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CoDex 1962

(Leo Löwe Trilogy #1-3)

by
3.78  ·  Rating details ·  463 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Jósef Loewe can recall the moment of his birth in August, 1962 and everything that has happened since - or so he claims to the woman listening to the tale of his life...

A love story
He begins with his father, Leo, a starving Jewish fugitive in World War II Germany. In a small-town guesthouse, Leo discovers a kindred spirit in the maid who nurses him back to health; together
...more
Paperback, 517 pages
Published July 26th 2018 by Sceptre (first published 2016)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
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Meike
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iceland, 2020-read
A golem in Iceland? A stamp-collecting werewolf? A black scholar of religion performing Mexican lucha libre in pursuit of a magical golden ring stolen from a Jewish refugee/alchemist? YES YES YES. Sjón's "CoDex 1962" is one wild ride, a three-part tome interweaving a myriad of ideas and thus illustrating how we are all made of stories. The main character is Leo Löwe, a Jewish man who escaped from a Nazi concentration camp and, with the help of a maid working in the guest house where he hides, cr ...more
Glenn Russell

Icelandic novelist and poet Sjón

CoDex 1962 - an epic trilogy composed of three novels: a love story, a crime story, a science fiction story.

From beginning to end, a cornucopia of stories and stories within stories and stories within stories within stories.

How to review this unique book? As my own modest attempt to click into Sjón's literary vibe, I'll shift to a mode of reviewing that embraces other reviews and reviewers, a mode of reviewing that also shares snips of a number of CoDex 1962 stor
...more
Jenna
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel certain that had I read Codex 1962 at another time, it would have earned 5 stars from me. However, this is a novel that requires a fair amount of concentration and when you are unable to sleep, your brain becomes mush and concentration becomes impossible. 

I began this with regular sleeping hours and loved the first book (it was originally published as 3 books in its original Icelandic, but published as one volume in English). The writing style, the story, the wit, the characters.... it al
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Rachel
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think it’s written very well but at no point in the book did I have any idea what the hell was going on
Paul Fulcher
Authors are as much in thrall as readers to these natural attributes of stories and books.  Little do they suspect that most of what they consider new and innovative in their works is actually so old that millennia have passed since the idea first took shape in the mind of a female storyteller who passed it on by word of mouth until it was recorded on a clay tablet, papyrus, parchment or paper, wound up in a scroll or bound in a book, finally ending up as a literary innovation. 

CoDex 1962, trans
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Spencer Orey
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me a while! RTC
jeremy
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, translation
authors are as much in thrall as readers to these natural attributes of stories and books. little do they suspect that most of what they consider new and innovative in their works is actually so old that millennia have passed since the idea first took shape in the mind of a female storyteller, who passed it on by word of mouth until it was recorded on a clay tablet, papyrus, parchment or paper, wound up in a scroll or bound in a book, finally ending up as a literary innovation. all stories ha
...more
John Hatley
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit that I wouldn't have been able to read this without the English translation open to the same page. I'm going to have to study the Icelandic language much more in depth before I'll be able to read a novel without considerable help.
For other comments on this fascinating trilogy, see my rating of the English translation.
Tommi
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[3.5] That’s how Icelanders generally evaded all topics of conversation, using instead a philosophical mode of discourse. They were incapable of discussing things directly. If they contributed anything at all to the conversation it was in the form of a short anecdote or examples from natural history.

While reading Sjón’s mammoth novel – for a mammoth it is compared to his earlier work – I remarked at the passing of each hundred pages: I still don’t understand a thing, but oh well, let’s read on.

S
...more
Drew
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's admittedly strange to see Sjón operating in a maximalist mode after his run of success with short, magically realist novels. But unsurprisingly, it works: he's putting it all out there, taking a shot at including everything he's interested in -- and so the story swings from romance to speculative to adventure to crime to non-fiction (or hypothetically non-fiction) to even a bit of memoir (both personal and fictional). And sometimes, it feels a bit too much! But that's okay! Even when I felt ...more
Karmologyclinic
There are two ways to make a monument (let's take a not so random example, the 1st world war): either very carefully take a piece of marble and put all your skills and whatever they taught you in art school and make a symbolic structure that all will admire, or you can visit the battlegrounds and arrange thousand of tombstones and let them tell the story.

