Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

By Sjón

Sceptre

★★★★

Cher. Bono. Prince. Pelé. All are world-famous superstars known by one name. Sjón may not possess their renown, but he has the nominative singularity and the talent to stand among them. Born in Iceland, Sjón has written plays, novels, opera librettis and novels, and counts A.S. Byatt, Junot Diaz, David Mitchell and Bjork as fans. Moonstone is comprised of simple sentences that have the pleasingly disorientating habit of suddenly leaping sideways. “The October evening is windless and cool. There is a distant throb of a motorcycle. The boy puts his head on one side to get a better fix on the sound.” The
boy, Máni Steinn, is at that moment indulging in oral sex with an older man in Reykjavik in 1918. Spanish flu is killing people as success­fully as the war raging across the world. Sjón is an affectingly visual writer. Máni is a film buff, whose imagination is represented by verbal close-ups, cuts and actual photo­graphs à la W.G. Sebald. There is deeper significance: “One factor that renders film such an irresistible experience is the oppor­tunity it affords the audience to observe other people without shame.” Whether “other people” refers to the spectator, the performer or both is unclear in this strange, absorbing and haunting work.