From Iceland — A Stirring Depiction of Human Loneliness

A Stirring Depiction of Human Loneliness

Published October 9, 2014

Book review: `The Creator' by Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir

Book review: `The Creator' by Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir

Lóa, a distraught single mother whose eldest daughter suffers from a severe case of anorexia, drives out to Akranes one evening for an unclear reason. Along the way, her car blows a tire, cutting her mysterious journey short. She pulls into what she thinks is a service station but is actually the home of Sveinn, a stoic and enigmatic hermit, who repairs her vehicle and offers her dinner.

After a candid and tearful conversation over a bottle of wine, Lóa falls asleep on Sveinn’s couch and awakes the next morning in a state of panic, for she left her young daughters, Margrét and Ína, back home in Reykjavík, completely unattended. While frantically gathering her belongings, Lóa stumbles across Sveinn’s workshop, where she discovers the hermit’s morbid occupation: creating eerily life-like silicone sex dolls.

Equally disturbed and fascinated by the human-sized dolls’ realistic features, Lóa makes an impulsive decision to steal one of the figurines as a conciliatory gift for her ailing daughter Margrét, in hopes that it will provide much-needed companionship to alleviate the child’s growing isolation. She stuffs the mannequin into her car and speeds off toward the city, commencing the plot of Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir’s gripping and peculiar novel, ‘The Creator.’

Masterfully translated into English by Sarah Bowen, ‘The Creator’ is a bizarre tale by one of Icelandic literature’s brightest young literary talents. The novel not only poses searching questions about the pervasive nature of human loneliness, but also offers a brutal depiction of a woman whose family has been ravaged by divorce and mental illness. Despite its grave subject matter, ‘The Creator’ is one of those rare books that skilfully address unsavoury topics in a redemptive, humorous and even poignant way.

‘The Creator’ also exhibits one of Guðrún Eva’s greatest strengths as a writer: her ability to seamlessly sew together a cast of seemingly disparate characters. When Sveinn wakes up and finds one of his dolls missing, he chases after Lóa to retrieve his stolen property. On his way to the city, he teams up with a forlorn convenience store clerk named Lárus, who eagerly helps the hermit track down the thief’s location. Later in the story, Margrét, afraid of being institutionalized for her illness, runs away after school, forcing Lóa and Sveinn to set aside their differences and search for her, a crisis that momentarily closes the rift between the two distant souls. Even Raven-Black Lola, Sveinn’s stolen sex doll, serves as a sort of redemptive, unifying figure within the story, compelling the main characters to come together and examine the grim realities of their isolated existence. Contrary to what the reader might expect, none of these strange scenarios or quirky relationships feel implausible or forced, due in large part to Guðrún Eva’s meticulous storytelling and Sarah Bowen’s precise, polished translation.

‘The Creator’ is a splendidly written novel that tackles ambitious questions about what it means to genuinely relate to another human being. However, not every reader will enjoy the deeply philosophical nature of the novel’s storyline. Those who prefer their novels to tackle light subject matters and wrap them up with neatly resolved endings will find that ‘The Creator’ might draw them too far out of their literary comfort zone.

On the other hand, those looking for a solid read with unforgettable characters, a thought-provoking plot and a generous dose of unconventionality should absolutely pick up a copy of ‘The Creator.’ It is an exceptional work, a stunning overture to Guðrún Eva’s promising literary career.

About The Author

Winner of the 2011 Icelandic Literary Prize for Fiction, Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir is one of the most daring and innovative young voices in Icelandic literature today. She has published seven novels in total, including her widely celebrated ‘Allt með kossi vekur’ (‘All Is Awakened With A Kiss’), for which she was awarded Iceland’s top literary honour. ‘The Creator’ (‘Skaparinn’ in Icelandic) was a commercial success in Iceland when it was first published in 2008; it is the first of Guðrún Eva’s works to be translated into English.

Guðrún Eva currently works in Hveragerði, where she resides with her husband and infant daughter.

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