And that’s kind of the same method Sjon is using to talk about the things he want, life and death, identity and memory, and of course storytel
...more
John Hatley
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an astonishing trilogy, not least because it was 22 years between the publication of parts one and three. I understand that part three was not published separately and is only available in the trilogy. CoDex 1962 is epic in proportion, spanning much of the 20th century to the present. Sjón labels part one, Thine Eyes Did See My Substance, "a love story" (first published in 1994); part two, Iceland's Thousand Years, "a crime story" (first published in 2001); and part three, I'm a Sleeping ...more
Harriet Springbett
I almost put this book down after the first chapter because the characterisation was unconvincing, I couldn't grasp who was saying what and I didn't like the stories-within-stories structure or the casual language used. However. I soon realised that the book is a display of storytelling. When the narrator points out that Icelanders don't discuss things, that they tell anecdotes to illustrate a point, I understood that this is exactly what Sjon is doing. It was interesting to work out how the ane ...more
Neil
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
My GR friend Paul has written a detailed and comprehensive review of this book here:

Paul’s review

and, to make it even more comprehensive, Paul’s review, in turn, links to several other excellent reviews of the book.

It is fitting that I should direct you to Paul’s review of this book as it is Paul’s copy that I read after he kindly handed it over to me at the start of a meal in a London restaurant a few months ago where a few of us gathered to talk about books (not this one).

I can’t really add an
...more
Rees Malwin
Perhaps the most poetic & magnificent novel I’ve ever read. ...more
Jonathan Hawpe
This complex fabulist tapestry sometimes feels like the whole history of storytelling compressed into one volume, jumping from genre deconstruction and mythic visions to earthy humor and grounded human emotion with astounding grace: Icelandic literary magic in the tradition of Calvino's Invisible Cities, Bulgakov's Master And Margarita, Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.
Christopher
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kaleidoscopic fabulist maximalist historical fantasy of the highest order.
Matthew Burris
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has EVERYTHING. And somehow it all holds together. Funny and weird and so much more. I really liked it and would’ve happily kept reading if I hadn’t gotten to the end. Recommended.
Karine
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
A masterpiece of storytelling, Codex 1962 takes a long time to get used to. The stories are outlandish, disjointed, and interrupted. They come in a wide variety of genres, and some threads are never picked up again. Nevertheless, when each novel finally comes together, it is beautiful. While the lives of characters and communities are revealed, CoDex 1962 is really about storytelling itself.
Peter
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Codex 1962: A Trilogy (2018) is a farcical, funny, and over the top parable in three parts. The author, Sjón, is a songwriter, poet, fabulist, and the most renowned Icelandic writer we've never heard of. Codex is a compilation of three novellas published between 1994 and 2016. The book is a mélange of good old story-telling, of sometimes obscure myths, and of existential angst. it's no mistake that 1962 is the year of Sjón's birth, or that there is an emphasis in Part 3 on the deaths of those Ic ...more
Michelle  Hogmire
WOW WHAT?! Sjón has that certain kind of Lynchian narrative audacity, where his sheer commitment to a story can make you believe anything. I mean, this thing's got angels, werewolves, unicorns, kids made out of clay, Soviet spies with tails, black theologian wrestlers, etc--not to mention a completely bonkers storytelling frame, involving a transwoman and a genetics company, that spans over three novels: a love story, a crime story, and a science fiction story, taking place from WWII to the futu ...more
Barry
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sjón describes this as a trilogy. I tend to read upwards of two novels a week. I've been busy with this for three weeks! Dense, complex and enigmatic, it's somehow about the Icelandic genome project, thalidomide and the Holocaust, all woven together with Judeo-Christian mythology and salted fish. I think I liked it, but I feel too pummeled by it to give it five stars.
Isabel
I could throw around many adjectives to describe this book. But I won’t. Instead I’ll stick to one word only: Masterpiece.

