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COLUMBA'S BONES by David Greig
Be warned. Columba’s Bones opens with a brutal massacre. Vikings land on the shore near a secluded Scottish monastery and set about laying it to waste. Amidst the carnage one monk escapes, hiding in the pit of the latrine. One viking is rendered blind drunk by the mead maid and mistaken for dead. He is buried by his delightfully named fellow marauders (Fuck-a-Whale is a highlight) before they set sail with their spoils. When the monk finally surfaces from the faecal sludge, he happens upon a fresh grave with a hand reaching out. So begins one of the most complex, fascinating friendships I can remember reading.
Although, so far as I know, it’s not based on a particular historical event like the other Darkland Tales, David Greig’s contribution to this incredible series just might be my favourite. Through Martin and Grimur, Greig dives deep on questions of religion, faith, the moral boundaries of war and how we might strive to understand the “other”. Both men are forced to confront their deepest beliefs, to interrogate their prejudices. To admit their failings. It’s an absolutely riveting read; urgent, wild and joyous, yet tender, contemplative and profound. Truly a book for this moment.
Columba’s Bones by David Greig
Polygon Books, 2023