Fish Have No Feet by Jón Kalman Stefánsson, translated by Philip Roughton
Fish Have No Feet
Jón Kalman Stefánsson translated by Philip Roughton
The sea looms large in Fish Have No Feet by Icelandic novelist and poet Jón Kalman Stefánsson. Powerful and sparkling, it is the backdrop and life-force for three generations of a one-time fishing family as they fall in and out of love. The barren blackness of the lava-covered land is offset by the untouchable bounty of the water that surrounds it, a striking picture of an almost unworldly place. Stefánsson makes palpable the remove that Icelanders feel from the rest of the world, for though his characters come and go, they are drawn home to the isolation of this peculiar landscape. Prize-winning translator Philip Roughton’s feather-light touch brings out the gleaming, fairy-tale quality of the writing, making what could be a stereotypically dark Nordic novel an impassioned and lyrical read. In Fish Have No Feet, Stefánsson brings out the history of a place and its people in a way few contemporary writers ever manage as comprehensively or as delicately, dipping his pen well past the chattering classes into the small communities and the sea-faring life that fuelled their tiny nation.