Steinunn Sigurðardóttir : Le Cheval Soleil

Title: Sólskinshestur (Icelandic), Le Cheval Soleil (FR), Sonnenscheinpferd (DE), in English that would be Sunshinehorse, but it hasn't been translated yet.

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, is an Icelandic novelist and poet. I got this French translation from my Grandmother for last Christmas and did not read it until now. These last days I needed a book to fill the gap until the start of the Southern Reading Challenge, for which The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner is waiting, so I finished Sólskinshestur (for no challenge at all).

For a brief summary, I would just say that the story evolves around Lí's childhood and adulthood as the daughter of absent-minded parents. She is somehow brought up by her German housemaid, who leaves early and then by Nellí, a poor alcoholic single mother whose own daughter has been taken away. Lí blossoms out like a flower when she experienced her first love, but she ends the relationship to mourn it for the rest of her life. After an unsuccessful marriage that brings her to Copenhagen for some years, she leaves her husband and two daughters to come back to Iceland.

This book was very different from what I expected, maybe because I did not know that Steinunn was also a poet. The writing is very poetic and from time to time, parts of the story are presented in poems, about which is unclear whether they are Lí's thoughts (as she is usually the narrator of the story) or an unknown voice. Even if this poetic writing sometimes made a distance between the reader and the story, I was captured by Lí's life and the sad characters around her.

I loved her adorable brother Mummi and was intrigued by her cold mother Ragnhild, whose job as a doctor and the children dying under her hands have torn her apart on the inside and made her incapable of showing love and attention to her children. Haraldur is a father who tries to escape having the same behaviour as Ragnhild, but generally fails.

The character of Lí is broken by two things. First, the suicide of Nellí she discovered and never accepted as the truth (she invented that Nellí went working in the countryside) until she finds Nellí's daughter to tell her the story to realize it at last. Then, the loss of the love of her life, who brings the story's climax as he suddenly comes back to Iceland and makes of the past a possible future.

Steinunn herself called this novel her saddest story and it is true that I closed the book deeply moved by the broken lives it contained.


Post a Comment

Constantly changing places is inherent to my life. Books have always been steady friends which I could bump into wherever I was all over the world.
Stumbling upon Kaminer's German stories of "Die Reise nach Trulala" in Reykjavík's city library is as moving as meeting the Icelandic sagas in Boston's Borders.
To see a book again, that I've read thousands of kilometers away makes me smile "Hey I know you.." and shake hands by thumbing through it for a while.