Nov 7, 2006

Iceland Reads

Iceland, by Jim Krusoe. Chicago: Dalkey Archive Press, 2002. 182 pgs.

Here is a really interesting book. It isn't by an Icelandic author, and only part of the novel is actually set in Iceland. Paul is a man with some vague digenerative organ disease, and without many social skills. He's a fellow who seems to flow along with life's tide of events, passively adapting to whatever presents itself. In this acquiescent manner he falls in love, takes a trip to Iceland with a carpet cleaner he barely knows, narrowly escapes death hiking on a volcano, and falls into a marriage with an Icelandic woman. Paul's surreal journey felt strangely familiar--had I read the book before? Did it remind me of another book I had read? What was it about this book that I recognized? I finally realized that reading this book was akin to dreaming a dream. It has the same feeling that dreams have: events unfold without foreshadowing, strange things are accepted as everyday occurrences, one glides along unquestioningly. Dream this book!

Absolution, by Olaf Olafsson. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. 259 pgs.

Another masterful story by Iceland's justifiably most-famous author. It is no wonder that Olafsson's works have been translated into 14 languages. He writes about characters that are complex, believable, vulnerable yet strong, fatally flawed. His plot twists and flashbacks are handled with precision and suspense.

This story travels from Iceland to Denmark to Manhattan. As it unfolds you discover the many-layered secrets of a wealthy man who has had everything--and has lost everything. Or has he?

Silence of the Grave, by Arnaldur Indridason. Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder. London: Vintage, 2005. 290 pgs.

This is the second "Reykjavik Murder Mystery," featuring police inspector Erlendur, that has been translated into English. A movie based on the first (Tainted Blood, or Jar City) was recently released under the title Myrin.

The author grudgingly releases a few more secrets of Erlender's past, which unfold layered within the action of the mystery. An interesting look at Reykjavik, past and present, and at characters who are beginning to claim our affection.

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