101

The latest addition to my website is Hallgrímur Helgason‘s 101 Reykjavík (101 Reykjavik). If your idea of an Icelandic novel is one about the hardships of farming and fishing communities or a tale of a quirky but lovable misfit in contemporary Iceland, this one will be a bit of a change. It tells the story of Hlynur Björn Hafsteinsson, a not very lovable, thirty-three year old unemployed Icelandic man, who lives with his mother. He spends his day watching porn, TV channel surfing, drinking with his friends and, if he is lucky, having casual sex. At the start of the novel, just before Christmas 1995, a few things start to happen. In particular, his mother comes out as a lesbian, and her lesbian lover moves in, and he will consider himself responsible, directly or indirectly, for the pregnancy of three different women. After a variety of escapades, involving the police, the father of a girl he may have impregnated and a trip to Amsterdam with his two gay friends, things will not look much better a year later. It is a wickedly funny but very cynical book, with Helgason casting a very mocking and very grim look at his own country and with Hluynur possibly being the new Icelandic Everyman, instead of the gritty farmer or fisherman of old. One thing is sure – this is not the path that Laxness would have wanted his country’s literature to follow.