Welcome to the Stoytellers Blog Tour
I am excited to share with you an excerpt of Bjorn Larssen’s novel Storytellers. This sounds perfect for those long, lazy summer nights upon us while camping or relaxing in good company. As a fan of the outdoors and all things Nordic, I definitely have my eye on this novel.
Take a peek at the excerpt and author bio, then enter for a chance to win a copy of “Iceland: Making Memories”.
In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long. For most, on those nights, funny, sad, and dramatic stories are told around the fire. But there is nothing dramatic about Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith who barely manages to make ends meet. He knows nobody will remember him – they already don’t. All he wants is peace, the company of his animals, and a steady supply of his medication. Sometimes he wonders what it would feel like to have a story of his own. He’s about to find out. Sigurd – a man with a plan, a broken ankle, and shocking amounts of money – won’t talk about himself, but is happy to tell a story that just might get Gunnar killed. The blacksmith's other “friends” are just as eager to write him into stories of their own – from Brynhildur who wants to fix Gunnar, then marry him, his doctor who is on the precipice of calling for an intervention, The Conservative Women of Iceland who want to rehabilitate Gunnar’s “heathen ways” – even the wretched elf has plans for the blacksmith. As his defenses begin to crumble, Gunnar decides that perhaps his life is due for a change – on his own terms. But can he avoid the endings others have in mind for him, and forge his own?
Genre: Scandinavian Literature / Sagas / Heritage Fiction
Author: Bjorn Larssen
Paperback, 292 pages
Publishing date: February 27th 2019
ISBN: 9082998521 (ISBN13: 9789082998528)
Gunnar, the hermit blacksmith, is plagued by numbers, dates, anniversaries. He can always count on the company of the darkness, the only one who had never failed to stay by his side. But sometimes it’s better to be alone...
The anniversary of his mother’s death would arrive in seventy-one days. The darkness habitually brought back the memory of the day when he found his mother’s body in bed. She died in her sleep, Father had said. Sóley’s face was contorted in terror, eyes bulging and open wide, as if she were unexpectedly struck by an opponent a hundred times bigger than her. Karl, Gunnar’s father, held him in a strong embrace as the boy sobbed. “Twenty-fourth of May,” he said. “She may be gone now, but we will never forget her.” As the years passed, Gunnar forgot Sóley’s facial features, her hair colour, but he never forgot the terror in her dead eyes. Or the date.
Every year on the twenty-fourth of May they would light a candle for her spirit. Father and son would drink ale together and reminisce. The boy was always quiet at first, but livened up as the pitchers emptied. On the other hand, Karl’s mood seemed to darken as the hours passed. Still, they retold the same anecdotes, made sure the stories would never disappear, and sometimes it felt as though Sóley would come into the kitchen any moment to tell them off for drinking too much. The blankets she knitted were still used every day, Karl still wore the lopapeysa she made. He was wearing it on the day he failed to get out of bed in the morning. He laughed it off – a little cold, he explained. Gunnar was shocked at the sight of his father’s shrunken body, grey skin, the woollen sweaterhanging from Karl’s shoulders. The changes were so gradual he had failed to notice them until now.
“I’m just having a cold,” muttered Karl. “Stop with the morbid talk and get to work. The forge won’t build itself.” He continued to command from his bed, but his voice became quieter and weaker. Gunnar had heard about a young doctor fresh out of medical school, who had recently moved into Klettafjörður, and shyly suggested bringing him over. Karl refused to let a charlatan set foot inside his house, and repeated that he would get well soon, all he needed was a bit more rest. Gunnar didn’t dare oppose his father, so he watched the big bear of a man turn into a skeletal figure repeating, in a voice barely louder than a whisper, that he just needed some rest. That was, until he started saying other things, scary things.
“I have sinned,” wheezed Karl one night. “I deserve all of this, all the pain.” He had never mentioned pain before.
“Please let me get the doctor,” pleaded Gunnar.
“I am going to die… and that’s good. Everyone’s… time comes. My time is now.”
Gunnar took one last look at the emaciated face, then bolted out of the house.
He returned with the doctor an hour later. Brynjólf found it difficult to understand Gunnar’s half-cried explanations and repeated calmly that he needed to see the patient. Gunnar let the doctor in, then closed the door and sat outside. It was the twenty-fourth of August, exactly three months since his mother’s death anniversary. He heard the cuckoo clock in the kitchen – one, two… nine times, as he stared at the red fire of the sun setting on the horizon.
The door opened behind him, and the young doctor sat next to him on the stairs. Gunnar’s mind seemed full of tar, his stomach clenched in fear. He didn’t want to ask any questions because he feared the answers.
Finally, the doctor spoke. “I’m sorry,” he said, then put his arm around Gunnar’s shoulders and sighed. “Reverend Guðmundur should have been here instead of me. He’s gone… I’m sorry for your loss. There was nothing I could have done. I should have been notified months ago. I can’t believe you let this progress so long… He didn’t like doctors, am I right?”
“Nay,” mumbled Gunnar. His lips barely moved, as though they were made of iron. “He said you… they were charlatans.” Brynjólf didn’t budge, looking away as the boy cried soundlessly.
The doctor told Gunnar to burn everything that belonged to his father. The memoirs and poems his father wrote, his clothes, shoes, all the books including the Bible, and his bedding. Everything that couldn’t be cleaned with alcohol had to go, said the doctor, handing Gunnar a large bottle of rectified spirit. Don’t drink it, he warned, it will poison you. He gave Gunnar another, smaller bottle: whisky. It helped get through the blinding pain of erasing traces of Karl’s life, and when the bottle was empty the young smith bought another one. Gunnar isolated himself from the world, missing all the talk about prohibition until the law went into effect. When Anna told him in secret that it was possible to obtain alcohol from doctors as medication, Gunnar gathered all his courage to ask for some. He got what he requested, and returned the next week to ask for more, then still more. With every visit Brynjólf’s face seemed more concerned than before, and his sighs grew deeper, but the doctor never refused a prescription.
It’s the fourteenth of March today, said the darkness thoughtfully. Seems to be a nice day to die. You’re at a cliff. Why not jump off?
In the uneven fight between Gunnar and the darkness only one can be a winner. Which of them will it be? Read Storytellers to find the answer to this question – and so many more...
Bjørn Larssen was made in Poland. He is mostly located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one. Since then his short stories and essays were published in Rita Baum Art Magazine, Writer Unboxed, Inaczej Magazine), Edurada.pl, Homiki.pl, and Holandia Expat Magazine. He is a member of Alliance of Independent Authors and Writer Unboxed. Bjørn has a Master of Science degree in mathematics, worked as a graphic designer, a model, and a blacksmith. He used to speak eight languages (currently down to two and a half). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland, even though he hates being cold. He has only met an elf once. So far.
Enter for a chance to win a copy of
“Iceland: Making Memories”
Giveaway to Win 5 x copies of “Iceland: Making Memories” (INT)
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