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Your Absence is Darkness

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781529418781

Price: £20

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“Comparisons do not do justice to the complexity of Stefansson’s book, nor the uniqueness of his prose” DANIEL MASON, author of North Woods

“Stefánsson shares the elemental grandeur of Cormac McCarthy” EILEEN BATTERSBY, TLS

“A rich depiction of life, love and loss . . .
Stefánsson is a writer of great scope and imagination” RONAN HESSION, author of Leonard and Hungry Paul

Stefánsson’s prose rolls and surges with oceanic splendour” BOYD TONKIN, Spectator

A spellbinding saga about the inhabitants and inheritors of one rural community, by one of Iceland’s most celebrated novelists.

A man comes to awareness in a church in rural Iceland, not knowing why he’s there or how he arrived. When a local woman offers to reunite him with her sister, he realises he’s lost not only his bearings, but his memory as well: he doesn’t recognise either woman, and as their stories unfold, he is plunged into a history spanning centuries and lives: a city girl drawn to the fjords by the memory of a blue-eyed gaze; a farmer’s wife whose essay on the humble earthworm changes the course of lives; a pastor who writes to dead poets and falls in love with a stranger; a musician plagued by cosmic loneliness, who discovers that his life has been a lie; and an alcoholic transfixed by the night sky. Faced with the violence of destiny and the effects of choices, made and avoided, that cascade between lives, each discovers the cost of following the magnetic needle of the heart.

An incandescent, audacious novel about the misfortune of mortality and the strange salve of time, Your Absence is Darkness is a spellbinding story of death, desire and the perfect agony of star-crossed love.

Translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton


One of the great contemporary works of literature
Stern Magazine (Germany)
Stefansson has created a masterpiece with this new novel. You don't want it to end.
NDR Kultur (Germany)
Bursts with a narrative desire and an urge to live . . . as vivid as life itself.
Jyllands Posten (Denmark)
Captivates with its complex questions about love, life and death, composed in a poetic and comical way. Stefansson is unsurpassed in writing about death and oblivion
Trouw (Netherlands)
A extraordinary puzzle of a novel.
La Grande Libraire (France)
Incontestably this winter's most beautiful title . . . Once again Stefansson proves his exceptional talent.
Livres Hebdo (France)
Written in a language that hits you in the solar plexus, and a little above and below it too.
NRK (Norway)
The Icelandic Dickens . . . He has the same gift of writing with great understanding, an empathy with troubled souls and a skill at laugh-out-loud comedy.
Tina Neylon, Irish Examiner
Jón Kalman Stefánsson is a poet . . . Your Absence is Darkness is poetic and beautiful and so full of love and grief that it leaves no one untouched.
Morgunblaðið (Iceland)
A wonderful family saga, pieced together through memories, myths, legends. Page after page, the characters emerge from the background, step closer, come alive. You just want to spend more time with them and never leave their world.
Corriera della Sera (Italy)
In his deeply unique 'history of humanity', Stefánsson doesn't want to provide answers. His aim is to bring to the fore the pivotal, perhaps impossible questions each of us feel when confronted with the spectacle of life.
La Repubblica (Italy)
A rich depiction of life, love and loss, brimming with stoical wisdom and quiet poignancy. Jón Kalman Stefánsson is a writer of great scope and imagination.
Ronan Hession, author of LEONARD AND HUNGRY PAUL
An astonishing, free-wheeling narrative of an amnesiac's search for meaning . . . a serpentine and splintered set of stories covering several generations . . . Stefansson is poised to make his mark on the world stage.
Publishers Weekly *starred review"
Comparisons do not do justice to the complexity of Stefansson's book, nor the uniqueness of his prose, rendered here in a tumblingly beautiful translation by Philip Roughton . . . A late paragraph of exquisite beauty made almost no sense when I tried to include it here because it builds on over 400 pages that must be read first.
Daniel Mason, New York Times
Like fellow Scandinavian authors Jon Fosse and Karl Ove Knausgaard, Stefánsson joins plainspoken depictions of daily life to intimations of mysticism, creating a spectral, haunted atmosphere.
Sam Sack, Wall Street Journal