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101 Reykjavik

101 Reykjavik

by Hallgrimur Helgason, Brian FitzGibbon (Translator)

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Chuck Klosterman Author of Fargo Rock City 101 Reykjavík is more proof that Iceland is a lot like Austin, Texas, in 1992, or Olympia, Washington, in 1988, or Athens, Georgia, in 1982. More important, it answers a question that has plagued man for centuries: "How much should one pay in order to have sex with Björk?"

Kirkus Reviews An uproarious, sharp, and outrageously funny joyride with plenty of octane.

Julie Myerson The Guardian This lusciously deadpan narrative is infused with a wild, anarchic take on the world that is caustically, worryingly truthful.

The New York Times
Hlynur's protracted spinout also includes a fling with Lolla, trips to Paris and Amsterdam, an attempt at telekinetic abortion and a tender moment with a lamb near a lava field. Plot, of course, is not the point. 101 Reykjavik, which was made into a film with the same title a few years ago, is a desolate howl from an in-between decade and an in-between land. Hlynur and Helgason both seem to want it all to mean something, and maybe someday it will, but for now it's just too damn cold inside. — Sam Lipsyte
Publishers Weekly
Hlynur Bjorn is, by his own admission, a 33-year-old mommy's boy. He lives at home, spends his days watching porn and surfing the Web, and his nights at Reykjavik's nightclubs drinking and taking Ecstasy. He assigns every woman he encounters a monetary value and refuses to commit to spending even a full night with his casual girlfriend, Hofy. When Hofy falls pregnant and his mother announces that her lesbian lover, Lolla, whom Hlynur slept with on New Year's Eve, is also pregnant, he must fight to protect his selfish and shallow way of life. Hlynur tells his own story; although he is clearly intended as a slacker antihero, his humor is so forced ("Iceland is a wind-beaten asshole and Icelanders are the lice on its edge") and his fixations so unoriginal (he likes "two kinds of women: mothers and whores") that his narrative becomes tiresome. Garbled prose ("I slowly return toward the body I left behind, like a car with a running engine") doesn't help, though the translator struggles valiantly with Hlynur's endless punning. When both Hofy and Lolla inform him that he is not the father of their babies, Hlynur becomes more bitter and callous than ever. Realizing that he needs to get out of Reykjavik for a while, he travels to Europe, where he ends up embarking upon his most loathsome attempt at self-destruction yet: trying to contract HIV by having unprotected sex with a prostitute. At this point the novel falls apart. Hlynur is so thoroughly unsympathetic, his antics such a dispiriting blend of pathetic, abhorrent and banal, that the reader ceases caring what happens to him (he neither redeems nor destroys himself). As Hlynur puts it himself, "Was I funny or plain idiotic? Yeah." (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Dark, cold, and isolated describe both the setting of this novel (Reykjavik, Iceland) and its hero, Hlynur Bjorn. A thirtysomething who lives with his mother, he wakes up every day around 4 p.m., watches TV, surfs the net, and goes out to bars. Then, three pregnancies-that of his occasional girlfriend, his mother's lesbian lover, and his sister-force him to rethink his relationship with these women. While ruminating on females (to whom he attaches monetary value), the Pope's sex life, Icelanders' small noses, and many other things, he becomes more antisocial, attacking a girlfriend's mother and blatantly watching a couple making love. Other characters in his life include a gay pair, Rosy and Guildy; the mystic Timer, a bar regular who promises a telephone abortion; and Katrina, his Internet pen pal. He finally finds true love when he meets Katrina, and for one moment his world changes, but when she lets him know that she already has a boyfriend, he returns to his isolated ways. Winner of the 2001 Icelandic Literature Prize, this novel uses caustic and irreverent humor to paint a vivid picture of Icelandic youth ideas and culture. While the protagonist is confused, depressed, and futureless, the humor saves the book from being depressing, and there is a ray of hope at the end. Recommended for larger collections.-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An award-winning Icelandic novelist makes his English-language debut with a kind of Arctic Bright Lights, Big City, following the nocturnal misadventures of an overgrown baby who refuses to grow up. As depicted here, the better part of Iceland's populace are either writers or drunks. Our antihero Hlynur Bjorn drinks a fair amount every night himself and is always working Shakespearean quotes into his conversation. Thirty-three-year-old Hlynur still lives with his mother and is happily unemployed. He usually gets up shortly before Mom comes home from work, browses the bookstores, and spends the evenings in Reykjavik nightclubs with his pals Throstur and Guildy. Most nights Hlynur finds someone to have sex with, but he doesn't have a steady girlfriend and is in no rush to find one. Iceland is a pretty broadminded place, sexually speaking (when Hlynur's lesbian mother came out of the closet all he had to say was "cool"), so it's easy not to commit. But several unexpected events complicate this happy routine. First, Hlynur falls for Mom's girlfriend Lolla. Second, a woman Hlynur slept with a couple of times turns up pregnant with his child and decides to have the baby. Third, Guildy is diagnosed with AIDS. And fourth (this is a little while later), Lolla turns out to be pregnant by Hlynur as well. There are a lot of additional minor crises (e.g., Hlynur's drunkard father falls off the wagon), but they go by the wayside once everyone starts getting pregnant. Hlynur tries his best to keep to his schedule of books, booze, porn, and sex, but suddenly he finds himself faced with emotional crises of a magnitude for which he is wholly unprepared. Is he actually going to get serious and decide whathe wants from life? We all have to, sooner or later-even in Iceland. Uproarious, sharp, and outrageously funny joyride with plenty of octane, though it doesn't really go anywhere in the end.

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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet 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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