Nominated by:

Reykjavík City Library, Iceland

Bibliothèques Municipales Genève, Switzerland

Publisher of nominated edition:

MacLehose Press, UK

Fish Have No Feet

Jón Kalman Stefánsson    

Translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton

2018 Longlist

Keflavik: a town that has been called the darkest place in Iceland, surrounded by black lava fields, hemmed in by a sea that may not be fished. Its livelihood depends entirely on a U.S. military base, a conduit for American influences that shaped Icelandic culture and ethics from the 1950s to the dawning of the new millennium.

It is to Keflavik that Ari – a writer and publisher – returns from Copenhagen at the behest of his dying father, two years after walking out on his wife and children. He is beset by memories of his youth, spent or misspent listening to Pink Floyd and the Beatles, fraternising with American servicemen – who are regarded by the locals with a mixture of admiration and contempt – and discovering girls. There is one girl in particular he could never forget – her fate has stayed with him all his life.

Fish Have No Feet is at once the story of a singular family and an epic of Icelandic history and culture. It offers an unique insight into modern Iceland, and the ways in which it has been shaped by outside influences. A sparkling novel of love, pain, loss and lifelong desire that marries the poetic, elemental style of Heaven and Hell, The Sorrow of Angels and The Heart of Man to a modern frame of reference and sensibility.

About the author

Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s novels have been nominated three times for the Nordic Council Prize for Literature and his novel Summer Light, and then Comes the Night received the Icelandic Prize for Literature in 2005. In 2011 he was awarded the prestigious P.O. Enquist Award. He is perhaps best known for his trilogy – Heaven and Hell, The Sorrow of Angels (longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize) and The Heart of Man (winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize) – and for Fish Have No Feet (longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017

(from publisher)

Librarian’s comments

Fish Have No Feet is the coming-of-age story of both protagonist Ari and the Icelandic nation as a whole, as exemplified by the claustrophobic and weather-beaten fishing town of Keflavik. Stefánsson has a masterful command of language, and the novel’s lyrical prose calls to mind the powers of the sea, from the stark and magnificent depths to the delicate beauty of spume on the waves.

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