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.
Sjón has published many poetry collections, a number of novels, plays for theatre, librettos and material for children. In addition to his writing career, he has participated in art exhibitions and musical events of all kinds. He has collaborated with many other artists as well, most notably Björk, with whom he has composed music, conceived music videos, and written texts for songs, including those for the movie Dancer in the Dark (2000), directed by Lars Von Trier. Sjón was an original founder of the Children´s Art Workshop at the Gerðuberg Cultural Centre and has worked elsewhere with children in creative writing. He also helped establish the publishing house Smekkleysa (Bad Taste).
Sjón’s work, both his poetry and novels, has been translated to numerous languages. He received the Nordic Council Literature Prize for his novella Skugga-Baldur (The Blue Fox) in 2005 and has also received a number of awards for his work in Iceland. In 2021 Sjón received the French L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettre.
Writing is Listening to Yourself
Once I overheard two men talking. One had a red beard and hair down to his knees, the other was the contrary. The angry one spoke in such a loud voice that the passengers could not mistake that he was either drunk or getting over the same flu as half of them.
Anyway, what he said was something like this:
Writing is listening to yourself listening to yourself.
Once I overheard two men talking. One had a red beard and hair down to his knees, the other was the contrary. This happened on a bus on the way down to town from Breidholt, and as you had obviously all guessed, it was snowing heavily all around it at the traffic lights on Mjódd.
Anyway, the grumpy one spoke in such a loud voice that the passengers could not mistake that he was either drunk or getting over the same flu as half of them.
And what he said was something like this:
Writing is listening to yourself listening to yourself listening to other people.
Once I overheard two men talking. One had a red beard and hair down to his knees, the other was the contrary. This happened on a bus on the way down to town from Breidholt, either number twelve or thirteen, it was snowing heavily all around it at the traffic lights on Mjódd (which was just a marsh then).
The terrified passengers stared into their cupped hands and whispered in such low voices that no one could hear, but everyone saw the steam rising from their lips: “Will this morning never end?”
Anyway, the angry one spoke in such a loud voice that the passengers could not mistake that he was either drunk or getting over the same flu as half of them.
And what he said was something like this:
Writing is listening to yourself listening to yourself listening to other people talking about themselves.
Once I overheard two people talking. One had a bushy beard and hair down to his knees, the other was the contrary. This happened on a bus on the way down to town from Breidholt, as you had obviously all guessed, and it was snowing heavily all around it at the traffic lights on Mjódd.
Anyway, the evil-looking one spoke in such a loud voice that the passengers could not mistake that he was either drunk or getting over the same flu as half of them.
And what he said was something like this:
“Here on this bus is a young man, if man is the right word since he´s just a youngster, he´s got books in a bag, yes, those are books that he´s got in his bag. Just so that you know, he´s trying to sell those books, and since we´re getting snowed in at these traffic lights here I just want to say that I´ve read it...”
Then the other one gave him a nudge and spat out:
“Shut up, that´s Sjón ...”
Translated by Bernard Scudder.
Úlfhildur Dagsdóttir has written extensively about Sjón's work. Following are her two articles, dating from 2000 and 2019.
A marvellous story about Sjón, shadows, and surrealism
Sjón is an abbrivation of the author‘s full name, Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, and one of many version of his‘s play with names and identity. Born August 27, 1962, he had ambitions of becoming a writer quite young, publishing his first book of poetry, Sýnir (Visions), in 1978, a few months before his sixteenth birthday. A year later he and a few good friends formed the surrealist/avant-garde group Medúsa. The group‘s focus was mainly on poetry,happenings and music. The musician Björk was affiliated with the group for a while and Sjón has worked with her on various projects, such as writing lyrics and manuscripts for music videos. Working on the margins of the Icelandic literature landscape for many years, Sjón became more mainstream when he was awarded the Nordic Council‘s Literature Prize in 2005 for the novel Skugga-Baldur (The Blue Fox). However, his writings continue to be characterised by the avant-garde, bordering or bridging the fringe to the mainstream. This appears most strikingly in the way he subverts linear narrative and representation, perusing modernist stream-of-conciousness and radically fragmenting and reworking the idea of storytelling. Despite this his work is mainly founded on the historical novel, a genre he has been reinventing.
When asked about surrealistic influences in his approched to fiction, Sjón says he adheres to the ’poetics of the encounter’, referring to the surrealist aesthetics of making completely different things collide. Another characteristic of the surreal is to harness the creative energy of the subconcious and of dreams, sometimes taking the form of a convulsive beauty and eroticism. Finally the surrealists reject realism in any form, together with conjuring various forms of fantasy, horror and the extreme.
All of this appears in many ways in Sjón‘s fiction, although surrealist influences are most clear in his poetry. It is rife with unexpected and incongruous imagery, intended to open the senses wide for the surprising marvels found in the mundane. As an example there are various references to his pseudonym, Sjón (in Icel. “to see”), with plays on identity, and eyes are a recurring theme. Another important theme of Sjón’s poems is eroticism, often found in dreams and the subconscious, dreams paving the way into the hidden depths of the mind. The sea is a classic symbol for the subconscious, the ocean, the deep or the ‚mother oceania‘ described in the lyrics Sjón wrote for Björk when she performed in the opening ceremony for the Olympics in Athens in 2004. Eroticism is also expressed in terms of the uncanny, sometimes taking the form of horror.
Shadows and Steel
Sjón‘s first novel, Stálnótt (1987, Night of Steel), is a highly experimental novel taking place in some kind of a future, studded with elements from the past. This avant-garde novel is strongly influenced by cyberpunk and also reads in a way like a comic book script, with short,visual chapters, continually and rapidly shifting between scenes.
Presumably the setting is Reykjavík, Iceland, although this is never actually stated. Sometime before the events of the story a nuclear accident has happened and by the city limits a wall made of lead demarcates the consequences of the accident, mutated and crossbred flora and fauna. Judging by the descriptions of the book’s main characters, The Jack, The Philip, The Dinah and The Lucy-Ann, it can easily be surmised that the consequences of the accident have been widespread as they all seem to have unusual talents. Sjón himself appears in the novel, in the guise of Johnny Triumph (in Icel. the name “Sigur-jón” means “Triumph-John”). He arrives on shore after a drive along the bottom of the ocean, bringing four eggs that transform into demons. The demons head to the city and have encounters with the previously mentioned main characters.
Stálnótt is a composite work in many ways. The structure is a kind of a montage or a collage, both in terms of the swift changes between settings and in how the story utilises various isms and genres. There are clear notes of surrealism as well as futurism, converging seamlessly with the science-fictional aspects. Modernist and avant-garde works are often characterised by references and intertextualty, and in addition to the cyberpunk and comic book influences there is a direct connection with Enid Blyton‘s children‘s books, as The Jack, The Philip, The Dinah and The Lucy-Ann are characters from the popular Adventure Series.
