Translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton
It’s a quirk of the human condition that it is difficult, in winter, to remember what it was like to be warm. Or, in summer, to recall what it was like to be cold. Which might be why we decided to publish books by two of our favourite Nordic authors in the last week of August*.
Fish Have No Feet is the first part in a new series by Jón Kalman Stefánsson. It is a timeslip novel that sets a writer’s return to present-day Keflavik – perhaps the darkest place in Iceland, surrounded by black lava fields and hemmed in by a sea that may not be fished – against the story of his grandparents’ struggle to survive in a village on the eastern coast. It was translated by Philip Roughton, who won the Oxford-Wiedenfeld Translation Prize earlier this year for his translation of Stefánsson’s The Heart of Man.
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
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.