Can this world really be as sad as it seems?
In the opening moments of The Creator a divorced mother of two named Lóa steers her car towards what she believes to be a service garage after it suffers a flat tire. Much to her dismay however, she quickly discovers that the location has changed hands. When a solitary man named Sveinn emerges from the building and offers her his assistance their chance meeting sets in motion a chain of events that neither could have ever hoped to foresee.
Sveinn manufactures sex dolls for a living. Not the plastic blow-up kind, but heavy, expensive, life-sized pieces of art that are hand crafted from silicone. If fact, the first thing he notices about Lóa’s appearance is that with the exception of her hair, she has almost nothing in common with the faux girls that he creates. Sveinn muses that she “resembled typical drawings of the first women settlers: large, round eyes, and big, shapely bosoms that rested firmly, on a sturdy, solid torso, and legs like two magnificent pillars.” He invites her in for wine and dinner while he fixes her tire, and after returning to discover her passed out in a chair, leaves her to sleep away her exhaustion.
The next morning Lóa awakens slightly hung over, disoriented, and in desperate need of a bathroom. Stumbling through the unfamiliar surroundings of Sveinn’s home she finds herself smack in the middle of his workshop. In a moment of palpable desperation, and longing to help her anorexic daughter in any way possible, she spies one of his finished products and arrives at the conclusion that “if Margret had a doll for company perhaps her loneliness wouldn’t be so painful.” Her mind made up, she quietly and carefully transports the lifeless Raven Black Lola model to the boot of her car without waking Sveinn and then sets off for home.
It’s this bizarre setup that paves the way for explorations into the depths of loneliness and the triumphs of love that are both tender and surprising in equal measure. Spanning the length of a week, and alternating between its two primary subjects, Mínervudóttir’s novel pits raw emotions against manufactured devices in a struggle to ascertain some semblance of purpose in a world where instant gratification is quickly becoming the norm and any type of meaningful face-to-face interaction continues to fall by the wayside.
Who needs a real woman when you can insert yourself into a perfectly shaped replica? Who needs human companionship when you can stare into the screen of a “smart” phone all day?
As the novel progresses, Mínervudóttir’s unlikely pair – her depressed from a failed marriage and a daughter’s debilitating disease, him lonely and adrift in world that values perfection over true beauty – each orbit around the space occupied by the other without ever colliding. They’re forced into a close physical proximity to one another through circumstance, but they continually fail to connect as each repeatedly misunderstands the others true intentions.
While Sveinn’s found a way to turn his loneliness into a viable business by manufacturing and selling a perfection that will never grow old, never get sick, and never die, Lóa is rendered powerless as she’s forced to watch her oldest daughter slowly waste away to nothing. These two images, flawlessness and fragility, constantly battle one another as Mínervudóttir asks brave, bold questions about the lives we willingly choose to lead and our constant struggles to forge lasting, substantial connections within the world around us.
What do we want to be known for? How do we want to be treated?
Like a much needed wake-up call, Mínervudóttir’s The Creator arrives as an unforgettable gift reminding us to embrace the messy, finite nature our humanity. It serves as an unshakable and uplifting reminder that life can be, and should be, so much more than just the sum of our perfectly lifeless yet oh-so-sexy possessions.
By Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir
Translated from the Icelandic by Sarah Bowen