In this way Stálnótt is moulded out of various discorses and the author‘s function has many different influences: the (opposed) worlds of popular culture and the literary canon, and the different genres found within mass culture and classic literature.
Engill pípuhattur og jarðarber (1989, An Angel, A Top Hat and A Strawberry) is in many ways Stálnótt‘s bright counterpart. An apparently sweet story about young love and sunny beaches, the story describes a day in the life of a boy and a girl, Steinn and Mjöll. They wake up in the morning, go to a café and then take a bus to the beach, where they lie in the sun and enjoy life, eat and drink. When they intend to return they find out that they have missed the last bus and borrow a bicycle from a grumpy old man in a shed – a man someone had told them was dead. But this is not the only (ghost)story told in the novel. Alongside there is another where ‚another‘ Steinn wakes up in a dark world with a shadow by his side. The shadow takes Steinn on a journey, over a sand and an ocean and from there through labyrinthic corridors and rooms, skyscrapers, backyards and forests. Once they wind up behind the mirrors of the café where Steinn and Mjöll sit. In these travels they meet with all kinds of people and phenomena, such as a chair which insists on telling them it’s dream. Finally they also turn up in the grumpy old man‘s shed. Both stories end with bicycle accidents, when a sudden hailstorm makes the cyclist (Steinn in both cases, with Mjöll and the Shadow riding behind) lose control.
Thus, the sweet story about a sunny day on the beach is not as mundane as it first appears. The novel ends with a crash between the two worlds, their collision, and the ending seems to mark the beginning of the shadow‘s world. This would make it seem like the story travels in a circle, the shadow‘s world starting where the bright world ends, the ending referring to the beginning. However, various hints make this an impossible cycle. Another theme is revolution, discussed in the shadow‘s world. It spreads with strawberries and is possibly a reference to the avant-garde ideals of how art can jumpstart revolutionary insights into everyday life.
A Trilogy of Creation
The trilogy CoDex 1962 (2016) is a unique work in Icelandic literary history. Its publication spans more than two decades. The first book, Augu þín sáu mig: Ástarsaga (Thine Eyes Did See My Substance: A Love Story), was published in 1994 and the next, Með titrandi tár: Glæpasaga (Iceland‘s Thousand Years: A Crime Story), appearing seven years later, in 2001. Fifteen years later the third, Ég er sofandi hurð: Vísindaskáldsaga (I‘m a Sleeping Door: A Science-fiction story) was published, recreating the first two and reinventing the narrator and the main character.
In the first two books two people are having a discussion, with the narrator mainly telling his story to a listener, who occasionally comments or asks questions. The narrator traces his history to the second world war, where a Jew on the run, Leó Löwe, is given shelter in a guesthouse in a small town in Germany. There he meets the maid Marie-Sophie who takes care of him and together they form a child from a lump of clay that Löwe carries with him in a hat box.
Marie-Sophie is the central axis of the work, as she is the character connecting the various threads of the story. The structure is similar to Stálnótt, with an emphasis on a collage of stories and discussions of storytelling. And similar to Engill, pípuhattur og jarðarber there is a another story alongside the main one, where the archangel Gabriel discovers that he is really a she. This transgendering is later revealed to have a reflection in the listener, in Ég er sofandi hurð we learn that she is a transwoman named Aleta.
The second novel starts where Leó is seasick on a ship sailing to Iceland. He is forced to pay his fare with a gold ring, which he then has to retrieve, as it is alchemical and has the power to give life to the child of clay. After all kinds of adventures involving an application for citizenship, trafficking in stamps, an American theologian and wrestler from Niggertown and a Russian embassy clerk with a tail, Löwe is able to get his gold back and the story ends as the child opens his eyes.
In the third novel this weave of many complicated threads is tangled even further when it is disclosed that the purpose of the discussion between Aleta and the man of clay, Jósef, is a part of a research project run by the genetic company Codex. Its founder‘s story is also told, as Aleta listens to his narration of it from a tape that was accidentally left in the recording device she was given to use. It is the boss himself, the geneticist Hrólfur Zóphanías Magnússon, who hires Aleta. His research is focused on people born in 1962, as unusually many born that year suffer from diseases that can be traced back to genetic mutations following the massive radiation fallout caused by the cold war‘s nuclear tests. Among them is Jósef who suffers from a very rare disease, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. The name for this disease in Icelandic is steinmannssýki, which translates as ’stonemans‘s sickness’.
The trilogy is a story about creation and destruction, birth and death, self-creation and self-destruction, as well as preservation for an unknown future. The creation story contains references to Christianity and Judaism, as the narrator recreates himself as the Jewish / khabbalistic folkstory about a man made of clay, a Golem (גלמ) in Hebrew.
All three novels emphasise creation and the synthetic forming of a new creature by synthesising matter and mind. The Golem is designated a monster, as (s)he is made outside human procreation, and the ruling power of god. He is moulded out of the various ’body fluids‘ of Prague and Löwe himself, and then given life in the eyes of Marie-Sophie – she is the one referred to in the title, ’thine eyes saw my substance‘, a quote from The Book of Psalms. Additionally this creation via seeing is an obvious play on Sjón‘s pseudonym.
The first two books of CoDex 1962 refer to the horror genre, both historical gothic and more recent fiction. Horror novels are often preoccupied with the issue of humanity (vs. monster) and in science fiction this trope is even more prominent. Reflections on humanity and creation appear in various ways in the CoDex. In Thine Eyes Saw My Substance the text is loaded with stories of synthetic beings and artificial humans of all kinds, ranging from ginger-bread-men to folkstories of monsters created by Icelandic witches: Tilberi. In Iceland‘s Thousand Years the emphasis is on the origins of Icelanders with an emphasis on werewolves. In I‘m a Sleeping Door the stage is opened wide, spanning all of humanity and its technological creations.
Love Story, Crime story, Science-fiction: these genres are usually seen as mass production having limited literary merit. Surrealists sought inspiration from this kind of fiction, generally assumed to appeal to the baser instincts. To create an encounter between literature and such fictions involves a certain kind of insolence appealing to avant-garde artists and Sjón uses this extensively in the CoDex. References to expressionist films, the thrillers of its time, are rife in Thine Eyes Saw My Substance, and in Iceland‘s Thousand Years there are mentions of comic books and Dracula, with comic books also appearing in I‘m a Sleeping Door.
Early on, Jósef mentions a comic book about mutant children, a clear reference to the X-Men series, originally published in 1963. The stories tell of how teenagers gain various (supernatural) qualities due to mutations that may be the result of a nuclear contamination.
