22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022


Portrait Sjón
© Ulrich Schreiber

Sjón (Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson), born in 1962 in Rezkjavik, had already joined lceland’s literary scene as a young man. He published his first book of poems, »Sýnir« (1978, tr: Visions) at age 15. More poems were soon to follow, which were re-published in 1986 in the collection »Drengurinn með röntgenaugum« (tr: The Boy with the X-Ray Eyes). By then Sjón had already gained wider recognition with the self-published works he released as an underground poet.

In that time he was a member of »Medusa«, a group of young artists influenced by Surrealism. The poems and novels by the author show clear traces of this influence.

Sjón managed a breakthrough as a novelist with his third novel, »Augu þín sáu mig« (1994, tr: Your eyes saw me) and the one that followed, »Með titrandi tár« (2001, tr: With a quivering tear). In these two books Sjón remodelled the 20th century, utilizing different types of narrative perspectives and elements of various literary and artistic genres, including Icelandic sagas, international fantasy literature, thrillers, films and cartoons. The most well known work of Sjón’s is the novel »Skugga-Baldur« (2003; Engl: »The Blue Fox«, 2008). The short volume is a mere 120 pages, and some parts consist of just a few paragraphs and sometimes even a single line. Distinctively tight, precise and poetic characteristics move the story to the border between poetry and prose. The plot consists of three strands. In one we follow Baldur Skugasson on a fox hunt through the cold and dark mountains. In the second we get to know the naturalist Friðrik B. Friðriksson and Abba, a girl with Down syndrome who he takes care of and who ultimately saves him from an impending catastrophe with her love. Finally, he tells the story of a shipwreck off the Icelandic coast in the spring of 1868.

The fates of the protagonists Friðrik, Abba and Baldur prove to be more closely connected than the reader initially suspects as the plot progresses. In addition to poems and novels Sjón writes short stories, children’s books, plays and lyrics for musicians such as Björk and The Brodsky Quartet.
Many literary awards have been bestowed on Sjón. Among others he received the Nordic Council Literature Prize and was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. In addition, he was the only Nordic writer nominated for an Oscar for the lyrics in Lars von Trier’s film »Dancer in the Dark«(2001). In the academic season 2007/2008 Sjón was a Samuel Fischer guest professor at the Freie Universität. He is currently living in Berlin as a guest of the Berliner Künstlerprogramm. In 2011 Sjón’s latest novel »Rökkurbýsnir« (Engl. »The Twilight of Marvels«) will be published in German.