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Heaven and Hell
Heaven and Hell
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Heaven and Hell

by Jón Kalman Stefánsson
Translated by Philip Roughton

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In a remote part of Iceland, a boy and his friend Barður join a boat to fish for cod. A winter storm surprises them out at sea and Barður who has forgotten his waterproof as he was too absorbed in “Paradise Lost”, succumbs to the ferocious cold and dies. Appalled by the death and by the fishermen’s callous ability to set about gutting the fatal catch, the boy leaves the village, intending to return the book to its owner. The extreme hardship and danger of the journey is of little consequence to him – he has already resolved to join his friend in death. But once in the town he immerses himself in the stories and lives of its inhabitants, and decides that he cannot be with his friend just yet.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Heaven and Hell is a perfectly formed, vivid and timeless story, lyrical in style, and as intense a reading experience as the forces of the Icelandic landscape themselves. An outstandingly moving novel.

‘Like an oyster – a glinting treasure in a rough shell’ Der Spiegel.

‘A magnificent novel… so well written, so wonderful, that you have to put the book down and think: this is beautiful literature’ Kolbrún Bergfiórsdottir, Kiljan.

‘A real discovery, a revelation even… you do not want your attention to lapse for a moment for risk of missing the slightest detail’ Jean-Claude Perrier, Livres Hebdo.

‘An outstanding poetic narrative… like a long breath from the very depths of the sea’ Nils C. Ahl, Le Monde.

‘The author has a lyrical, poetic style … the action unfolds vividly and dramatically, and the reader feels part of the scene. The combination creates an unusually intense reading experience … in 2005 Stefánsson won the Icelandic Prize for Literature, and his work is selling well in German and French translations. This novel, his debut in English, deserves to win him many more admirers’ Alannah Hopkin, Irish Examiner.

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