Translated by Janice Balfour
Last year I read some Halldor Laxness, and found the Icelandic humour distinctly hard to get. This contemporary novel by Bragi Olafsson (formerly in the Sugarcubes with Björk) was much less oblique, but despite its relative brevity took some time to get going. When it did though, it became the stuff of pure farce which you could easily imagine on stage.
Emil returns home from a trip abroad to find that Harvard, a certifiable lunatic he shared a house in London with for a while a few years ago is looking for him. When Harvard turns up, Emil hides under the bed rather than let him in. What he doesn’t bargain for is Harvard climbing in through the open window to wait for him, and then when various other friends and acquantances turn up, Harvard invites them all in and entertains them with Emil’s record collection and drinks cupboard. Emil elects to stay under the bed, hoping they’ll all go….
The back-story of how Emil and Harvard met and how Harvard managed to kill the pets of the family they were house-sitting for in London is gradually teased out, no wonder Emil’s scared to come out – he’s made his bed and must sleep under it! This impromptu party gets through an almost Hemingwayesque amount of booze – you can feel Emil wincing. What’s even worse for him is that Greta, the girl of his dreams, whom he met on the plane home, is there and it’s Harvard who’s entertaining her!
This was a quick and entertaining read, the translation was crisp and oddly, given the cast of mostly 20 or 30-somethings, swear-word free. I wasn’t convinced about the ending though – but of course I can’t give that away.
* * * * *
Source: Librarything Early Reviewers. To explore on Amazon UK, please click below:
The Pets by Bragi Olafsson, Open Letter hardback, 157 pages.