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Review: Drápa, by Gerður Kristný

Ian Pople, The Manchester Review, June 2018

The phrases and sentences are clipped and impacted. The imagery is sparse but draws the reader in with an immediacy and drive. Of the two adjectives here, 'rabid' and 'winter', both might feel unexceptional but feel boosted by their rarity in the sentence. This impacted writing must be even more effective in the original Icelandic, which seems to lack articles to offer evenness to the rhythms of phrases. In the English translation, Kristný's 'refusal' to punctuate is mimicked in the verse divisions, which act as kinds of full stop, followed by capitals to indicate new sentence. In the English, such lack of punctuation offers both rhythmic pause, and continuity and flow.


I've quoted at length here to suggest the quiet power of Kristný's vision and McTurk's wonderful translation. Kristný has some fame in Iceland and both this book and the previous one Bloodhoof attest to the ability which has brought about that fame. Kristný's technique embodies a unique and compelling version of what Cixous called écriture feminine. In this case, that means creating a meditative style which shows how violence against women resonates out from a particular situation into a mythic, atavistic presence which is liable to pervade all our experience.