I recently read Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, a novel translated from Icelandic by Brian Fitzgibbon. This is the author’s most recent work, and it tells the story of a family of midwives and their musings on birth, death, human beings, the natural world, and even the universe beyond. Set in Reykjavik in the days leading up to Christmas, as a great storm approaches the city, we meet Dómhildur, a midwife who has just delivered her 1,922nd baby. Through her exploration of her grandaunt’s possessions, Dómhildur discovers three manuscripts that are rather chaotic and jumbled but which point to a near obsession in their writer. The natural world, animal life and its connection to human life are all explored with thought-provoking musings. Alongside this is the story of Dómhildur’s sister, a meteorologist with concerns about the coming storm, and an electrician – who doesn’t like the dark.
Animal Life is beautifully written and contains many thought-provoking ideas, however it can be hard to engage with due to its fragmentary nature. I was left feeling a little underwhelmed, but it is still worth reading for its exploration of the human condition and its connection to the natural world.