Your Absence is Darkness | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, April 20th, 2024  

Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Your Absence is Darkness

Published by Biblioasis

Mar 11, 2024 Bookmark and Share

Your Absence is Darkness will be one of the best books you read this year. A thick tome of 430 pages, the book spans generations with a winding plot filled with twists and turns and all the mystery one could ever want as its story unfolds.

Translated in absolutely stunning prose from the Icelandic, the book begins with a man coming to in a church in rural Iceland. He doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or how he got there. He has no memory of his past, no idea of the present. Through the help of his sister, his family’s story is told.

Throughout, several stories intertwine. A educated, married pastor falls in love with a rural woman from afar. A woman makes the heart wrenching decision to give up her child for a better life, hiding her family’s secret. An alcoholic stumbles through life, only finding solace in the night sky before his death. The stories seem disparate, until they are not, and the dots are not easily connected. Much of the story takes place on a fjord, in the middle of nowhere, and the setting lends weight to the proceedings.

Most of Your Absence Is Darkness is relatively confounding as it unfolds, but it confounds in the best way possible. The twists and turns while the story shifts through families and across generations without much of an apparent through-line makes it less than a quick read. But the sentences are magnificent, and the wisdom within almost strikes of aphorisms, as the reader will find themself underlining passages that hint at great truths, unearthed within the telling of the stories herein.

And then there is the music. Accompanying the book is a playlist of sorts, music that is central to the story, and one will find themselves seeking out the songs as well to dig deeper into the universal meaning. It is not an obvious conceit, rather the music bubbles under the surface of the narrative, and it is not until you reach the novel’s end that you realize how essential it has been to the tale. Most remarkably, the playlist is then printed at the text’s end, as if so one can re-experience the novel through it’s most powerful musical moments.

Ultimately, Your Absence is Darkness expounds on themes of life, death, love, loneliness, mistakes, and the search for meaning. The eternal themes. Those which the great novels elucidate carefully but spectacularly in unmatched prose. Which is exactly the kind of novel this is. (

Author rating: 9/10

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