The Fish Can Sing

Curator Reviews


Set in Reykjavík at the turn of the 20th century this novel has a Chaplin-esque quality in its celebration of how the good values of society are to be found among those clinging to its lowest rung. Álfgrímur is an orphan living with an old couple who have opened their small farm to the misfits and the meek. A nearby graveyard becomes the boy’s playground, and it is there he is discovered to have “the pure tone” while singing at funerals of the lost and lonesome. From their gravesides he goes into the world to become a singer. It is my favorite book by Laxness, not least because it is his attempt to understand why someone like himself, born in a town of 10,000 people, found the right melody to transform the stories of a small world into world literature.

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