By Roy Jacobsen
Man Booker International Prize Shortlist 2017
A stunningly beautiful tale of family and island life. Melancholic, quiet, pensive.
Life on the tiny Norwegian island of Barrøy is hard. The island’s family lives in solitude, isolated from the rest of the world. Weathered by constant waves and storms, the island is hard, graceful and beautiful. Their island is both kingdom and prison. They love their island.
“Nobody can leave an island. An island is a cosmos in a nutshell, where the stars slumber in the grass beneath the snow. But occasionally someone tries. And on such a day a gentle easterly wind is blowing.”
Depression and love and hard-won maturity are their legacy. Their visitors are few and far between, but always have a profound effect on them, though to articulate it would be impossible. The gentle presence of magic that surrounds the island withholds and protects.
“messages in bottles are mythical vehicles of yearning, hope and unfulfilled lives”
Wonderfully simple rhetoric is at work throughout. Concise and poignant metaphors and similes make the best possible use of language, and are a testament to Jacobsen’s exquisite skill. Jacobsen knows that one heart-stopping moment can encapsulate everything you need to know. The Unseen is a book that yearns to be understood.