man that fell out the window.....with the odd herring thrown in. Love a bit of Icelandic humour.
Chihoe Ho
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
With a cover and a title like that, glowing recommendations from renown authors like David Mitchell and Alberto Manguel, and the comparison as "Iceland's Haruki Murakami/Robert Bolaño" from my colleague, it was hard to keep my hands off this book. I had no inkling as to what "The Whispering Muse" was about so it was a pleasant surprise as to how taken I was by the story and the words.

When I say story, I meant a story within a story, where Vladimar Haraldsson is on board a Danish merchant ship an
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Неговата проза е нещо много различно от всичко, което съм чела. Сьоун наистина притежава безкомпромисен интелект, който успява да обвърже с чувството си за хумор и да представи този синхрон в романа си “The Whispering Muse” (Шепнещата Муза). Там читателят среща Валдимар Харалдсон, ексцентричен и леко надут застаряващ исландец, който се качва на борда на датски кораб в пътешествие до Черно море. Действието се развива през 1949 година, а героят на Сьоун е обсебен от теорията, че превъзходстсово на ...more
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Whispering Muse is a delightful tale. Sjon weaves myth into common human experience and places the thread deftly into historical context. Not too high-minded, and just enough left unexplained. Read it if you'd like a humorous and inspiring story about divinity and humanity intertwined.

I’ve read other reviews so I’m aware I was meant to love or at least like this book very much. I didn’t. I didn’t hate it but it didn’t spark my interest as much as it did others’. Perhaps if I was more familiar with Greek mythology I would have had more of a framework for enjoying it.

There was a sly humor in it that I liked and the main character, though unlikable, was an intriguing narrator. He was no one’s fool and was not going to be taken in by the tall tales that were told onboard shi
Dec 2013.
[3.5] Once again, I'm underwhelmed by Sjón .
Is it partly the translator, Victoria Cribb? Aside from Sjón's The Blue Fox, the only other translation of hers I've read was Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indriðason; the style there was perfectly serviceable for a police procedural, and here she rarely conveys much sense of this as a novel by a poet. (The narrator is, though, a pedant and Nazi sympathiser aged 80ish in 1949, not really given to flights of ethereal fancy.) The effusive blurbers an
Wiebke (1book1review)
I'm not sure where this wanted to go, and didn't like where it went.
Admittedly, I don't really care for this type of narrator, his characteristcs.
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt, Sjon’s The Whispering Muse is the oddest, little book I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s protagonist, Valdimar Haraldsson is a puffed-up, self-absorbed intellectual who has written a 17 volume set on the correlation between Nordic superiority and Nordic fish consumption. He is a man who cares only about eating fish, talking about fish, and foisting his theories on those around him. He’s strange, he’s cocky, he’s pathetic, and he’s funny. He gets invited to spend time on a Dani ...more
Jul 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had high expectations with the opening chapter, introducing a highly eccentric protagonist, Valdimar Haraldsson, whose chief preooccupation is the link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race.

Sjon weaves in details from "Argonautica" by Apollonius of Rhodes, "Medea" by Euripides, "Metamorphoses" by Ovid as well as Nordic sources, through the voice of the second mate Caeneus, (disguised mythical hero) who "before embarking on his tales had the habit of drawing a rotten
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tak túto knižku možno právom označiť za veľmi veľmi zvláštnu. Pre mňa určite áno.

Osobne ju akosi prirodzene delím na 2 vedľa seba plynúce deje, cesta hlavného rozprávača Valdimara a rozprávanie Kaineusa počas výletu. Kým prvý príbeh bol pre mňa miestami otravný, či už zamysleniami o nadradenosti severanov vďaka konzumácii rýb či zdĺhavymi opismi, druhý plynul ako jarný vánok opierajúci sa do plachiet lide Argó.

A to najlepšie bol vlastne doslova autora o myšlienkovom pochode, ktorý je za celým di
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was more cohesion to this novel as, well, a novel than I experienced with From the Mouth of the Whale and as such it enabled me to enjoy Sjón's writing so much more. He has a gift with phrases that seem to spin out like gossamer thread, glinting in the light - and he creates a vivid picture, even without too many adjectives or bluntly descriptive phrases, of a world in the North. He's the kind of writer who, at his best, can (like Caeneus, perhaps) make a reader (or listener) believe in th ...more
I'm not quite sure what to make of this work. A post WW-II merchant ship voyage intertwines with the voyage of the Argo and the myth of Sigurd through both a story teller and a narrator who may not be what they seem. At times it was difficult to put up with the fussy, unstable narrator yet the ending rewarded my efforts. Through myth, we can find our lives rejuvenated and meaningful once again.
Michael Sanderson-green
It's official Sjon is now my new favourite author. Each page of this book is a complete surprise in which one has no idea where the story is going you just have to relax and let him take you on a wonderful journey skipping from Creek mythology to magical reality to travelogue. I will now sit and contemplate the meanings of the story.
Kyle Muntz
An incredibly interesting combination of elements, and sometimes incredibly hilarious, though I never got the impression this book added up to much, with leaden prose and characters who felt sort of like disembodied mustaches in suits. Still curious for Sjon's other books, but despite some good moments this one just didn't do much for me.
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
2.4 stars rounded down. Sjón, I think we're done here. The Blue Fox is a better novel, but not by much. Meh.
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I deeply enjoyed this book, but I'm at a loss for reviewing it fully.

However, I will offer one piece of advice: don't lose track of the storyteller, or the storyteller's storyteller, or the history of the storyteller's storyteller. Don't lose track of time.
Hlöðver Sigurðsson
Very very Bad and very boring. As an Icelander, don't rate our literature according to this book.
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sjóna mám rada, je to úžasný spisovateľ a milujem jeho knihu Máni Steinn. Múza nie je až taká dobrá, ale dá sa. No občas som sa nudila. Takže skôr taký priemer, ale tento autor to vie aj lepšie :)
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readathon17
#readathon17 Ένα βιβλίο που βασίζεται σε κάποιο παραμύθι ή μύθο

Delightfully quirky, I enjoyed it!
Muy buenas historias, antiguas y nuevas, fantasía desatada, y un tono un poco demasiado frío para mí.

Me gustó mucho a donde puede llevar las cosas, pero me faltaron personajes, no solo héroes y aventureros, que al final tienen un matiz particular, de esos tiene bastantes, sino personajes más desarrollados, no solo los que se encuentran envueltos en situaciones limite.

El desborde de fantasía está bueno, y me gustó descubrir a este escritor islandés, pero no sé si perseguiré más libros suyos.
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Sjón (Sigurjón B. Sigurðsson) was born in Reykjavik on the 27th of August, 1962. He started his writing career early, publishing his first book of poetry, Sýnir (Visions), in 1978. Sjón was a founding member of the surrealist group, Medúsa, and soon became significant in Reykjavik's cultural landscape.
More about Sjón...