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Arnaldur Indriðason - the Erlendur mysteries [20110627|15:31]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |stressed]
[with a hint of |imminent starvation - tentack one]

In preparation for our trip to Iceland at the end of July, the bloke & I decided to sample some literature that might be informative about the culture and the landscape. This included such highbrow offerings as the diaries of poets W.H. Auden and Louis McNiece, Letters from Iceland, partially written in verse form. Most importantly, however, the package also included a crime novel by the Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indriðason.

His works are all set in Reykjavik. We were hoping they might give us a sense of the city’s geography. They didn’t. They left us with the impression that city is populated by three types of people:

  1. Gruff red-haired chain-smoking detectives living off takeaways in dingy flats, devoting their energies to solving grisly murders while letting their personal lives go to hell in handbaskets.

  2. Their gruff drug-addicted leather-jacket-wearing loud-mouthed unhelpful children, who live off takeaways in dingy flats.

  3. Gruff chain-smoking unhelpful citizens who may or may not be killers, living in dingy flats.

Despite the lack of navigational assistance and the dubious English translation, we both devoured Jar City, the introduction to Erlendur (see Type 1 on the previous list). I can report that the translations improve in later works. It gave us a flavour for the character and rather dark humour of Icelanders. Erlendur stomps about in a gloomy funk, persistently interviewing recalcitrant witnesses, prodding suspects into incriminating themselves, getting into fights with his daughter and nursing a terrible secret in his troubled bosom. This terrible secret is slowly revealed over the larger story arc in the novels and allows the reader to understand Erlendur’s motivation and insecurities. Underneath that surly exterior is a soft-centred sensitive gentleman. It’s a classic trick for making hard-boiled detectives lovable, and Indriðason applies it masterfully to Erlendur. If you’re looking for a quick, engaging read and can handle discussion of unpleasant psychological disorders as well as a few gruesome but (thankfully) sparingly used physical descriptions, you may wish to give Indriðason a whirl.

[User Picture]From: melissa_maples
2011-06-27 15:22 (UTC)
a crime novel by the Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indriðason.

Hypothermia is on my reading list this summer.

Iceland completely changed me... though I have to say the country didn't open itself up to me until we got out of Reykjavik. Don't get me wrong, Reykjavik is nice, but when you head out of town the surreality goes up by an order of magnitude.
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[User Picture]From: bryangb
2011-06-27 17:53 (UTC)
Surreal is a very good word to use, IMHO!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-06-29 08:08 (UTC)
We're not staying in Reykjavik. The more I talk to people about visiting Iceland, the happier I am about that decision!
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[User Picture]From: bryangb
2011-06-27 17:52 (UTC)
I've not been for 14 years, but if you're there at the end of July you should still have mostly light nights, so get out into town and check out the nightlife. Be warned that it doesn't (or didn't when I was there) start until at least 11pm, but then carries on until *well* past 3am.

Like most Nordic cities, it has suburbs of dingy-looking - but often brighter than they look - apartment blocks.

Get out of the city as well though, even if it's only to tourist traps such as Gullfoss and Geysir. If you can get down to the south coast or up to the fjords, so much the better.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-06-29 08:10 (UTC)
We won't be staying in Reykjavik, but I think the bloke & I might leave my parents to their slumber and take a bus into town for a night out.

The place we're staying is in Akranes, which is about a 45 minute drive from Reyjkjavik.
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[User Picture]From: bryangb
2011-06-29 09:21 (UTC)
Ah, I think I must've bypassed that on the old A1 when I drove up to Snaefellness to go snowmobiling on the glacier...
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[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2011-06-28 02:04 (UTC)
I've heard that Independent People's pretty good, and I think the author won a Nobel prize if I remember correctly...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-06-29 08:06 (UTC)
Halldor Laxness, yes, he did. And thank you. I've ordered it!
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