Hallgrimur Helgason 101 Reykjavik: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780743225144

101 Reykjavik: A Novel

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9780743225144: 101 Reykjavik: A Novel
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Hlynur Bjorn sleeps in. He surfs the Web. He tests the efficacy of various pornography. And at night, he hits the K-bar for a few drinks, maybe a tab of E, and perhaps a bit of sex before another crash. He'd blithely remain in this cycle forever, but when his part-time girlfriend reveals she's pregnant, his way of life is threatened. Hlynur withdraws and becomes obsessed with his mother's best friend, only to discover, after he's shagged her, that she's his mother's lesbian lover. And just when you believe he couldn't twist up his life any further, Hlynur finds a way.

Icelandic novelist HallgrÍmur Helgason inhabits his antihero's mind with marvelous acuity, subversive wit, and devilish charm. Hlynur is a true product of our postmodern global culture. Well beyond slackerdom, he lives at home with his mother and depends on social welfare. He's a quick-witted and articulate young man, and there's nothing wrong with him -- other than a total lack of ambition, an off-kilter sense of morality, and a nagging set of existential woes.

Against the backdrop of ReykjavÍk's storied nightlife and amid the swelling global presence of Icelandic culture, Helgason portrays with brutal honesty and humor a young man who takes uselessness to new extremes, and for whom redemption may not be an option. 101 ReykjavÍk is a spectacularly inventive, darkly comic tale of depraved and inspired humanity.

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Review:

If you ponder life as an immature Icelandic slacker, then you'll want to check out Hallgrímur Helgason's novel 101 Reykjavík. Hlynur Bjorn lives at home, watches TV and porn when he's not getting high with his divorced mom and/or her lesbian lover, and sluffs off to bars most nights to put a dollar value on women (based on desirability) while hanging out with his equally bored friends. By the time Hlynur faces moral challenges, it's difficult to find reason to care. Hlynur's thoughts are detailed, shotgun style, with some wit and humor (though much is forced), and a strangeness one hopes is the result of Icelandic idiom lost in translation. In a gay couple's bedroom, Hylnur and Hofy enter into this exchange, typifying Helgason's disjointed style:

"Why did you sleep with me?"
Spock.
Hofy turns and looks at me propped up on my elbows with Rosy's hat on my head. Must look pretty weird, I suppose. I tilt my head to allow the hat to fall off, and look up at the ceiling. Looking down at me are two fat, hand-painted, and pretty well-hung angels. Nice one, guys. It's like that chapel in St. Peter's. Michelangelo was gay. Yeah. Maybe it's all in the Bible. I look at her again.
"Why did I sleep with you?"
To be sure, 101 Reykjavík captures the ennui of a cold, depressed generation (and nation), but if "[w]ords are snowflakes. They fall," Helgason might have tried to clear a better path. --Michael Ferch

About the Author:

HallgrÍmur Helgason has published four novels and a collection of poetry in his native Iceland. His visual art has been exhibited in ReykjavÍk, New York, and Paris. 101 ReykjavÍk, recently adapted for film, is his first novel to be translated into English. His latest novel, The Author of Iceland, won the 2001 Icelandic Literature Prize. He lives in ReykjavÍk.

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