In this way all three novels are based on a intertextual conversation with other stories. The Golem tells his own story, which is based on other stories about Golems, and other characters step forward and tell their own stories. In this way the art of narration, storytelling, is also a key part of the novels. The narrative is structured through complex braiding of events, historical and fictional, stories within stories, legends and myths, and cinematic clips. Out of this material a colourful and unique kind of storytelling texture is created. Sjón mixes facts with fiction without distinguishing between the two, history fuses with fiction as fiction rewrites history. The textual texture is in itself a mirror image of the creation of the Golem, who appears in the trilogy as a creature of many combined parts, moulded and (re)written from materials found in literature, film, religion, war, history, folklore and comics.
Metamorphoses and Moons
Friðrik and Abba are the main characters of the novella Skugga-Baldur: Þjóðsaga (2003, The Blue Fox). The title refers to folktales, the creature ’skuggabaldur‘ is the offspring of a cat and a fox according to Icelandic folklore. Baldur is also an Icelandic name, in fact the name of the beautiful god Baldur from Nordic mythology. The Baldur in Sjón‘s story spends most of the story hunting a vixen, and winds up having quite a revelation, as happens when people wander around Icelandic mountains, teeming with folklore. His father‘s name is Skuggi (hence the nickname, Skugga-Baldur), and he is a priest in a small valley. Baldur is not particularly liked by his congregation, certainly not one Friðrik B. Friðjónsson, an herbalist and farmer. Friðrik has adopted a girl with Down‘s syndrome, Abba, who enjoys nothing more than to dress up and go to church and sing the psalms – despite being completely unable to carry a tune. The priest has forbidden her to attend mass, as he finds her behaviour inappropriate in the house of god.
The novel is set in Iceland in the late nineteenth century and carries an aura of the pastoral novel, quite unlike Sjón‘s previous works. This appears in the setting and the subject, and also in the language as the story is written in periodical style, although distinctly recognisable as the author‘s voice. The basic plot is that Abba dies and Friðrik is preparing her funeral. He sends a coffin to the priest and also a letter concerning the fees for the funeral rites. In a postscript he adds that he has just seen a particularly feisty vixen in the vicinity. When the coffin has been sent off Friðrik continues to arrange his own private funeral for Abba, reflecting on their history together. He then buries the girl‘s body during the night in her favourite spot on his land. Baldur, having had the empty coffin buried in his soggy and unappealing graveyard, heads off to hunt the vixen. This turns out to be not so simple as the animal is extremely mean and clever, escaping the priest’s shots. The gunshot however starts an avalanche, where Baldur is buried in snow and expires – and undergoes metamorphosis. He changes into a fox, thus fulfilling his folkloric nickname, ’Skugga-Baldur‘. Finally we learn from a letter that Friðrik writes to a friend that Abba was the daughter of Baldur. He rejected her due to her disability and sold her into sexual slavery on a foreign ship.
The Blue Fox might appear to be a familiar historical work, graduating Sjón as a mature author, who has left behind experimentalism and narrative games. The ’Icelandic‘ emphasis of the work seems to confirm this, together with the pastoral setting. This assumption would be a grave mistake, as there are myriad remainders of the avant-garde, both in subject and storytelling. Friðrik studied in Copenhagen where he joined a group of symbolist adherents – symbolism being one of the inspirations for surrealism. In addition Abba‘s placement within the text, descriptions of her and her interests and a highly individual vocabulary provides an opening into reading the work in terms of surrealists‘ interests in outsider art, created by children and the mentally ill.
Sjón also refers to delicate matters, such as past and present attitudes towards Down‘s Syndrome in a subtle way. While analysing the nationality of Icelanders, much like in Iceland‘s Thousand Years, the tone is quite different and irony is employed in a still sharp but more delicate manner.
As mentioned, The Blue Fox was a turning point for the reception of Sjón‘s fiction, being much more accessible than his previous novels. His audience grew, not only in Iceland but also abroad.
In Icelandic the novella‘s subtitle is ’a folktale‘ and the rewriting of myths is the theme of Argóarflísin (2005, The Whispering Muse), subtitled as Goðsaga um Jason og Keneif (“A Myth about Jason and Caeneus”). In the story, Valdimar Haraldsson, an eccentric man particularly interested in the impact of a fish-heavy diet on the Nordic races, is on a freighter belonging to a company called Kronos. This is in April 1949, and the owner of the skip is the father of Valdimar‘s friend, now deseased. Due to Valdimar‘s interests – shared by his late friend – the focus of the story is on the meals aboard the ship, especially when it is waiting in a Norwegian fjord, where it is to take on a cargo of paper mache and ship it to Turkey.
Valdimar sits at the main table with the captain and other officers of the ship, and among them is Caeneus, the second mate. He turns out to be quite the storyteller, and after having listened to a piece of wood he always carries with him, he tells a story at the end of each meal. This is the story of his journey with Jason, on the Argo, to find the Golden Fleece. Caeneus‘s story is not about the Golden Fleece however, its main part is set in the island Lemnos inhabited solely by women. The part of the myth that concerns the relationship between Jason and Medea is conflated with the Nordic legend of Guðrún Gjúkadóttir, who is also a key female figure in the Nibelungenlied. This is also the story of the dragonkiller Sigurður, but in Sjón‘s version Sigurður is Jason and Guðrún, his wife, is Medea. Both stories tell of women who are powerless in the world of men and find horrific ways to get revenge.
Valdimar Haraldsson is partly based on Sjón‘s great-grandfather and thus it might be surmised that Sjón is the inheritor of the ‚whispering muse‘, as Valdimar manages to steal it from Caeneus. Again an authorial presence can be detected. Another mythical authorial figure appears in Rökkurbýsnir (2008, From the Mouth of the Whale), now as the god of poetry, Óðinn. He arrives on a boat to Bjarnarey to fetch the main character of the novel, Jónas Pálmason, and send him off to Copenhagen. This figure addresses Jónas as Jón Guðmundsson, a historical character (1574-1658) who is the model for Sjón‘s Jónas.
By entering the stage and revealing the model for his historical character the author points out that the world view of the period behind the novel is a fictional creation, just like our ideas about today‘s world are fictional, a new creation founded on new ideas and inventions. At the same time Sjón reminds the reader of his own part in recreating the world view of this time in history, bringing it into our present and conflating it with surrealism.
