25 Oct The Call of the Cormorant by Donald S Murray
A poetic insight into the life of a real-life Quisling
My turn on the blogtour for The Call of the Cormorant, based on a true story that I was never aware of, but which was fascinating to discover.
How on earth did an odd young boy from the Faroe Islands become a mouthpiece for the Nazis during World War II?
Author Donald S Murray takes us back to Karl Einarrson’s youth as the son of an eccentric Icelandic storekeeper who uprooted his family to these remote and beautiful lands in the hope of a better life.
Karl follows in his father’s footsteps in his peculiarities and eccentricities, eagerly listening to Magnus’s tales of Atlantis, supposed cradle of the Aryan race, which he believes was sited around the Faroes.
Karl grows up to be a talented linguist, mimic and artist, and is sent off to study in Denmark, where his fortunes are mixed. Left poverty-stricken by his father’s death and the outbreak of war, he is at one point jobless and homeless, before making his way to Germany where he inadvertently falls into the company of Nazi-sympathisers who know of his interest in Atlantis. For his self-preservation, he must go along with them in their pursuit of the perfect Aryan race.
But betraying the Faroe Islands and the countrymen he so long professed to despise leaves a profound and sorrowful mark on him…
This is a very poetic story, rich in the description and atmosphere of island life off the storm-tossed coasts of Scotland and Iceland. It actually opens with a storm, as fishermen from the Hebrides are washed up on the shores of the Faroes to take shelter with the Einarrson family.
Descriptions of the landscape both compete with and complement Magnus Einarrson’s tales of myth and legend.
There’s understated romance, between Karl’s sister Christianna and rescued fisherman Ian MacCusbic, that filters down through the story to the next generation.
But the Faroese are above all, and of necessity, a pragmatic nation, and love too often takes a back seat to practicalities – which perhaps explains why Karl is able follow the course that he does.
What an anti-hero! Seen from his own perspective, he is clever, odd, ugly, shallow, ungrateful and unloveable to all but his own family – but that’s what makes him so interesting.
He accepts that he is different to his peers, and acknowledges that being different can be a curse as well as a blessing, but he never abandons his thirst for adventure, refusing to conform despite the various troubles that his escapades bring to him.
I found this story profoundly moving. Its plot is a slow-burner, but the poetic descriptiveness of life in small places where “people are forced to conceal their needs and longing” touched a chord with me, and I found myself sympathising with Karl, as much a victim of his upbringing as of his own personality.
This self-styled Duke of St Kilda’s story certainly deserves to be told.
The Call of the Cormorant by Donald S Murray is published by Saraband in paperback and ebook
About the Author
A son of the Hebrides, Donald S Murray is a writer and poet whose work has been awarded The Society of Authors’ Paul Torday Memorial Prize, and has been shortlisted for both the Saltire Literary Awards and the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. His critically acclaimed books bring to life the culture and nature of the Scottish islands, and he appears regularly on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publishers Saraband for the copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster