cover image CoDex 1962: A Trilogy

CoDex 1962: A Trilogy

Sjón, trans. from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0-374-12563-9

Icelander Sjón (The Blue Fox) is something of a cult figure in the English-speaking world—but that should change with his genre-bending volume, a trilogy that has the zealous heft of a lifelong labor. The book begins in Germany in the chaos of World War II, as a Jewish man named Leo Löwe enters into an affair with a barmaid. Together they make a child of a sort named Josef—one made of clay and carried in a hatbox into Iceland. There, Leo gets caught up in a plot involving Nazi gangsters and a conspiracy to steal a golden tooth from the mouth of Leo’s archenemy. In 1962, Leo’s clay son Josef finally awakens and grows into a poet who attends medical school, where he encounters an unhinged geneticist with big plans for Josef, as well as Sjón himself. But all of this is still only half the story, as the main story line is stitched together with excerpts from Viking sagas, fairy tales, and creation myths. In fact, it might make more sense to consider this book an ornate frame story for the fables with which Sjón studs his narrative. Sjón is more than a novelist; he is a storyteller in the ancient tradition, and this work may be remembered as his masterpiece. (Sept.)