Helgason, Hallgrimur 1959-
HELGASON, Hallgrimur 1959-
PERSONAL: Born 1959, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Education: Attended Icelandic School of Arts and Crafts, and the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, Germany.
ADDRESSES: Home—Reykjavik, Iceland. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Scribner Books, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Visual artist and writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Icelandic Literature Prize, 2001, for Hõfundur Íslands.
Hella (novel), Mál og Menning (Reykjavik, Iceland), 1990.
þetta er allt at koma (novel; title means "Things Are Going Great"), Mál og Menning (Reykjavik, Iceland), 1994.
101 Reykjavik (novel), Mál og Menning (Reykjavik, Iceland), 1996, translation by Brian Fitzgibbon published as 101 Reykjavik, Scribner (New York, NY), 2002.
Ljótmæli 1978-1998, (title means "Poems and Lyrics 1978-1998"), Mál og Menning (Reykjavik, Iceland), 1998.
Hõfundur Íslands (novel; title means "The Author of Iceland,"), 2001.
Also author of plays and a comic strip.
ADAPTATIONS: 101 Reykjavik was made into a film of the same title in 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: A visual artist and writer, Hallgrimur Helgason is best known for his novel 101 Reykjavik, which a Kirkus Reviews writer described as a "kind of Arctic Bright Lights, Big City." The novel, whose title refers to the postal code of Iceland's capital city's downtown area, presents the story of a thirty-something loser who lives with his mother and spends his life watching TV and Internet porn, drinking, and doing drugs. When the three most important women in Hlynur's life—his girlfriend, his mother's girlfriend, and his sister—all become pregnant, he realizes it is time to come to terms with his aimless existence. He embarks on a tour of Europe, where he meets his Internet girlfriend only to discover that she is already romantically involved with someone else. In a fit of self-loathing, he attempts (unsuccessfully) to contract AIDS by having unprotected sex with a French prostitute.
Times Literary Supplement contributor Carolyne Larrington found 101 Reykjavik to be "the story of an Icelandic Hamlet." The critic noted that the novel "avoids both stereotype and sentimentality" and offers an "outstanding" portrait of small-city boredom. Yet Larrington also observed that Hlynur "is a hard hero to like," and suggested that the film version of the story is more enjoyable than the book. A writer for Publishers Weekly also considered Hlynur highly unsympathetic. "His antics," the critic wrote, are "such a dispiriting blend of pathetic, abhorrent and banal, that the reader stops caring" about his fate. Library Journal reviewer Joshua Cohen, however, maintained that the book's "caustic and irreverent humor" create a "vivid picture of Icelandic youth ideas and culture." Kirsten Wolf in World Literature Today also admired the book's descriptive power and narrative skill.
Helgason's earlier novels are also noted for their bleak humor. His first book, Hella, is the story of a young teenage girl who works in a soup kitchen. þetta er allt at koma focuses on the frustrations of an untalented woman artist who searches for pure beauty.
Helgason, who has also published two collections of poems, plays, and a popular comic strip, won Iceland's national prize for literature in 2001 for his novel Hõfundur Íslands. In this book, a famous Icelandic writer—modeled on the character of Halldór Laxness—dies and wakes up within a novel that he had written forty years earlier. A reviewer for DV daily news, quoted on the Web site Edda, hailed the novel as a "gripping, realistic portrayal of human fate and tragedy" and an astute analysis of twentieth-century history. The writer concluded that Hõfundur Íslands confirms Helgason's place as one of the most brilliant and unique writers in Iceland today.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 2002, Michael Spinella, review of 101 Reykjavik, p. 474.
Entertainment Weekly, February 7, 2003, review of 101 Reykjavik, p. 86.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002, review of 101 Reykjavik, p. 1417.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Joshua Cohen, review of 101 Reykjavik, p. 129.
New York Times, July 25, 2001, Elvis Mitchell, review of 101 Reykjavik (film version), p. E5.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 2002, review of 101Reykjavik, p. 62.
Times Literary Supplement, May 31, 2002, Carolyne Larrington, review of 101 Reykjavik, p. 22.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1997, Kirsten Wolf, review of 101 Reykjavik, p. 810; summer, 1999, Lanae Hjortsvang Isaacson, review of Ljótmæli 1978-1998, pp. 547-548.
Baltimore City Paper,http://www.citypaper.com/ (April 2, 2003), Patrick Sullivan, review of 101 Reykjavik.
Edda,http://www.edda.is/english/ (March 15, 2003), "Hallgrimur Helgason."
Hallgrimur Helgason,http://www.hallgrimur.mm.is/english/ (March 15, 2003), biography and bibliography.*