Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

Fish Can Sing

8 Fish Can SingStand-alone novel

This book is included in The Icelanders Cometh crowdfunding campaign run by the Jolabokaflod Book Campaign to raise money for UK libraries to spend on titles translated into English by Icelandic authors to mark World Book Night and UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day.


Abandoned as a baby, Alfgrimur is content to spend his days as a fisherman living in the turf cottage outside Reykjavik with the elderly couple he calls grandmother and grandfather. There he shares the mid-loft with a motley bunch of eccentrics and philosophers who find refuge in the simple respect for their fellow men that is the ethos at the Brekkukot. But the narrow horizons of Alfgrimur’s idyllic childhood are challenged when he starts school and meets Iceland’s most famous singer, the mysterious Garoar Holm. Garoar encourages him to aim for the ‘one true note’, but how can he attain it without leaving behind the world that he loves?


‘Laxness is a poet who writes to the edge of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot: he takes a Tolstoyan overview, he weaves in an Evelyn Waugh-like humour: it is not possible to be unimpressed. Daily Telegraph

‘This weird and wonderful novel, about the price you pay for “the one true note”, is Laxness at his best: a reminder of the mad hilarity of the Icelandic sensibility. An endearing and unforgettable voice.’ Nicholas Shakespeare, author

‘It is a novel – a world – that transmits something of the wonder of life, its strangeness, its goodness, ocassions for stubbornness, and the stoicism of people – people everywhere.’ Murray Bail, author

The Fish Can Sing meanders beautifully … Laxness’s view of a child’s bounded universe has humour and a light touch.’ The Guardian