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Book Club - May 2024

Updated: Apr 15

The Icelandic Roots Book Club for Thursday May 2, 2024 will feature Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night. It is important to note that the meeting time is different for this book discussion in order to allow the author Jón Kalman Stefánsson and translator Philip Roughton to join us from Iceland at 5 pm their time, which will be noon CST. Please check the Icelandic Roots Event calendar for more information, and also be aware of your local time to join us.


By Heather Goodman Lytwyn


Icelandic Roots Book Club Selection for May 2024
Icelandic Roots Book Club Selection for May 2024

All of Jón Kalman Stefánsson's books have intriguing titles like Fish Have No Feet, The Sorrow of Angels, and his most recent novel Your Absence is Darkness. In 2011, he was the recipient of the prestigious Per Olov Enquist Literary Prize for his novel Heaven and Hell. The jury that gave out this award wrote that it was “…at once magnificent and magical. A story that makes great literature from life, and gives new life to literature.” It was translated into nine languages. 

If I listed all the books written by Jón Kalman, and then listed those that were translated into English by Phillip Roughton, it would sound like one of those long speeches at the Academy Awards, when winners recite a roll call of every person who ever helped them. Since Jón Kalman is a poet as well as novelist, they make the perfect team. The IR Book Club has witnessed Phil’s ability to preserve the poetry in his translations of Karitas Untitled and Salka Valka. His dedication to be authentic and precise has resulted in him translating many well-known Icelandic authors.

Author Jon Kalman (photo by Einar Falur Ingólfsson)

Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night received the Icelandic Literature Prize. It is a confirmation of Jón Kalman's ability to entertain us with eccentric characters and extraordinary events where you would least expect it: in a small Icelandic village of 400 inhabitants. It is indisputable that he is gifted at “holding up to ridicule the weakness and follies of mankind” and he does so with humour and insight. At first the novel reminded me of the light-hearted satire found in Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. But it also has the elements of a more ominous look at human behavior reflected in works like A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift.

Phil Roughton, Translator of Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night
Phil Roughton, Translator of Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night

If May’s featured novel is the first book you have read by Jón, I am pretty confident it won’t be your last. In Iceland Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night  is sold  in both the original Icelandic and in English. In North America, Amazon offers the English translation in hardcover, paperback, audio or Kindle. 

I hope you can join us in May for an opportunity to talk to Jón and Phil and share your appreciation for these two very talented writers.


Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.

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