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. Every day he will have to say hi to all of the cats. Every day he is going to his favorite cafe to learn. On find out how 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, you must appreciate and make peace with the cats.

Sjón has a major face, framed by way of critical black frames, however I spend our interview giggling. I snicker concerning the cats. The way in which he speaks about issues, about his paintings, it’s this pleasant mixture of profundity and absurdity. As a young person, self-publishing his first guide of poetry – 100 copies, offered at the bus experience house to the suburbs of Reykjavík – he recognized with the power of the punk motion – home made. He preferred punk’s social assault however no longer its nihilism. He additionally embraced the power of the Surrealists – that’s his phrase for it – their power and their playful international view. It’s nonetheless with him these days.

It’s the international view of the revolt, the everlasting revolt; it’s the conclusion within the absolute energy of the poetic creativeness and that the cruelty of politics must be countered with poetry. Each flesh presser must post a guide of poetry prior to they’re allowed in place of business, he says, with each absolute seriousness and a grin on the nook of his mouth. He speaks slowly, discovering the precise phrases; I will nearly pay attention the interpretation. What emerges from the ones lips, ultimately, is an ideal eloquence. It’s very fascinating.

Within the cafe, he loves to learn, to analyze. He reads for an hour every day. He does no longer 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 previous fisherman’s area at the south coast of Iceland. Within the iciness this area smells of snow. In the summertime it smells of inexperienced. It is extremely small. It has a radio, no tv. He does no longer 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 way of the occasional box mouse. That’s the corporate he assists in keeping there. And ravens, flocks of ravens within the iciness. They arrive in from the mountains and scavenge within the the town. The seaside is a superb position for a minimum of getting some seaweed into your abdomen. When issues are arduous for the ravens he feeds them, to stay himself of their favour. That’s essential, he says, to feed the ravens. When he is going house to Reykjavík once more, he does no longer 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, indubitably mine: “Isobel”, from Put up (1995), “Bachelorette” and “Jóga” from Homogenic (1997). He was once nominated for a “Very best song, authentic music” 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 title Issoooobbbeeellll. Björk requested for his lend a hand penning this epic music. He tells the tale of ways they wrote “Isobel” in combination, the primary music he wrote. In Björk’s kitchen: the moth. There was once a moth on Björk’s lapel and it was once there all day. This moth travelled together with her whilst she did her errands, to the file retailer and again house once more. The moth at the lapel, it was once unbelievable, after all it had to enter the music. It was once there for a reason why. It had imbued the kitchen with its silent presence. Björk performed him the music, and it was once this wonderful music, the demo of “Isobel” – it already was once very particular, the rhythm and construction and the entirety, and the sound international was once taking form. Moth delivers her message, unexplained in your collar, crawling in silence, a easy excuse. And that may be a tale about “Isobel”, says Sjón. Sjón and Björk, he tells me, they got here into being as inventive other people in combination within the ’80s.

One thing concerning the pandemic has intended he has determined that he’ll write simplest screenplays and paintings with filmmakers for the following couple of years. That may be a exchange. Writing screenplays isn’t like writing novels. One thing concerning the scattered nature of writing them felt extra conceivable all over the pandemic, he says. It’s a collective enjoy. Right through the pandemic, writing novels and poetry was once very arduous. With screenplays there may be the collaboration. It’s not him on my own in his fisherman’s area, with simplest the ravens.

Lately, he’s in Zürich. It’s autumn, and the sunshine in the back of him has that golden notice. It’s proper on the exchange of the seasons. Right here in Melbourne the nectarine bushes are naked of leaves however shiny with red 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 was once halted in early 2020, however it’s because of be launched subsequent 12 months. 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. Actually, 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 relatively a horror movie, regardless that it’s now and then horrific. It’s no Reykjavik Whale Looking at 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 Manila Chainsaw Bloodbath (1974). Lamb is not any splatter gore horror movie, he says.

I gained’t let you know an excessive amount of about it, I gained’t wreck it. Even telling you the idea would possibly wreck 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 abnormal 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 looking at the movie I’ve a bloodcurdling nightmare about lambs, however this can be a very gorgeous movie. It’s closely influenced by way of Armenian director Harutyun Khachatryan, whose movies border on documentaries. Lengthy stretches of Khachatryan’s movies are simply other people operating. Sjón says that they determined to consider within the target audience being all in favour of 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 other people too.

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

He says, for Icelanders there may be all the time the risk that for artists, writers, musicians from our nation – and plenty of international locations which are outdoor the cultural centre – there’s all the time the temptation, or risk, of giving in to the unique concepts about your nation. Other people have unique concepts about your nation. Other people have had unique concepts about Iceland for the reason that 18th century, you already know, and it by no means is going away. It doesn’t subject how trendy we predict now we have turn into, there are all the time other people having a look from the outdoor seeing the unique nature of it, or projecting their concepts about this some distance away nation onto us. There’s all the time the temptation of giving into it and taking part in together with it. There also are all the time moments while you realise there may be not anything that you’ll be able to do about it. In case you position a tale within the nation-state, this would be the nation-state. Let’s simply include that it’s lyrical and sumptuous and paintings with it.

Lamb has a people tale sensibility in it. It’s within the seriousness, says Sjón, in accepting that this factor is occurring at the farm and no longer wondering it. He says, you’ve such a lot of Ecu people tales that start with an extraordinary couple, dwelling someplace in completely on a regular basis enjoy, you by no means query that. Those are salt-of-the-earth standard other people simply going about their industry, 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 people tale.

That is territory Sjón is conversant in. In his novel The Blue Fox (2003) he writes from throughout the society, the place the people tale is actual. From the Mouth of the Whale (2008) is identical, he says, set within the seventeenth century the place you’ve a herbal scientist filled with concepts, which, to the fresh thoughts, to our thoughts, are simply fable. 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 all the time beloved people tales. As a child he was once obsessed. His favourites, he tells me, have been the ugly ones. He says, we don’t have correct ghosts in Iceland. We’ve the undead, the lifeless that go back to hang-out the dwelling; they accomplish that of their rotten our bodies, they’re extra like zombies, you already know. One tale I’ve all the time preferred is ready a farmer who’s going between farms, within the absolute darkish, clearly, in the midst of the night time, in the midst of iciness and anyone has died out within the desert previous that iciness and has returned to annoy 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 underneath his arm, and the hat speaks and says, “The darkness is all the time amusing, isn’t it?” The man simply runs away. We’ve excellent tales like that.

For Sjón as a child, those tales have been actual. He was once satisfied they have been true.

I ask Sjón concerning the movie rights to his novels, as I believed it herbal that if he’s writing movies, he would possibly write the movie of his personal books. However no, he hasn’t ever offered the rights to a guide. The books are his issues, he says. He’s in no hurry to look them at the display screen. Actually, he has just one rule for novel writing: write it in some way that makes it unfilmable. He says, if a filmmaker displays pastime in my guide, then I feel, Hmmm perhaps I didn’t arrange to make it utterly unfilmable. I must check out more difficult subsequent time.

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

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