From the Mouth of the Whale takes place in the seventeenth century where Jónas Pálmason, known as ’the learned‘, is a self-educated man, a natural scientist well versed in the art of healing as well as in the supernatural sphere of life. The novel describes a short period of his life, from 1635 to 1639, when he has been outlawed. His enemies have managed to have him found guilty of practising magic, but it becomes apparent that this attempt to get rid of him is rooted in other and darker deeds. As so often in historical novels the narrative is partly based on flashbacks and memories, traveling back and forth in time. Jónas is described as having a photographic memory and we learn about his childhood and thirst for knowledge.
The world view of Jónas is the world of the Renaissance (arriving a little late to Iceland), still uncontaminated by the Enlightenment. Everything has its place in creation, roles, time and (hi)story. And everything is tied up in a complicated web spanning the whole natural world and the heavenly bodies.
When considering narrative and storytelling in Sjón’s work it is useful to turn to Walter Benjamin’s famous essay ‘The Storyteller’ (1936). There the emphasis is on the prehistoric roots of narrative and the importance of telling stories that serve to convey experience and create continuity between storyteller and listener (recipient). Sjón’s novels are an important example of storytelling and at the same time his textual weave may be seen as an investigation of narrative, its potential and capacity. In interviews and discussions Sjón himself has observed that it is absurd to contend that storytelling is disappearing in modernity, although it has changed, as instead of long linear narratives, we are continually surrounded by fragmented story-telling, multitudinous smaller narratives. Sometimes these fit together and form a long episodal epic, much as stories in comic books and television series commonly do.
Similarly the novella Mánasteinn: Drengurinn sem aldrei var til (2013, Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was) is a composite of snapshots evocative of montage in film. While being a historical novel much like The Blue Fox and The Whispering Muse, Moonstone refers more clearly to the avant-garde.
The story has a broad span that includes homosexuality, the avant-garde, a plague, the cinema, world war, and the achievement of national sovereignty after centuries of colonial rule by Denmark. Moreover, these incongruous realms are conflated: homosexuality is portrayed along with Iceland’s sovereignty, the avant-garde along with the Icelandic society of 1918. Yet this is not a voluminous work, any more than previous novels by this author.
Needless to say this makes for a complex and powerful story. It tells of a young boy, Máni Steinn, who is at variance with his society, Reykjavik in 1918. He is homosexual—and therefore ‘never was’. He is also poor and dyslexic. Yet despite this he makes a wonderfully apt gloss for the history. The boy has been raised mostly by an old woman who tells him she is his great-aunt. After finishing his compulsory education he makes a living by selling himself to men, both local and foreign. His income goes straight into cinema coffers, for Máni Steinn’s main interest is going to the movies.
It is thus natural that the story’s point of view, which is usually Máni Steinn’s point of view, is shaped by cinema. The boy lives and breathes the cinema, it is his shelter and upbringing, and through its agency he learns to read despite his dyslexia. Mt. Katla erupts, the Spanish flu arrives in Reykjavik, and the world seems to be on the brink of collapse. At the height of the epidemic the boy becomes assistant to Dr. Garibaldi Árnason, along with Sóla Guðb-, a girl whom Máni Steinn idolises; she goes against the feminine ideals of the period, rides a motorcycle, and seems to have stepped right out of the world of movies.
Several features of Sjón’s oeuvre come clear in Moonstone. Queer themes figure in earlier novels: In Stálnótt two of the young protagonists have sex with someone of the same gender and in CoDex 1962 and The Whispering Muse sexual metamorphosis occurs, when the archangel Gabriel discovers that he is female, with dramatic consequences for the entire world, and Caeneus, possessor of the piece of wood from the legendary Argo, begins life as a girl. Movies and pop culture play a key role in the Golem trilogy, and there is a reference to the avant-garde film Das Cabinet des Doktor Caligari (Robert Wiene 1919) in Thine Eyes Saw My Substance. Although Moonstone’s plot does not hinge on the avant-garde, the avant-garde is central to the book and the text is laced with references to it.
Metamorphosis is a theme that recurs throughout Sjón’s work, from the surrealistic morphings depicted in the poems to the novels’ fanciful shifts: Eggs change into devils in Stálnótt; the boy in Engill, pípuhattur, og jarðarber becomes double (doubling is also a motif of metamorphosis); the Golem-child is formed of many sorts of clay in Thine Eyes Saw My Substance and awakens to life in Iceland‘s Thousand Years – where there also appears a howling werewolf. A transwoman is a key character in I‘m a Sleeping Door, and in general the CoDex is suffused with transformations of all kinds, from the local to the global. By the power of folk tale the priest in The Blue Fox turns into a vixen and in The Whispering Muse there is a transfusion of Nordic and Mediterranean mythology. In From the Mouth of the Whale Jónas does not himself undergo a metamorphosis, but the entire world is transformed when he gains new awareness; and indeed transformations are the main subject of this work, since Jónas’s studies of natural history proceed from the incredible natural variety in his worldview’s web of associations. Máni Steinn for his part is literally transformed: he disappears at the end of the novel.
One of the powers intrinsic to transformation is that it is an open-ended process; it opens up new possibilities, as all Sjón’s work reveals. Stálnótt comes full circle and begins again at the end, and the same thing happens in Engill, pípuhattur, og jarðarber; the trilogy relies on the Golem-child coming to life; the blue fox receives another life, much as Valdimar does in The Whispering Muse. In From the Mouth of the Whale, although Jónas’s fate is determined, the book gives new life to the work of Jón the Learned. The same happens in Moonstone: the boy disappears but a book has come into being.
úlfhildur dagsdóttir, 2019
 Þröstur Helgason, „Skáldskaparfræði stefnumótsins“, Lesbók Morgunblaðsins, 29 November 2003.
 Robin Walz, Pulp Surrealism: Insolent Popular Culture in Early Twentieth-Century Paris, Berkeley, University of California Press 2000.
 The title Rökkurbýsnir comes from Jón‘s poem Tíðfordríf, where he describes “röckurz býsnunum”, referring to the church‘s plundering after the reformation. Halldór Hermannsson, Jón Guðmundsson and his Natural History of Iceland, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Library 1924 (Islandica vol. XV), p. xiv.
 Sjón has stressed this point, e.g. in a discussion at Sveinn Yngvi Egilsson’s 2005 symposium Modern Literature: Sjón and Guðrún Mínervudóttir (Department of Icelandic, University of Iceland) and in an interview titled ‘A thundering chorus of a thousand stories’ (‘Þrumandi kór þúsund sagna’, DV, 22 Dec. 2001).
“I want you to picture me”: dark creatures, red threads and Sjón
One of the characteristics of Sjón´s work is that he writes himself into the text, steps forward or is present. In the poetry collection Ég man ekki eitthvað um skýin (I cannot remember something about the clouds) (1991) the poet steps forward on the first page and draws the readers attention to himself, and the way he looks:
(ég vil að þið sjáið mig fyrir ykkur:
dökkt hár og fölt andlit. lítil augu
bak við sólgleraugu og rauðar varir
luktar um suðuramerískan vindil.)
