Angels of the Universe


Einar Már's novel Englar alheimsins (1993) translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder first published in 1995. Two other editions came out in 1997 (St. Martin's Press, New York) and 2002 (Mál og menning, Reykjavík).

From the blurb:

'You haven't looked after your angels,' King Baldwin of the Brits tells Paul, as he finds the bright, daring boy, horn the day Iceland joined NATO, has gradually slipped into schizophrenia. Paul leaves his childhood and his family behind for a half-life on the streets and in Klepp Psychiatric Hospital, where among his friends are Oli Beatle, puzzled at the lack of royalties from his universally known songs, and Viktor, deep in close identification with Hitler. The quiet tragedies and wild adventures of Gudmundsson's quirky array of characters illuminate Paul's gathering isolation and fragmentation.

From Angels of the Universe:

After I had been admitted to Klepp, the psychiatric hospital which stands like a gigantic palace by the sea, I recalled the time when I, as a little boy, stood one grey, foggy day in the bumpy street, watching the houses and the puddles.
    Suddenly I noticed a middle-aged man. He was walking down the rain-soaked steps of one of the houses. With him was his son, a lanky lad of around twenty.
    The son had dark, curly hair. He was wearing a short leather jacket with a dark fur collar, while his father was wearing a light wind-cheater and loose-fitting, clean, working trousers. The father was holding the son by the shoulder and pushing him along, roughly. The cuffs of his check shirt stood out from underneath the arms of his jacket and his hair was strangely colourless in the fog.
    When they reached the street I ran up to them and called to the lilt her, 'Where are you taking him?'
    The father turned round without letting go of his son's shoulder.     'Off to Klepp,' he spat out.
    I could see his forehead glistening with moisture. He wore an expression as if he were gnashing his teeth. Behind the greyness of his eyes, flames were blazing.
    Then they vanished into the fog.
    It swallowed them just like in the mysterious folk tales my mother used to tell me at bedtime and generally began with the words: 'Once upon a time, long, long ago ... '

(p. 3)


Then God came along.
    He said unto me that I was the last man on earth, and that I should begin building and turn my room into an ark.
    'How?' I asked.
    He said it was no problem, but that I would have to have a woman with me.
    Then I wrote a letter to the woman next door: 'I have decided to accept your offer of carnal relations. You are welcome to come over to my house and you need not worry about your husband. He is fiction from the start. A written contract is also offered if you so desire.'

I envisaged this ark as being not so unlike a pirate ship in shape. God had told me that when the flood came, I would sail away with the house like a boat in tow.
    There would be cabins and bunks and portholes out on to the world.
    I remembered old movies with galley slaves who had forgotten to take off their wristwatches before they jumped back into the past.
    I had taken down the shelf unit and moved my desk away from the wall.
    My head itched so much that I left the room and shaved it completely.
    In the hallway I ran into my father. 'You coming on board?'
I asked, but he did not answer.
    He looked tired.

(p. 103)