A real time travel

A real journey through time


Inspired by characters who really existed, the Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason invites us to go back in time to lift the veil on the injustices and the very difficult living conditions suffered by the inhabitants of his island in the 18th century.

The time of this book, soberly titled The King and the Watchmaker, the Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason put murders and investigations aside to offer us a magnificent historical novel. 

“It's always good to take a break from writing detective series,” he explains. I have done this several times in the past, but this time I got a special satisfaction because I gave myself the opportunity to dive far back in time, to the 18th century&nbsp ;century, to tell a story that seemed very interesting to me. ”

In the course of his reading, he indeed came across the report of a trial that took place in the west of Iceland in the 18th century. “The text mentioned a name that meant something to me, that of a man [Jon Sivertsen] who had worked as a watchmaker in Copenhagen, he continues. I discovered that he was involved in this legal case and, on closer inspection, I thought to myself that perhaps I had the material for a novel at hand. I decided not only to set this novel both in Iceland and in Copenhagen where this Icelandic watchmaker lived, but also to arrange for it to be the craftsman who delivers the story of the trial to the King of Denmark, because at At that time Iceland was a Danish colony.

Originally from Iceland, Jon Sivertsen has his own little watchmaker’s shop near Slotsholmen, the islet of Copenhagen where Christiansborg Palace stands. Fascinated since his youth by the mechanisms measuring the passage of time, he undertook to restore the incredible astronomical clock which is gathering dust in the king's reserves. 

Made at the very end of the 16th century by the famous Swiss clockmaker Isaac Habrecht, this reproduction of the clock of Notre-Dame de Strasbourg cathedral is in such poor condition that no one has ever managed to repair and make it. to walk. Too many missing parts, too many cogs with broken teeth, too many complex mechanisms to fix.

“ I knew about the existence of this clock and, when I documented Jon’s life, I understood how much he excelled as a craftsman, underlines Arnaldur Indridason. By restoring this masterpiece considered out of use, he has accomplished a feat that no member of his profession had been able to accomplish. countless hours have been spent there. And during one of them, late in the evening, he will be surprised to see His Majesty King Christian VII disembark in person. 

“I was very lucky,” said Arnaldur Indridason. At the time Jon Sivertsen restored the clock, King Christian VII was reigning over Denmark. He is one of the strangest and most picturesque rulers in the entire history of the kingdom. I enjoyed reading about his biography, his character and his escapades and I really enjoyed writing about him to make him a literary character. He suffered from mental problems, there are plenty of anecdotes about him, and I hope my version is faithful to the man he was. Much of the story is about his dealings with the poor watchmaker from Iceland, about the fragility of their relationship and how issues of social status evolve between them. 

In real life life, Jon Sivertsen and Christian VII have probably never met, or even crossed paths. But as Arnaldur Indridason says, “Literature offers infinite freedom to approach History.Over the months, Christian VII will return regularly to visit the watchmaker to hear everything he has to say. Because on the orders of his predecessor King Frederick V, Jon's father and his governess Gudrun were apparently very unjustly executed and now he is determined to know why. 

« The Supreme Judgment plays an important role in the story, says Arnaldur Indridason. This law supposed to regulate the “guilty” relations between the sexes was vast and precise, and the representatives of the king worked with the greatest firmness to have the suspects tried under this abominable Judgment. But in my novel, it is also about censorship because the watchmaker must be careful not to anger the king by telling him his stories or by criticizing the kingdom too much. Its survival depends on it. What do we allow ourselves to say in front of the representative of absolute power? How far can we go in the truth? Unfortunately, these questions concern all eras, and they are still relevant in dictatorships such as Russia and China. »