By FRÍÐA ÍSBERG
On June 2, another book by the Icelandic author Sjón was published in English: Moonstone: The boy who never was (Mánasteinn: Drengurinn sem aldrei var til), translated by Victoria Cribb. This short semi-historical novel won the Icelandic Literary Prize for Fiction in 2013. Some time ago, Sjón met a friend in Hong Kong, a Londoner who told him that if he ever did anything literary in the UK he would have to do it in Review – a lovely small independent bookshop in Peckham. So there we were, an audience of fifteen, Sjón by the counter and Katia, the bookshop manager, smiling from ear to ear behind it.
Before discussing and reading from the book, Sjón told us briefly about his working methods and where he came from as an author. Bored in suburban Reykjavík, the fifteen-year-old Sjón, along with seven other boys, formed Medúsa – a surrealist movement inflamed by André Breton’s writings and manifesto. It was then that he took up his pen name, Sjón, meaning “vision” in Icelandic, and an abbreviation of his forename Sigurjón. The goal was to mount a surrealist invasion of Reykjavík, and Sjón said jokingly that in some sense they succeeded – nowadays “surreal” is such a common adjective that it even finds its way into speeches in the Icelandic Parliament.