[(I want you to picture me:
dark hair and pale face. small eyes
behind sunglasses and red lips
closing on a south-american cigar.)]
At the beginning of the book is a drawing, based on this description, it is in black and white and the same drawing is also on the cover. In Sjón´s first novel, Stálnótt [Night of Steel] (1987), Johnny Triumph (Jón Sigur, Sigur-jón – ´sigur´ means triumph and ´Jón´ is the Icelandic equivalence to John. Sjón´s real name is Sigurjón) drives his car on shore from the bottom of the ocean, and he looks like this: “Long and thin, [...] dressed in a black suit and a crumpled lace-shirt [...] and the shoes are leather, classic and with pointed toes.”
This describes Sjón´s own appearance in the late eighties fairly well. In his second novel, Engill, pípuhattur og jarðarber (Angel, Top Hat and Strawberry) from 1989, he was the shadow of the main protagonist: “Thin with a high brow and thin lips and small chin and dark glasses.” In his third novel Augu þín sáu mig (Your Eyes Saw Me) (1994) the author´s presence is not as visible, however the presence of the implied author is, who is also describing his own coming into being, as if his beingness is being formed by the story he tells himself of his own creation.
In the first two novels, Sjón´s character is the crucial one, the one who commands how events unfold, and in Augu þín sáu mig his own narrative seems to unleash events as well as having a hand in them, and in this way the power and the presence of the author is still emphasised. But who is this author and what is the difference between the implied author and author, when the author himself is drawn up on the pages of the books? The presence of the author is a classical phenomenon, but his visible presence must to some extent undermine the traditional distance between author and implied author, or what? Could we not also imagine that this intrusive and always fictional presence makes the distance between author and implied author even more obvious? Either way, the reader is drawn into reflections on exactly this, the status of the author, implied author and the text itself: to what extent is the text a jigsaw of the author himself and other texts, and to what extent is the author himself always already a text, an implied author.
“From face to face”
Poet and writer Sjón has a special place within the Icelandic literary landscape. He is one of few authors who writes fantastic fiction which often refers to popular culture. Stálnótt is strongly influenced by cyberpunk and has sometimes the feel of a comic book and the novel Augu þín sáu mig is full of references to films. This reworking of other media together with a dialogue between his work and world literature as well as western popular culture is unusual and quite unique in Iceland.
Sjón started out as a poet. Very young, only 16, he published his first poetry “collection”, a page carrying three poems, and later in the same year his first book, Sýnir (Visions) (1978), appeared. In 1979 Sjón formed the surrealistic Medusa group with other poets and artists. Other members of the group were Einar Melax, Jóhamar, Matthías Sigurður Magnússon, Ólafur Jóhann Engilbertsson and Þór Eldon. Sjón published six books of poetry under the heading of Medusa. In 1986 Sjón´s complete collection of poetry, Drengurinn með röntgenaugun [The Boy With the Laser-eyes], was published by publisher Mál og menning, and they have since been Sjón´s publishers, apart from the unofficial publication of an earlier version of Ég man ekki eitthvað um skýin, called Nótt sítrónunnar (The Night of the Lemon), that was Sjón´s present to his birthday-party guests in 1988. [After this article was written, Sjón moved over to publishing house Bjartur].
Sjón´s first poems were soon noted by critics, and with reason. His writings are unusual and peculiarly charming, and it was immediately apparent that a new and a potentially powerful voice was emerging. Many of the author´s characteristics were already there, such as the light and almost loose tone and a strange and funny approach to figurative language – whether it is called surrealism, absurdism or fantasy. The poem “Dear F-” from Sjónhverfingabókin [Book of Illusions] (1983) is an excellent example of all this:
Í nótt dreymdi mig að þú klipptir af þér
allt hárið og gerðir úr því rúm sem við
elskuðumst í. Á veggnum á móti var spegill
og þegar ég fékk fullnægingu þá sá ég í
honum að þú varst ekki lengur hjá mér.
Þú sast í stól og lakkaðir á þér neglurnar
með grænu naglalakki unnu úr engisprettum.
Þú sagðir: Rauð hús eru þínar konur.
Þá vaknaði ég við það að ég beit mig í
öxlina. Klukkan var hálf sjö.
Annars er allt gott að frétta, hér er
kalt en samt nógu heitt fyrir gömul tígrisdýr.
Bless, þinn vinur
[ Reykjavík 11.03.´80
Last night I dreamt that you cut off
all your hair and from it made a bed that
we made love in. On the wall oposite there was
a mirror and when I reached orgasm I saw in
it that you were no longer with me. You sat in a chair and
polished your nails with green nail-polish
made from grass hoppers.
You said: Red houses are your women.
Then I woke up biting myself in my shoulder.
The time was half past six.
Otherwise everything is fine, it is
cold here but warm enough for old
Bye, your friend
The surreal figures are unpretentious, the humour shines through, and this short text manages to create a strange atmosphere; the (surrealist) theme of dreaming that Sjón uses extensively is disciplined and impressive and emphasised with the use of the mirror, that is also a symbol of unreality or fantastic space. Added to that is the dissolution of the demarcations between dream and reality, so peculiar to the poet, when the narrator wakes from his strange dream he wakes into the land of surrealism and fantasy.
Apart from poetry and novels, Sjón has worked in film, for instance co-writing with Lars von Trier the lyrics for Björk´s music in Dancer in the Dark (2000). A song from that film was nominated for the Oscar in 2001. Before this Sjón had written and co-written (with Björk) lyrics for Björk, as well as appearing as the pop-star Johnny Triumph, with the band Sugarcubes.
As already mentioned, Johnny Triumph is the mysterious character that starts off the chain of events in the novel Stálnótt. Johnny Triumph arrives from the bottom of the ocean one night, dressed in the uniform of rockers, driving an equally coded vehicle. He drives towards the city, stopping by a wall of lead that shelters the remains of a radiation accident, leaving inside it four smouldering black eggs that stretch and pull towards the four directions, until they take on leatherclad human forms. The demons from the eggs go out to find four youths, the Jonni, the Finni, the Dísa and the Anna, who experience a date with the unknown [the names bring to mind the protagonists of Enid Blyton´s The Famous Five in the Icelandic translation]. The Anna is the only one who survives, she is reborn after the meeting with the demon-woman on the shore and takes over the care of four smouldering eggs.
