Buy Twice in a Lifetime by Agust Borgbor Sverrisson, translated from the Icelandic by Maria Helga Guomundsdottir and Anna Benassi HERE
Check out the other books in the 12 Days of Comma Sale HERE
Twice in a Lifetime is a single author collection by Icelandic short story writer Ágúst Borgþór Sverrisson, author of five collections of short stories, this being his most recent, and two novels. He is widely regarded as one of Iceland’s most accomplished practitioners of the short form. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers.
Each of Sverrisson’s stories offers an intricate study in the precariousness of life and the frailty of every fleeting opportunity. Characters are scarred by simple, careless actions. Lives turn on the smallest events: a child steals cash from his father for a pretend-money game and unwittingly throws his brother’s entire life off balance; a man has a one-night stand with a married woman and only realises the consequences years later; an overbearing girlfriend sends her cynical boyfriend a letter that stops him in his tracks. Yet amid the anonymity of urban life, the random accidents and mistaken identities that make up Sverrisson’s stories, there can also be found an abiding faith in the unexpected gifts that chance throws up: synchronicities, coincidences, moments in time seen from new perspectives that offer fresh secrets, and, occasionally, even a second chance.
Why this book?
Since 2013, Iceland has been experiencing a ‘book boom’. A small nation with a population of around 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world.
There is a phrase in Icelandic, “ad ganga med bok I maganum”, everyone gives birth to a book. Literally, everyone “has a book in their stomach”. One in 10 Icelanders will publish one. It is no wonder when they live in a place that draws so many people to it’s shores for it’s natural beauty, it is the ideal setting for inspiration to strike, it’s no wonder that writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Seamus Heaney were influenced by Iceland. Reykjavik was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011, the fifth city in the world and the first non-native English speaking city to receive the honorary title.
This book holds a special place in Icelandic literature, with the final story in the collection, ‘Disappearing into the World’, being taught on the high school curriculum there. The story also won the Strik.is prize. To show you why, here’s a short extract from that story:
When I walk into the empty living room, nothing seems more natural than for my brother’s face on the big photo on the wall to start talking.
But when I lay my arms on the armrests, open my palms, close my eyes and try to empty my mind, the traffic outside suddenly becomes so loud that the car noises that you usually don’t notice sound like I’m standing on the street.
Then you sense how large and noisy the world is; the silence is just here. Full of mortal life, the world awaits beyond the din of traffic that disappears into the distance.
Who should you buy this for?
This book showcases a mastery of short story, telling tales through brief details, coincidence and fantastic prose.. With that in mind, you should buy this book for anyone that is new to the short story form, or perhaps fans of short stories who would like to explore a collection from a nation of authors which often don’t have their stories heard by audiences in this country. Transport yourself this Christmas without even having to leave the comfort of your own home, the perk of reading a collection like this is you can read a story at a time between courses and don’t need to worry about having to put down a lengthy novel when it’s time for family charades!
Buy the anthology for just £6 at commapress.co.uk (RRP £9.99)