A Happy Little Island
A Happy Little Island
A HAPPY LITTLE ISLAND
by Lars Sund
translated by Peter Graves
Dimensions: 210 x 140 x 18 mm
Publication: 20 April 2016
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In the beginning the page was blank and without form, and the scribe sat in front of it, a world forming inside his head. The world grew large, spilling out of him and on to the page. The scribe shaped the world into an island. He named it Fagerö, and populated it with an assortment of likely and plausibly unlikely characters, and saw that it was good for his purposes.
The people of Fagerö were often divided against each other but united in their appreciation of their happy little island. Then the dead bodies began to arrive: hordes of them, washing ashore with no identification and no one to claim them.
The island was changing, and the small-town quirkiness becoming less restrained. And the bodies kept arriving, forcing Fagerö’s inhabitants to confront the unhappy truth that, even on their remote island, the world’s horrors and injustices could not be ignored.
This was prescient at the time of writing and is sadly relevant in 2016, the year of this English translation.
A Happy Little Island is an elaborate tale told with style and intelligence. The number and variety of Sund’s Dramatis Personae make Fagerö the perfect stage for an encounter between common humanity and the insularity and fear of change that affect all cultures.
"Sund begins A Happy Little Island by casting himself as God, devising the land on which he will set his story. But he has specific reasons for doing so, beyond literary affectation. ... Sund isn’t just showing off, he’s making a point that not even in imaginary worlds are we exempt from our responsibilities to our fellow human beings. The book is a plea for us not to invent excuses for turning our backs on the needy and suffering because they’re strangers.
"That said, it’s also an absorbing tale with a cast of characters who could only exist in an isolated rural environment, their individuality accentuated by the open spaces and close-knit sense of community. Sund writes charmingly about the island (an old boat, for instances, likes to ‘rub her gunwales against a familiar quay’), and the tone is carried over by translator Peter Graves, who pleasingly renders the name of one landmark as ‘the Empress’s Cludgie’." — Alastair Mabbott, The Sunday Herald
"Fagerö’s homeliness, quaintness and smug self-regard is a paper-thin lie punctured very elegantly by Lars Sund in this exuberant novel, painted in a literary language bursting with fruity, evocative style — the larder is filled to bursting and redolent of rich scents: winter apples, salted sausage, pickled herring, soured cream and cranberry jam. Above all, Swedishness, or perhaps Finland-Swedishness, is shown in its most sentimental form, ultimately as a subtle warning to those who crow about the joys of yesterday." — Henning Koch, Swedish Book Review
“In A Happy Little Island, Sund entertains readers in the manner we now expect of him. He achieves this through his ability to invent and exaggerate, with a narrative force to match oral storytelling. He relies on his skilled use of language and his high spirits, humour and serious intent ... and also his empathy with the beliefs his characters hold.” — Lyskamsken.net
“Despite all the tall tales, black humour and eccentric characters portrayed with gusto, the small society Lars Sund describes with his unfailing sense for language and visual description is wholly credible. The individual characters have their own way of expressing themselves, and the reader can really hear them. Every episode is visualised in the reader’s head like a scene from a film.” — Hufvudstadsbladet