The novel is poetic and visual, the style is concise and disciplined, as apparent from this final chapter of the book, where the plot comes full circle, the Anna has found the eggs on the shore and taken them away. Suddenly the point of view zooms out and the reader witnesses the brewing of the story in the ocean – where it started:
óteljandi munnar, augu, eyru, lófar og nasir. Á endalausu úthafinu. Gapandi hringiður sem soga allt niður í þykkt, mjólkurgrátt hyldýpið. Atburðir, orð, staðir, mínútur, hlutir, menn, vélar og himnar. Kastast á milli ólgandi strókanna, nuddast saman, velta um grófan botninn. Eyðast, slitna og merjast. Mást og sundrast. Sekúndur greypast í vöðva. Setningar mola veggi. Og eitthvað þungt sekkur í grámann. Brýst gegnum iðandi strauminn, þyrlar upp botnlaginu svo allt skelfur. Þeytist burt og rekur á land (103)
[innumerous mouths, eyes, palms and nasal holes. In the endless ocean. Gaping maelstroms that suck everything down into the thick, milkywhite deep. Events, words, places, minutes, objects, people, machines and skies. Thrown between the seething strokes, rub together, roll around the rough bottom. Wear, tear and get crushed. Fade and shatter. Seconds are hewn into muscles. Sentences smash walls. And something sinks into the gray. Breaks through the teeming stream, swarms up the bottom layer so everything shivers. Shoots away and drifts ashore]
The sentence “Sentences smash walls” might just as well stand as a description of the novel´s style: harsh and to the point. The chapter (that could be seen as a kind of summation of the novel) is like a maelstrom itself, where events, words, people and machines are thrown around, rub together, fade and shatter.
Johnny Triumph is described as “combined” and the same could be said about Stálnótt, it is combined out of various genres. One can see the marks of the comic book in concise vivid descriptions, the horror novel appears in the physical description of the demons, and merges fluently with the protagonists of Enid Blyton´s The Famous Five.
The clearest influence however, comes from cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction. Cyberpunk often appears in the form of futuristic fiction, and Stálnótt describes the possible future of Reykjavík and/or Iceland. A nuclear accident has happened, and the wall of lead where the demons shape-shift guards the results of the accident, mutated animals and plants. Another scene describes how a human creation is mainlined into a machine, when a singer pierces her hands with plastic-covered copper threads linked with her instrument and plays a song. The language is also related to cyberpunk, the harsh dark style is symptomatic of influential works of the genre, like J.G. Ballard´s Crash (1973).
Angel, top hat, strawberry: the three words in the title of the novel say (almost) all that is needed. Contrary to Stálnótt, Engill, pípuhattur og jarðarber is a rather pretty little tale about the boy Steinn who on a beautiful morning takes his angel, his girl, down to the beach of a town where strawberries grow and fill the air with their scent. Another world is pulled out from the magician´s top hat, a shadow world running parallel to the bright one. In there a shadow in a top hat guides Steinn into a surrealistic world, where strawberries are blood and the symbol of the revolution. As should be clear from this the pretty little story is not quite as normal as it seems to be in the beginning. The book ends with a crash between the two worlds, and their merger, and in that ending the beginning of the shadow world can be seen, the book revolves in a circle and the shadow world starts where the bright story ends, the end leads to the beginning and the beginning and the end are x, an unknown figure, or as it is described in the beginning and the end of the novel:
“Drengurinn lá kyrr. Hann lá á bakinu með fætur í sundur og hendur út frá líkamanum. Eins og x. Vegur og hæð. Nótt. Vegurinn var vegurinn niður á strönd og aftur til baka að þjóðveginum frá borginni.” (13)
“Hann lá í vegarkantinum með hendur út frá líkamanum og fætur í sundur. Eins og x. Vegur og hæð. Nótt.” (139)
[The boy lay still. He was laying on his back with his legs apart and his hands stretched out from his body. Like an x. Road and a hill. Night. The road was the road to the beach and back towards the highway from the city.
He lay on the side of the road with his hands stretched out from his body and his legs spread apart. Like an x. Road and a hill. Night.]
Similarly to Stálnótt the novel has a curved form and ends where it begins, but in both instances with considerable alterations: in Stálnótt it is the Anna who takes over the care of the demons´ eggs, and in Engill, pípuhattur og jarðarber the formula does not quite add up, when two Steinns are laying by the side of the road, one from each world. This curving form thus always involves a renewal, change, the start of a new round, while the end always leads the reader to the beginning. A particular understanding of narrative appears here, the approach to linear narrative is knotted and the narrative thread becomes twisted, full of loops. This fits well with Sjón´s background in surrealism, as surrealism must reject all straightforward formulas for the structuring of a story, such as the ideas of a linear time and history in general.
This feeling for an unruly narrative thread literally materialises in the red thread that Steinn unravels from a carpet inside the shadow world: “He felt [...] that life was just as it ought to be. An unbroken thread in his own hands.” This thread appears again as a red fibre on shadow-Steinn´s sleeve at the end of the story. The stress on the narrative thread that is unravelled throughout the story reminds the reader again of the place of the (implied) author.
As already mentioned, this ´authorial´ presence is at its most clear in the poetry collection Ég man ekki eitthvað um skýin. The book (dressed in a pink and yellow cover) is doubly framed by Sjón himself: drawings of him at the front and the back, and his description of himself (his personae) in the first and the last poem. The poems themselves are each framed by a title that appears within brackets at the top and the bottom of the poem, and furthermore the poems refer to each other within the book, the title of one poem is a line in another and vice versa: the shadow of one poem travels the book from poem to poem as it says in the poem “(ferja) (og farþegi)” [ferry)(and a passenger)]: “the shadow of my head/passes around the hall/from face to face”. Another poem is called “(andlit) (af andliti)” [(face)(to face)], and the line “ferry and a passenger” appears in the third poem, “(mig dreymir) (mig dreymdi) [(I dream)(I dreamt)] which is in turn linked to another poem and in this way I managed to inch myself after a thin line through more than half of the poems in the book. The book is read from Sjón´s face (who is dreaming), and back to it again.
Clearly Ég man ekki eitthvað um skýin gives the impression of a strange kind of unity, where images merge and metamorphose into one another, changing continually between poems and within them. Images of sky and sea are many, and are usually presented as still and floating in some kind of a timeless no-space, “between sunset and night”, “in the shadow of something/that does not cast a shadow”. Distances depend on your eyesight, short-sightedness makes them shorter just as you can stretch your hand out the window and touch the house you see outside it. This play with time and space in the language is in my opinion one of the characteristics of Sjón´s fiction, he erects easy symbols, simple signs that lead you straight into “rainforest wonders”, the reader “has a roadmap and can be sure of loosing his way” and he can also be sure of a good time, if only he follows the map carefully.
