Word of the Day (That Isn’t Actually a Word) and Englar Alheimsins

Lyfjaskýið (n)

“the drug cloud”

So while reading the Icelandic version of Englar Alheimsins by Einar Már Guðmundsson last night, or “Angels of the Universe” in English, I stumbled upon this strange and confusing sentence:

“Lyfjaskýið hangir í loftinu, líktog dagarnir standi í stað”

Before I could even attempt to grasp what it meant, I had to figure out what “Lyfjaskýið” meant. When broken down, I discovered it was a compound:

Lyf (drug/medicine) + ský (cloud) + (the)*

*note that the definite article always comes at the end of words

The drug cloud??? So roughly, we are talking about a drug cloud/cloud of drugs. But, is this literal? According to my rough translation, the sentence goes, “The drug cloud hangs in the air, as if the days stand in place.” There is not other context to the sentence, and I wonder whether the term “drug cloud” could mean a sort of blurred haze based on the effects of drugs, as if the entire body was lingering as a cloud. Either way, I was given the opportunity to use some poetic/metaphorical interpretation here and I am forever glad that Guðmundsson likes to get creative with his compounds. Speaking of Guðmundsson’s writing style, I also stumbled upon another interesting word duo that he put together, that makes more sense but is not usually blended. The word in question is

Einsog (adv)

A common adverb in icelandic, is “eins og”: two words that when combined, mean “like.” The first time I saw this together, it came out of this sentence-

“..geðspítalinn sem stendur einsog risastór höll við hafið…”

Or roughly in English, “The mental hospital which stands like a giant palace by the sea.” Of course it’s technically correct, but that doesn’t stop me from being confused when I run across it and can’t remember what it means. In a strange sense, it looks like the word “eggnog” and when I stumble upon it, I suddenly think eggnog has been incorporated into the story. If you enjoy eggnog, you might like this book. Lots of eggnog, everywhere, at all times.

So, if you couldn’t figure it out yet, I’m having a grand time trying to translate this lovely Icelandic work of fiction. It has taken me a day to finish each of the first two pages but they’ve developed as a success! I have translated entire paragraphs about the meaning of reality and how it plays a critical role in the perceived “mental” state of our minds. Beautiful and touching. I find that as I translate slowly, every word hits even harder because I put so much effort into discovering what it means.

A passage I enjoyed in the book-

“Naturally I understand little of reality, and it of me. Therefore, we’re even. Yet it doesn’t owe me an explanation, and I’ve paid it what it is due.”

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