I know, I know, what a daring thing to say. But I truly believe that Sjón’s CoDex 1962 has earned it. It is one of those rare books where I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out how everything worked out while at the same time I didn’t want it to end because I enjoyed reading it so much.

Sjón played with style and form, he interspersed the narrative with myths, fairy tal
...more
Ana
“All stories have their origins long before humans discovered a means of storing them somewhere other than in their memories, and so it doesn’t matter if books are worn out by reading, if the print-run is lost at sea, if they’re pulped so other books can be printed, or burned down to the last copy. The vitality contained in their loose ends and red herrings (…) is so potent that if it escapes into the head of a single reader it will be activated, like a curse or a blessing that can follow the
...more
Lex Poot
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written over the course of 22 years it shows the various phases Sjón is going through in his penship. From highly associative story intermingled with mythology to a more straightforward story based on latest genetic research. Strangely it works which shows what a great storyteller Sjón is.
First book almost read like an acid trip. Even the author sometimes doubt were it is going leading to a dialogue with his alter ego. It is clear that the stories is based on golem, an anthropomorphic animated b
...more
Matthias
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is hard to describe. I imagine, Jean Paul, revived, and given a month of time to orient himself, would have written something like this, at least the first two parts. As I adore Jean Paul, this qualification alone deserves 6 stars for the two first parts each. I am not so sure about the last part. Sjón seems to have some difficulty to navigate between tragic and comic, but maybe this reflects our times best.
Who should read this book? Anybody who likes intelligent humor. Don't be offend
...more
ReadBecca
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, lgbt
Well, I still have no idea how to review this, but I'm doing it anyway!

At the very simplest level this is a 3 book arc of the life story of our narrator Josef Leowe, from the time his parents met in the 1940s in WW2 europe, to his birth in Iceland 1962, to his current life and then death in the 2000's - all told by him as part of being interviewed by the CoDex genetics project. There is also an epilogue which goes full SF with him out of the picture.

Thine Eyes Did See My Substance: A Love Story
...more
Sam
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Madisson
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
“To be something, to have status in society, to be born at the centre of things, to live through momentous times, to be part of the world’s anthology of stories - if only in the gap between the lines, between the words, between the letters, or even in the minute blank space inside the lower-case ‘e’, just once in that dauntingly long book; could there be any more human desire than that? Don’t we all long to be something, to feel that we exist, that others notice our existence, for the brief spac ...more
Lisa
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
OK, it is not going to take me long to write this review because I failed to make sense of this book.

CoDex 1962 is actually a trilogy, which Wikipedia says consists of

 Thine Eyes Did See My Substance (A Love Story),
Iceland’s Thousand Years (A Crime Story), and
I’m a Sleeping Door (A Science Fiction Story).

Wikipedia also says
The book's narration mimics the oral tradition of various folktales and religious texts, taking influence from Icelandic folklore and The Bible, with the narrato
...more
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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.

Other books in the series

Leo Löwe Trilogy (2 books)
  • Dina ögon såg mig: En kärlekssaga
  • Sur la paupière de mon père

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“The malady had him in it's grip - and he had the malady.
Rolling to the wall and rolling away again, rolling to a fro, rolling and rolling, back and forth like chaff and corn, like corn and chaff. He drove his head into the pillow: if only he could keep his head still for a moment the lump would leave his throat. And if the lump left his throat, he would be able to catch his breath. And if he could catch his breath, his stomach muscles would relax. And is his stomach muscles relaxed, his colon wouldn't contract. And if his colon didn't contract, perhaps he would be able to keep his head still for a moment.

So it is to be at sea.”
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“To be something, to have status in society, to be born at the centre of things, to live through momentous times, to be part of the world’s anthology of stories - if only in the gap between the lines, between the words, between the letters, or even in the minute blank space inside the lower-case ‘e’, just once in that dauntingly long book; could there be any more human desire than that? Don’t we all long to be something, to feel that we exist, that others notice our existence, for the brief space of time that we are here?” 0 likes
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