This short Icelandic novel is a portrait of Lilja, a 20-year-old woman in a relationship with a graduate student. Her boyfriend is controlling, and Lilja is trapped not just in the relationship with him, but also in the way she sees him. Magma is told in short chapters, vignettes that show vividly how much of a hold the man has over Lilja:

It’s so wonderful how he likes me exactly how I am. He gets irritated, seems even hurt, if I put on makeup, and he asks accusingly, “Who are you doing that for?” I don’t understand why he gets so jealous; I would never want to be with anyone else.

translation by meg matich

Though it sounds a contradiction in terms, it feels that there’s a precise artlessness to Lilja’s narration, such that we can see what she can’t. Magma can be emotionally hard to read at times, and one wishes for Lilja to find her way out of this situation. This is a novel that draws its readers close to its protagonist, where they become trapped just as she is. 

Published by Picador.