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He has to sharpen his voice somewhat for the three of them

to hear, because all the words have to come across, that’s

how poetry is, those are the rules, that’s how it should be,

must be, writing is a war and maybe authors experience

more defeat than victory, that’s just how it is, Gísli had

explained, losing himself in his explanation, there was a

gleam in his eye, as if he were really alive. He’d read over

the five pages that the boy had translated of Mr. Dickens’


A Tale of Two Cities

. It was the best of times, it was

the worst of times. In this story there are few mistakes, few

defeats, making the job of the translator more difficult, yet

happier. The boy said nothing, had the five pages in front of

him, in some places marked up by Gísli, the translation, the

tireless work, anguish, sweat, joy, delicate movement

between languages, shredded by the comments of the

headmaster who talked and talked, the boy looked at the

pages and the anger welled up inside him. It certainly

would be nice to wad up the pages, make a big ball and

stuff it into Gísli, deep into his throat, that dark tunnel.

There’s no need to vaunt yourself on compliments from me,

pride is poison, said Gísli, his voice suddenly prickly.

Compliments!, exclaimed the boy, breaking into a smile

without realizing it, his eyes still on the marked-up pages;

compliments, he repeated, because it’s called a compliment

to tear apart a work into which you’ve put your all, your

heart, lungs, breath. The boy looks in astonishment at

Kolbeinn, sitting right next to him, his eyes closed, as if

sleeping, though with his left ear turned toward them,

catching every word. Yes, said Gísli, I call it a compliment