From the Mouth of the Whale


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I was on my way home from the hunt. In my right hand I held my net, in my left a lantern, and in the pack slung over my back was my prey, a wild boar with tusks of steel; a colossal beast that had run amok in the lands of the north, wreaking havoc until the alarm was raised and I was charged with hunting it down. Then the Father would see which of his sons labored hardest to keep our world in check: those who never stirred from the all-encompassing paternal abode where they occupied themselves with administrative business such was the euphemism for courtly life , or I, who flew far and wide, dispatching monsters.

The void crunched under my heels as I strode homeward. A head the evening meal awaited me in the glorious, scintillating palace with all its towers and spires streaming into space like the babbling of a newborn sun. I meant to rise to my feet between the main and dessert courses, walk over to my brothers, and whip the steel-tusker from my pack.


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But I had not gone far before I perceived that all was not well in Seventh Heaven. I threw down my lantern, net, and pack. Next moment I was in the courtyard; an instant later I was running up the steps to the throne room, where I flung open the doors.

From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón - review

Conditions in the chamber were sickening; many of the angels were laughing with fear, others were weeping with hollow laughter, still others laughed and wept at once. The Ophanim had cast off their robes and knelt with brows pressed to the cold steps of the throne, letting fly with knotted scourges on their blazing shoulders. The most sensitive were slumped against pillars and benches, vomiting spasmodically, the ectoplasm gushing from their mouths to flow unchecked over the azure floors of Heaven. Underlying the hideous spectacle was the whispering sound that is formed when sheer despair filters out into the flight feathers, causing the soft plumes to tremble and the air to play over them with a shrill whistling like a blade of grass blown by a child; it was this sound that had breached the encircling walls of the palace and carried to me on my homeward road: the true alarm call of the angels.

The thought, lancing my mind, left my body momentarily stunned: the unthinkable had happened!

From the Mouth of the Whale

I was on the verge of losing control of myself when I noticed the stench. For the worlds He created, with all their creatures and plants, and His own world were prohibited from meeting; like light and darkness, as He Himself decreed.

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This is a very lucky guy. Lana, good morning. Reporter: Kind of a biblical story, one of your favorites from the morning, but let me paint a picture for you. A bryde's whale is 50 feet long and weighs 55, pounds and now imagine you're in its mouth. This is a moment he'll never forget.

A fun day with friends turning into a life or death situation. And I felt some pressure on my hip and once I felt the pressure, instantly knew the whale had grabbed me.

Reporter: year-old rainier Schimpf and his team were docking a sardine run off the coast of South Africa when he found himself inside the jaws of a bryde's whale. Rainier's wet suit, the only barrier between his flesh and the whale's jaws. It happened extremely fast, and from being on the surface and observing something, I became inside and was suddenly inside a whale and I'm sure it was a surprise for the whale as well.

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Reporter: This is far from the first close call with a whale. Last year a whale capsized a foot fishing boat, launching the two men aboard in the atlantic off of the Jersey shore. Reporter: In a similar encounter just last summer nearby, this humpback whale making a splash just feet from a boat, but none of these encounters have been closer than rainier's. At least not yet. I don't think I had a whale of a time. I now have the inside knowledge of a whale which nobody else has.

Reporter: I have been shark diving off the coast of south Africa, and that's what he said he was looking out for, and he much prefers a whale to a shark.

a book review by Tony Bailie: From the Mouth of the Whale: A Novel

He's fine now, and he thinks actually that the whale was just as surprised and scared as he was, you guys. Instead of traveling to Nineve to announce its downfall, he attempts to escape his responsibility by fleeing to sea. Although there are some odd stylistic choices that make parts of From the Mouth hard to swallow, the book succeeds in presenting human culture before the invention of standard time and space in all its fabled complexity. February 3, Become a Patron!

Jamie Townsend on Steve Abbott.

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