Novelist and Björk collaborator Sjón

Sjón is aware of cats. He lives in a cat neighbourhood in Reykjavík, Iceland. Each area has a lawn, a tree. On a daily basis he should say hi to all of the cats. On a daily basis he is going to his favorite cafe to learn. On easy methods to the cafe, in the event that they ask it of him, he’ll pat the cats. He has his personal cat. A cat who thinks himself a large quantity, in that society of cats. Sjón’s cat is repeatedly preventing to stay Sjón’s lawn freed from the opposite cats. Sjón likes the opposite cats. He wouldn’t thoughts if the ones different cats got here to his lawn. He says, in his neighbourhood, it’s a must to admire and make peace with the cats.

Sjón has a major face, framed by means of severe black frames, however I spend our interview giggling. I giggle in regards to the cats. The way in which he speaks about issues, about his paintings, it’s this pleasant mixture of profundity and absurdity. As a youngster, self-publishing his first e-book of poetry – 100 copies, offered at the bus trip house to the suburbs of Reykjavík – he recognized with the power of the punk motion – home made. He favored punk’s social assault however now not its nihilism. He additionally embraced the power of the Surrealists – that’s his phrase for it – their power and their playful global view. It’s nonetheless with him these days.

It’s the global view of the revolt, the everlasting revolt; it’s the realization within the absolute energy of the poetic creativeness and that the cruelty of politics must be countered with poetry. Each flesh presser must submit a e-book of poetry ahead of they’re allowed in place of work, he says, with each absolute seriousness and a grin on the nook of his mouth. He speaks slowly, discovering the precise phrases; I will virtually pay attention the interpretation. What emerges from the ones lips, ultimately, is an ideal eloquence. It’s very captivating.

Within the cafe, he loves to learn, to investigate. He reads for an hour every day. He does now not write in Reykjavík, he simply loves to learn, with the noise of the cafe within the background; he says it’s enjoyable. When he writes, he is going to an outdated fisherman’s area at the south coast of Iceland. Within the wintry weather this area smells of snow. In the summertime it smells of inexperienced. It is vitally small. It has a radio, no tv. He does now not have a smartphone. There’s no web there. That is the place he does his writing, novel writing, for 16 hours an afternoon. Whitewood panelling, minimalistic, very tiny, he says. It will get visited by means of the occasional box mouse. That’s the corporate he assists in keeping there. And ravens, flocks of ravens within the wintry weather. They arrive in from the mountains and scavenge within the the city. The seaside is a superb position for no less than getting some seaweed into your abdomen. When issues are exhausting for the ravens he feeds them, to stay himself of their favour. That’s necessary, he says, to feed the ravens. When he is going house to Reykjavík once more, he does now not write for lengthy stretches of time, simply reads within the cafe, and pats the cats.

Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, referred to as Sjón, is many stuff: poet, novelist, screenwriter, lyricist. He co-wrote your favorite Björk songs, surely mine: “Isobel”, from Put up (1995), “Bachelorette” and “Jóga” from Homogenic (1997). He used to be nominated for a “Best possible tune, unique tune” Oscar for his collaborative paintings on Lars von Trier’s Dancer within the Darkish (2000).

The teenager in me is more than happy to talk with Sjón. I will pay attention Björk’s large voice in my head: My identify Issoooobbbeeellll. Björk requested for his lend a hand penning this epic tune. He tells the tale of ways they wrote “Isobel” in combination, the primary tune he wrote. In Björk’s kitchen: the moth. There used to be a moth on Björk’s lapel and it used to be there all day. This moth travelled along with her whilst she did her errands, to the report retailer and again house once more. The moth at the lapel, it used to be unbelievable, after all it had to enter the tune. It used to be there for a explanation why. It had imbued the kitchen with its silent presence. Björk performed him the tune, and it used to be this wonderful tune, the demo of “Isobel” – it already used to be very particular, the rhythm and construction and the whole lot, and the sound global used to be taking form. Moth delivers her message, unexplained for your collar, crawling in silence, a easy excuse. And that could be a tale about “Isobel”, says Sjón. Sjón and Björk, he tells me, they got here into being as inventive folks in combination within the ’80s.

One thing in regards to the pandemic has supposed he has determined that he’ll write simplest screenplays and paintings with filmmakers for the following couple of years. That may be a trade. Writing screenplays isn’t like writing novels. One thing in regards to the scattered nature of writing them felt extra conceivable all over the pandemic, he says. It’s a collective revel in. All the way through the pandemic, writing novels and poetry used to be very exhausting. With screenplays there’s the collaboration. It isn’t him on my own in his fisherman’s area, with simplest the ravens.

These days, he’s in Zürich. It’s autumn, and the sunshine at the back of him has that golden observe. It’s proper on the trade of the seasons. Right here in Melbourne the nectarine bushes are naked of leaves however vivid with purple blossom. He’s writing a screenplay. An adaptation of Hamlet, a Danish manufacturing. He’s removed Shakespeare, there’s no hint of him. Or perhaps simply just a hint. The director, Ali Abbasi, had a temporary to regard this well-known play as liberally as Shakespeare handled the unique Nordic Amleth tale from Denmark. Sjón says, in some way, we’re taking it again.

In 2020 he completed co-writing The Northman with director Robert Eggers. A Viking revenge saga, star-studded: Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke and Björk. Manufacturing used to be halted in early 2020, nevertheless it’s because of be launched subsequent yr. In Eggers he says he’s discovered what he describes as an inventive soul brother. Creatively he can paintings with Eggers, identical to he can paintings with Björk. In reality, she offered them at a dinner at her area.

I ask Sjón about Lamb, the quiet, affecting movie he co-wrote with director Valdimar Jóhannsson. The tale happens inside of a rural Icelandic panorama. Lamb isn’t slightly a horror movie, even though it’s every now and then horrific. It’s no Reykjavik Whale Observing Bloodbath (2009) – Sjón’s first movie and a movie he calls crude however precisely the movie he sought after to make, a movie within the custom of The Texas Chainsaw Bloodbath (1974). Lamb isn’t any splatter gore horror movie, he says.

I gained’t let you know an excessive amount of about it, I gained’t smash it. Even telling you the basis may smash a few of it. So, I’ll simply say there’s a childless farming couple and on Christmas Eve there’s a visitation and, after, a bizarre start.

Sjón tells me that Christmas Eve is a time to be careful. In Iceland, issues occur on Christmas Eve, or Midsummer’s Eve or Midwinter’s Eve, whilst the people are became away, celebrating. After gazing the movie I’ve a bloodcurdling nightmare about lambs, however this can be a very gorgeous movie. It’s closely influenced by means of Armenian director Harutyun Khachatryan, whose motion pictures border on documentaries. Lengthy stretches of Khachatryan’s motion pictures are simply folks operating. Sjón says that they determined to consider within the target market being desirous about being with the characters of their lives. He says, if you have an interest within the lives of the folk, you simply watch the folk, since you are folks too.

Those persons are deep in a beautiful panorama, it’s very shifting. Sjón says there’s such a lot poetry within the panorama, within the silences, within the pacing of it. With the atmosphere, this wonderful panorama that turned into the valley the place their farm is, we realised that there’s not anything you’ll do to strip it of its lyrical energy. It’s there. That is the panorama.

He says, for Icelanders there’s at all times the risk that for artists, writers, musicians from our nation – and plenty of nations which can be out of doors the cultural centre – there’s at all times the temptation, or risk, of giving in to the unique concepts about your nation. Other folks have unique concepts about your nation. Other folks have had unique concepts about Iceland because the 18th century, , and it by no means is going away. It doesn’t subject how trendy we expect we’ve got turn out to be, there are at all times folks taking a look from the out of doors seeing the unique nature of it, or projecting their concepts about this a ways away nation onto us. There’s at all times the temptation of giving into it and taking part in along side it. There also are at all times moments while you realise there’s not anything that you’ll do about it. For those who position a tale within the nation-state, this would be the nation-state. Let’s simply embody that it’s lyrical and luxurious and paintings with it.

Lamb has a folks tale sensibility in it. It’s within the seriousness, says Sjón, in accepting that this factor is going on at the farm and now not wondering it. He says, you may have such a lot of Eu folks tales that start with an strange couple, dwelling someplace in completely on a regular basis revel in, you by no means query that. Those are salt-of-the-earth commonplace folks simply going about their trade, after which a creature comes strolling out of the wall or a visitor comes and asks to stick for the night time and issues occur – that is the truth of the folks tale.

That is territory Sjón is aware of. In his novel The Blue Fox (2003) he writes from throughout the society, the place the folks tale is actual. From the Mouth of the Whale (2008) is the same, he says, set within the seventeenth century the place you may have a herbal scientist filled with concepts, which, to the fresh thoughts, to our thoughts, are simply myth. Sjón says that for this persona, unicorns, monsters in lakes and within the box are completely actual and he’s simply coping with it as a scientist.

Sjón has at all times liked folks tales. As a child he used to be obsessed. His favourites, he tells me, have been the grotesque ones. He says, we don’t have correct ghosts in Iceland. Now we have the undead, the useless that go back to hang-out the dwelling; they accomplish that of their rotten our bodies, they’re extra like zombies, . One tale I’ve at all times favored is set a farmer who’s going between farms, within the absolute darkish, clearly, in the midst of the night time, in the midst of wintry weather and any individual has died out within the desolate tract previous that wintry weather and has returned to bother travellers. He’s going between the farms, and this undead comes strolling as much as him out of the night time and he simply after all freezes with worry after which the undead takes to the air his hat and places it below his arm, and the hat speaks and says, “The darkness is at all times amusing, isn’t it?” The man simply runs away. Now we have excellent tales like that.

For Sjón as a child, those tales have been actual. He used to be satisfied they have been true.

I ask Sjón in regards to the movie rights to his novels, as I believed it herbal that if he’s writing motion pictures, he may write the movie of his personal books. However no, he hasn’t ever offered the rights to a e-book. The books are his issues, he says. He’s in no hurry to look them at the display screen. In reality, he has just one rule for novel writing: write it in some way that makes it unfilmable. He says, if a filmmaker displays hobby in my e-book, then I believe, Hmmm perhaps I didn’t set up to make it utterly unfilmable. I must check out more difficult subsequent time.


This text used to be first revealed within the print version of The Saturday Paper on
Oct 23, 2021 as “Everlasting revolt”.

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