(101 Reykjavík, 1996)
Drawing inspiration from US slacker ndovels of the 90s, Hallgrímur Helgason’s third novel initially flew under the radar – despite being well received by a cliquish new generation of readers who connected with the protagonist’s live-at-home ennui and Holden Caulfield-like narrative strolls through the Reykjavík nightlife. It was only after the success of the cult movie of the same name (now veteran director Baltasar Kormákur’s first film) that the book gained its bestseller status.
101 Reykjavík is narrated by Hlynur, a twenty-something amoral flunky who spends every weekend night prowling for pointless sexual trysts. He has no ambition, no job, no prospects and is perfectly content to be still living with his coddling mother in her small downtown apartment, pissing his days away and rarely leaving the small radius of Reykjavík’s 101 postal code. However, when his mother suddenly comes out to him and her new, much younger girlfriend starts staying over, the little apartment Hlynur has known as home for his whole life starts feeling a bit cramped. Soon, his carefree lifestyle is thrown into upheaval.
Originally published in 1996, 101 Reykjavík captures the zeitgeist of Reykjavík’s recent history – before the city’s prettification and the arrival of Airbnb and puffin stores – when the downtown area was still mostly made up of dilapidated housing crammed to the rafters with musicians, artists, oddballs and slackers.