Something A Little Like Life

After a short break, it’s time for another trip to Iceland, this time courtesy of the good people over at Portobello BooksGuðrún Eva Mínervudóttir’s novel The Creator (translated by Sarah Bowen) is a strange, but entertaining novel, describing what happens when a woman meets a man – one with an unusual profession…

*****
We begin in the small town of Akranes, where Sveinn a middle-aged artisan, has just finished an exhausting bout of work on his creations.  As he moves to the kitchen to prepare his dinner, he sees a woman outside his house, struggling with a flat tyre.  Despite his fatigue, he invites her in, shares some dinner and drinks with her, and changes the tyre.  When he wakes up the next morning, the woman is gone – and so is something else.

You see, Sveinn hand-makes life-sized sex dolls, and when Lóa, his unexpected visitor, stumbles across one in his workshop, she decides to take it.  A rather unusual decision, you may say (and you’d be right), but there is a method in her madness, and it all has to do with her daughter, Margrét.  In her hungover state, Lóa thinks that her daughter, who is withdrawing from all human contact, may be able to relate better to a doll than people…

What follows is a bizarre tale, swinging back and forth between Akranes and Reykjavik, one which never quite goes the way you’d expect.  The idea of the sex doll, while important for the plot, is a bit of a red herring; The Creator is not so much about sex as it is about loneliness and longing.  All of the main characters in the novel are adrift, looking for a little attention and affection.  Sveinn’s friend, Kjartan, looks for it in the shape of dolls; Lárus, a young man who gets caught up in Sveinn’s mission to retrieve his goods, just wants a friend.  And as for Sveinn and Lóa…

Both have failed relationships behind them and are trying to fill the gaps in their lives (Sveinn with work, Lóa with alcohol), hoping to stop the slide before their lives crumble into pieces.  By the time the doll maker tracks down his visitor in Reykjavik, her world is already in tatters, and Sveinn finds himself having to help her hold it together.  The two seem perfect for each other – however, the fact that Sveinn thinks that Lóa is a stalker may well get in the way of a blossoming friendship.

Mínervudóttir has structured The Creator by writing chapters alternating between Sveinn and Lóa’s points of view, a technique which allows the reader to see events through two pairs of eyes.  With the characters often speaking at cross purposes, it’s a clever trick, one which is carried on successfully throughout the novel.  Although at times it has the effect of slowing the narrative a little too much, the skillful way in which the writer manipulates the conversations more than makes up for this.  Often it is only after hearing both sides of the story that the reader is able to gain a clearer (but never clear) understanding of what has happened, as both Sveinn and Lóa only recall parts of the conversation, omitting certain details and exaggerating or distorting others.

Although Lóa is dismissive of Sveinn’s work, wondering why he would waste his talents on such a distasteful trade, he is proud of his work, confident that he can maintain the distinction between dolls and women.  As the book progresses though, it becomes painfully obvious that this is not strictly true.  On several occasions, he describes Lóa as if she were a doll:

He observed the woman sitting opposite him at the table more carefully.  She resembled typical drawings of the first women settlers: large round eyes and big shapely bosoms that rested firmly on a sturdy, solid torso, and legs like two magnificent pillars. p.11 (Portobello Books, 2012)

There’s nothing sexual about his descriptions of the woman sitting opposite him – these are merely the detached musings of an artist at work…

The Creator is an entertaining and thought-provoking work, one I’m happy to recommend.  If you’re looking for resolutions or happy endings, you’ll be disappointed (there aren’t any), but in this way the book is more reminiscent of real life than of a novel.  People change when drama occurs, but only incrementally.  Real change is a slow process, and the most you can hope for in a short period of time is a catalyst to make you stand back and have a good look at your life.  This is the effect of the events running through The Creator; whether Sveinn, Lóa and co. actually benefit from their encounter is a story for another day.

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4 thoughts on “Something A Little Like Life

  1. I've been waiting for an Icelandic novel about sex dolls for years – in fact, I was only bemoaning the absence of such last week – so I'm definitely going to chase this one up! Seriously, sounds good!

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