The reflection on the presence of the (implied) author takes on a new form in the novel Augu þín sáu mig [Your Eyes Saw Me]. Eyes are a classic theme of Sjón´s (sjón meaning literally eyesight), and in this ´leitmotiv´ he draws his own name (alias) into his fiction, thus reminding us of his presence as an author and poet. Simultaneously an emphasis is placed on the process of the creation that writing is, and these questions of creation and self-creation are at the centre of Augu þín sáu mig.
The story takes place in the little village of Kükenstadt, where suddenly there appears a hungry refugee with a clump of clay in a hatbox. The refugee, named Löwe, is placed in a guesthouse and with the aid of the maid Marie-Sophie he moulds a child out of the clump and together they give it life.
The subject of the story is the Jewish myth of the Golem, an artificial man who was made of clay and enlivened by language, letters and words. Not just any language though, but according to Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, the world is created out of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The creation of the Golem is similar to the creation of Adam in the Bible, where god forms Adam out of clay and infuses him with spirit; the only difference between Adam and the Golem is that a mortal man cannot give the clayman a soul, like god gave Adam, and thus the Golem is always a kind of living dead. It has been pointed out that many of the stories of the Golem imply that he is unfinished rather than inhuman, and that he is thus comparable with a human being who has not managed to fulfil all his or her possibilities. This indicates that the myth of the Golem is not just a creation story of a humanoid being, rather that the Golem is an example of the process of a creation of a self, a subjectivity; the Golem is thus a symbol of self-creation.
This process of self-creation is clearly present in the myriad of stories sprung from the myth, the Golem has been a rich source of symbolism in fiction, literary theory and in culture in general, and has taken on an added weight in the post-modern techno-society where the discussion on robots, clones and cyborgs of various kinds becomes more and more pressing. The best-known story of the Golem is without doubt from the sixteenth century and takes place in Prag, where Rabbi Löwe enlivened a Golem that was supposed to protect the Jewish people from the persecutions by emperor Rudolph. Sjón´s Golem is created in a war that is similar to the second world war, where the Jewish were persecuted as in the period of the other Löwe and emperor Rudolph. But Sjón is not taken with simple historical didactics, he is employed in a kind of rewriting of history, and even though the novel peruses certain historical and national stage – Germany and German culture – Sjón does not hesitate to rewrite time and space.
In the same way the Golem is rewritten in the novel Augu þín sáu mig, reworked and (like Johnny Triumph) combined out of the various stories of the Golem. Sjón is not only writing a new Golem-story, he is at the same time working with other writers´ reworkings of the myth. The most obvious is the intertextual relationship with Gustaf Meyrink´s novel, Der Golem from 1915, a novel that is probably the best known reworking of the myth. Sjón has the Golem tell his own story, as did Meyrink, and in addition Sjón also refers to another major work of Meyrink, The Angel at the West Window (1927). That angel collects dreams in the Golems hometown, and thus seems to be the spokesman for surrealism in the story; as well as serving the important role of introducing the creator of the Golem. Franz Kafka, another Jewish author from Prag is also present; apart from a reference to The Trial (1925), Sjón compares his Golem with a changeling similar to Gregor, who changed into a large bug in Metamorphoses (1915).
These intertextual references are continually underlined in the novel, the narrator says: “this is a literary reference” that “places the story in the context of world literature!” (205-6) A chapter in the novel refers to the film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari from 1919 (Robert Wiene), which is one of the first expressionistic German films and was immensely influential within Germany and abroad. The story was likened to the Golem-myth and served as an inspiration to the classic Golem-film made the year after, 1920 (Paul Wegener). This does not conclude the web of references, as it may be added that Caligari influenced the German filmmaker Fritz Lang who made M in 1931, a film about a child-murderer who also appears in Sjón´s novel. In this way the references are almost a complete discourse in and of themselves.
The Golem is from the beginning a ´text´ to the extent that his being is written and rewritten and it is this textual genealogy that Sjón emphasises in his novel, as well as adding to it. The Golem is again revived and created in language, this time poetic language; just as the Golem can be enlivened by writing on his forehead he is continually brought to life in fiction.
At the same time that Sjón revives the Golem in his story he translates the myth into another time. The creation of the Golem is a mirror image of the creation of Adam, as it says in the 139th psalm, that Sjón quotes (“Your eyes foresaw my deeds, and they were all recorded in your book; my life was fashioned before it had come into being": does this mean that Sjón is calling for the reader to create him when he demands the reader´s eyes on him in I cannot remember something about the clouds?). In Sjón´s novel, the Golem is symbolic for a new humankind, the rebirth of humankind. Throughout the story, the archangel Gabriel is continually trying to blow his doomsday-horn, however Lucifer seduces and confuses him, ruining the horn-blow when Gabriel finds out that he is really female; the world does not end, but instead a Golem is created who sails to Iceland. The Golem offers the possibility of a new humanity, humanity that holds the possibility of a new beginning, whereas it is created at the brink of destruction.
The story of the Golem that is told by himself also seems to be created by him at the same time that he himself is created; in the beginning of the book it is revealed that the Golem is telling some girl his story, and to show her the setting in the smallest details he puts his hand through her forehead, into the location which he then opens up at will – lifting rooftops and suchlike. Here it may be recalled that in one of the versions of the Golem-myth and the one that citizens of Prag model their Golem-souvenir on, the world ´life´ (in Hebrew) is written on the Golem´s forehead to bring him to life, and in the crucial creation-scene of the novel a line is drawn over the forehead of the Golem, as the mark of his parents, and to mark him in general.
In this way the line through the Golem´s brow is a mark of his special place within creation, and the role he will play as a new humankind. The Golem´s hand journey through the ´reader´s´ forehead is also an enlivening of the narrative setting, after it the girl sees everything clearly and is brought closer to the story. In this way the narrative is continually creating and forming itself, and this also stresses the craftsmanship involved in the whole thing, with references to the hand of the writer who chronicles the monster, much like a sculpturist moulds human form out of clay. And it is the hand of the one woman listening to the story that – literally – takes up the thread (from Löwe´s jacket) and thus continues the story, that had frozen in time and space as everything else when Gabriela threw the horn of destiny away. This freeze-frame in time is reminiscent of another temporal shift which is the transposition of the mythical 16th century Golem into the time span of the Second World War and into modernity, as well as the timewarp or no-time that is the time of the novel. Just as the story creates its own time or no-time, events, fiction, film, popular culture and high culture fuse together, such that no difference exists between history, myth or narrative, it is all in the hands of the author.
Whether it is the golem or the poet himself that is the dark creature in the book of poetry Myrkar fígúrur [Dark Creatures or Obsure Figures] (1998), I cannot say, but the book is probably Sjón´s best poetry collection to date. Similarly to Ég man ekki eitthvað um skýin, Myrkar fígúrur presents a strong sense of a whole as the poems refer to each other. And similarly to Skýin the figures move around, they cluster together or create reflections between poems that are in all other respects dissimilar.
