Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
Author: 
Translator: 
Year: 
2016
Place: 
New York
Author of Review: 

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

(Mánasteinn: drengurinn sem aldrei var til, 2013)

The winner of the 2013 Icelandic Literature Prize, Moonstone is set in Reykjavík in 1918; an extremely calamitous year for Iceland and also the year that the country was granted sovereignty from Denmark.

As the nation prepares for the break with the Danish crown, Icelanders are undergoing two simultaneous catastrophes: the ongoing eruption of mount Katla, whose ash clouds blot out the sun, and a sudden outbreak of Spanish flu, which has infected two thirds of Reykjavík’s population. In this apocalyptic landscape we find ourselves in the company of Máni Steinn, a teenage orphan living with his elderly aunt in Reykjavík. Máni Steinn is a social outcast in more ways than one – though primarily on account of his sexuality, at a time when the term “homosexual” is barely recognised in Iceland. However, his exclusion is also due to his intense infatuation with the emerging art of the silver screen, which causes him to impose a cinematic distance on reality, warping his ash-stricken surroundings into the black and white world of the celluloid.

Using this pivotal moment in the nation’s history, Sjón tells a unique and fantastical story that celebrates otherness and provides glimpses of a different world. In many ways, this tiny novel acts as a prism; every word and image is chosen with meticulous care in order to refract the reader’s gaze.