ÖRÆFI: THE WASTELAND

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ÖRÆFI: THE WASTELAND BY ÓFEIGUR SIGURÐSSON, TRANSLATED BY LYTTON SMITH

Öræfi: The Wasteland, Ófeigur Sigurðsson’s stunning novel, translated by Lytton Smith, opens on an injured Austrian toponymist—naive, curious, passionate to a fault—ostensibly arriving at Skaftafell National Park Visitor’s Center after dragging himself down a glacier. There, he is treated by a vacationing veterinarian, the brilliant, frenzied Dr. Lassi, and the two swap tales of how they, and the wasteland, have come to be there. What follows is a collection of Icelandic stories, realist and mythic, historical and fictional, nestled inside an epic adventure. It is at once a history of place, and a man’s intensely personal journey through the elements of the land, and of his own mind. A delightfully complex play on the epistolary novel, the narration of Öræfi is layered, at times coming to us through five or six levels of character interpretation.

On translating Öræfi, Lytton Smith says: “The fiction of translation is physical: a translation is a creation in which one geography gets moved to another.” Read Öræfi to be transported to a world of beauty, horror, treasure, and ghosts. Full of tall tales, mighty storms, mysterious sheep, and impossibly large traveling trunks, Öræfi: The Wasteland draws you in to its baffling web, asks you to linger in this brutal, exquisite place

Deep Vellum.

—Review by Claire Pincumbe