One of the themes is the body, which is a bottomless well of poetry, even a dark creature. In “Frétt frá undralandi” [A Report from Wonderland] the body is a walking blood-tree, and in “Finnagaldur” [Finn-magic] it is “a instrument/of flesh and blood/music boxes/made of bones and gristle”. In the same poem we get to know the balloon-imp “who blows up an organ after an organ/and lets them go over the square with a fartingsound”. That image possibly refers to the role of the poet, who is a kind of balloon-imp, blowing this and that up and lets it go into the face of the reader. The poet can also be seen in the poem “Svik” [Betrayal], where a surrealistic glow is thrown over a story of a dreamlike betrayal of a man who works in a psychiatric hospital, but his work involves listening to the insane. Their stories wriggle through his body accompanied by appropriate pain and he becomes tense; as if the balloon-imp has gotten into him too. And when he wakes up he has a strong feeling that “everything that has come to pass is the beginning of new times in the literature of the world”. Still the poet is drawing attention to himself, as a dark creature behind the book.
In this way the oeuvre of Sjón forms a tight web, where figures of fiction and author walk like dark creatures between books and poems. The red thread that Steinn gave up in Engill, pípuhattur og jarðarber reappears briefly on his sleeve at the end of the book to be swallowed by the Shadow; but the shadow is the shadow of the poet himself (and Johnny Triumph) and thus the thread is found again, at a crucial moment, on Löwe´s sleeve in Augu þín sáu mig and will hopefully continue to thread itself a long way into the new century.
The poem “Dear F-” is taken from the book Brushstrokes of Blue. Translated by David McDuff. London: The Grayhound Press, 1994. Other translations are by Úlfhildur Dagsdóttir.
úlfhildur dagsdóttir, 2000
Neijmann, Daisy L., ed. A History of Icelandic Literature
University of Nebraska Press, 2007, pp. 447, 448, 451-452, 454, 497
“En sentimental multikunstner. Intervju med Sjón.” Interview in Norwegian.
Vinduet, 54. year. (nr. 1) 2000. Oslo: Gyldendal. P. 2-13
Iceland review 2005, vol. 43 no. 2, pp. 50-1.
Johny Hedergaard Madsen: “Faldt i gryden som barn.” An interview with Sjón when his novel Dine öjne så mig came out in Denmark. In Danish.
Sentura: Magasin for litteratur og levende billeder, #12, 13. april 2002.
Jón Yngvi Jóhannsson: “Hvis Mumintroldene er nordiske er jeg en nordisk forfatter.” Interview in Danish.
Nordisk litteratur, 2005. You can read the interview on the magazine’s website here
Jón Yngvi Jóhannsson: “If the Moomintroll are Nordic I am a Nordic Writer.” Interview in English.
Nordic literature 2005.
Soffía Auður Birgisdóttir: “Därför förstår jag Homeros.” Inverview in Swedish.
Nordisk tidskrift, 3/2005, p. 254-259.
Tobias Havmand: “Myterne lever.” An interview with Sjón when his novel Splinten fra Argo came out in Denmark. In Danish.
Informatíon, 9. januar 2007
The Blue Fox
A.S. Byatt: “The Blue Fox by Sjón, translated by Victoria Cribb”
Times Online, September 25, 2008, see here
Splinten fra Argo (Argóarflísin in Danish)
Sören Vinterberg: “Sjóns skönne skipperskröner”
Politiken, 3. november 2006, see here
Lars Handesten: “Skipperskröner”
Berlingke tiderne 4. november 2006, see here
Öynene dine så mig (Augu þín sáu mig in Norwegian)
Nikolaj Frobenius: “Avbrudd og sammenheng: en bemerkning om Christina Hesselholdts Det skjulte og Sjóns Augu þín sáu mig”
Vinduet 54 year (nr. 1), 2000. Oslo: Gyldendal. P 16-19
2021 – L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettre - French Order of Arts and Letters
2016 – DV Cultural Prize for Literature: Ég er sofandi hurð (I am a Sleeping Door)
2013 – DV Cultural Prize for Literature: Mánasteinn (Moon Stone)
2013 – The Booksellers´ Award for best novel of the year: Mánasteinn (Moon Stone)
2013 – The Icelandic Literature Prize: Mánasteinn (Moon Stone)
2005 – The Nordic Council´s Literature Prize: Skugga-Baldur (Blue Fox)
2005 – The Bookseller´s Award for best novel of the year: Argóarflísin (The Whispering Muse)
2002 – DV Cultural Prize for Literature: Með titrandi tár (With a Quivering Tear)
1998 – National Broadcasting Service´s Writer´s Fund
1995 – DV Cultural Prize for Literature: Augu þín sáu mig (Your Eyes Saw Me)
2016 - The Icelandic Literature Prize: Ég er sofandi hurð (I Am a Sleeping Door)
2013 – The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (shortlist): Rökkurbýsnir (From the Mouth of the Whale)
2009 – Prix Europa: Augu þín sáu mig (Made in Secret). Adaptation by Bjarni Jónsson. In the category Radio Fiction
2009 – Gríman, the Icelandic Theatre Awards: Augu þín sáu mig (Made in Secret / Your Eyes Saw Me). Adaptation by Bjarni Jónsson. As the radio play of the year.
2009 – The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: The Blue Fox
2008 – The Icelandic Literature Prize: Rökkurbýsnir (From the Mouth of the Whale)
2007 – The Icelandic Literature Prize: Söngur steinasafnarans (The Song of the Stone Collector)
2005 – DV Cultural Prize for Literature: Argóarflísin (The Whispering Muse)
2003 – The Icelandic Literature Prize: Skugga-Baldur (Blue Fox)
2001 – The Academy Award: for lyrics in Lars Von Trier´s musical, Dancer in the Dark
The NorthmanRead moreBlóðug víkingamynd í leikstjórn Roberts Eggers, sem skrifar handritið með Sjóni.
LambRead moreDýrið er íslensk kvikmynd frá 2021 í leikstjórn Valdimars Jóhannssonar. Handritshöfundur ásamt Valdimar er skáldið Sjón.
Red MilkRead moreA novel
Iš didžuvés nasrųRead more
Mesečev kamen : dečak koji nikad nije postojaoRead more
Ég er sofandi hurð (I Am a Sleeping Door)Read more
Moonstone: The Boy Who Never WasRead more
MÁNASTEINN: DRENGURINN SEM ALDREI VAR TIL (Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was)Read more
Das Gleißen der NachtRead more