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13 September 2018

Rediscovering Myths and Legends with Icelandic Fairytales - Book Review

When I went to Prali, I brought Ferrante's Story of the Lost Child with me. Yet, the natural surroundings and fresh air inspired me to look for a fantasy or a unique book that I could read alongside it. Prali has a lovely local bookshop and there were lots of books that you normally wouldn't find in Florence's big bookshops, including books on nature, spirituality and more. An old lady even approached me to recommend her favourite book and to ask me for book suggestions for her teen nephew (I then realised how long it had been since I'd spoken to a stranger and how natural that felt to her as opposed to me!).

After a few visits to the bookshop, I picked Icelandic Fairytales by the Italian publishing house Iperborea. This is a collection of short and long tales, legends and myths that were handed down orally from generation to generation in faraway Iceland. Throughout the book, characters and events are repeated in patterns. Some classic characters were the family of peasants made of parents and three daughters - two of whom are usually bad, and one of whom is good-hearted -, humble young men, greedy young men, widowed kings and female trolls.

The stories were truly amusing, but I have to say I was taken back by some style choices. Being a translator, I really appreciate a good literary translation. Though I'm sure these tales were very challenging to relay into Italian, as Icelandic is so different from it, some translation choices made the Italian sound a bit clunky (you can really tell I've been writing translation commentaries for a whole year!). Nonetheless, this was such a fun and pleasant read that I didn't mind the style too much.

I would recommend this book to readers of all ages and into any genre. These fairytales brought me back to my childhood and I loved winding down every evening by reading a few of them.

My edition: Trans. Silvia Cosimini, 2016. Fiabe Islandesi. Milan: Iperborea.
Goodreads: 3 stars.

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