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The Return of the Divine Mary

The Return of the Divine Mary
Bjarni Bjarnason

The novel Endurkoma Maríu (published in Icelandic in 1996), translated to English by David McDuff.

About the book:

What would the Virgin Mary be like as a young woman in modern society, and how would her contemporaries receive her? These are the questions underlying this novel, the story of how Virgin Mary descends to earth and becomes a very unusual 'ordinary girl' in a European city.

The book was nominated for The Icelandic Literature Prize in 1996.

From The Return of the Divine Mary:

I had been at home in Blomsterfeld for two months and in that time I had managed to finish the circus cabinet. This was really a complete circus, made of wood, metal and linen, driven both by hand and by electricity. The trickiest part of making it was to manufacture the puppet acrobats in such a way that they could throw each other up in the air, perform circles and grab hold of one another in turn. As far as I knew, no such contraption had ever been made before. In the show, one act was supposed to follow the other, each in its own place in the cabinet, but in the end I changed the gears so that the mechanisms of all the acts combined and they all worked at the same time and intermingled. The juggler's clubs turned into acrobats who jumped into the flames of the fire-eater, and the fire-eater became a magicina who waved his wand and turned into a living dove that perched on top of the cabinet when all its compartments were closed and harp music played. I planned to test the cabinet on the marketplace, as there one was closest to spectators and sensed directly what people liked and did not like. I made a barrow to sit under the cabinet and painted on it in red letters: Circus of the Divine Order. Then I went to the town, not taking much money with me, as I planned to try to live on my shows with the cabinet. If everything went well, I intended to take out a patent on it, sell it to some large company with an agreement about percentages, and the buy Circus Wallenda and thus save it from the clutches of the banks.
I had fallen asleep on the train, but was woken up by some noise on the station platform, and looked out of the window. A group of men was crowding around something that I could not see, leering at it. This was the terminus. I took my case and got off the train. The circus barrow with the cabinet on it was now on the platform and in order to get to it I had to walk past the cluster of men. I retrieved the barrow, but as I was pulling it past the group, a man rushed out of the disorderly crowd, straight into my side, so that I was thrown over and lost hold of the suitcase, which opened. I looked over my shoulder. In the middle of the group sat a woman who was trying to conceal her nakedness with her hands. Yet she seemed to be wearing clothes. men were waving money in her face and trying to get her to go with them with indecent proposals. As I contemplated her profile, a deep compassion awoke within me. She looked at me, straight into my eyes, and smiled. For a moment I was captivated by her beauty. Although many people were trying to attract the woman's attention, she kept looking at me with a smile until I felt I had to do something. I became aware of my suitcase, which lay open on the platform, with my magician's cloak flapping out of it. Without thinking twice about it, I picked up the cloak and rushed into the crowd of men.

(pages 36-37)

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