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The Pets

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  309 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Emil is back in Reykjavik from a trip to London. On the plane ride home he met a beautiful girl named Greta. He's hoping Greta will call--and that she won't call while he's on the phone with his girlfriend, Vigdis. The moment he settles down at home, Havard, a drunken, violent lout from Emil's past, shows up on his doorstep. Spying Havard through a window--and not wanting ...more
Hardcover, 157 pages
Published October 15th 2008 by Open Letter (first published January 1st 2001)
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Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. MallietThe Pets by Bragi ÓlafssonWhere the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn WardOn the Road to Freedom by Charles E. Cobb Jr.The Dirty South by Alex Wheatle
Kirkus Reviews Outstanding 2008 Books
2nd out of 8 books — 6 voters
Death in Spring by Mercè RodoredaZone by Mathias ÉnardMaidenhair by Michaïl SjisjkinHigh Tide by Inga ĀbeleThe Selected Stories by Mercè Rodoreda
Open Letter Books
50th out of 89 books — 32 voters

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Community Reviews

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May 21, 2009 karen rated it really liked it
wheres my denoument?? i am too unsophisticated to enjoy books that just... end. until the end (and im not spoiling anything because everyone else has commented on the lack of resolution, so s'okay)but until the end i was really enjoying the way the narrative was unspooling, and i was engaged in reading to find out what was going to happen to this poor man. i guess i am not bjork enough for this. fact.
Oct 22, 2008 Larissa rated it it was amazing
(Review originally published in The L Magazine:

The Swedish Academy’s Horace Engdahl recently asserted that "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature…” The statement may have ruffled those hoping to see Roth or DeLillo finally honored, but Engdahl makes a valid point. Out of the 290,000 books published in the U.S. last year, only about 350 were new works in translation. (This is, of course, a loose estimate—n
Jun 15, 2009 Jasmine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: icelandic
I have found he perfect book. Not only does it not end just like I asked but it is constantly entertaining, and it implies sexual acts. Yes, yes, I know, but I swear it does. everyone in the book is completely insane. Since when is it reasonable to climb through a window? no never I don't care if there is a coffee pot on the burner, in fact why is there a coffee pot on the burner in the first place.

I learned a lot from this book. Do not put the glasses of the guy next to you on a plane in your
Jan 01, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it
hey, did you know an ex-sugarcube, of the great band sugarcubes, wrote this book? i didn't know this until i finished this book. i actually picked this book up on a whim when i had to stay overnight at the travelodge due to snowy weather... i have to read before i go to bed, and the night at the travelodge was an unexpected stop. i picked up this book because i liked the cover and because to the best of my knowledge, i've never read an icelandic author before. this might not be true. but, wow, h ...more
Nov 29, 2012 Palma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
si filman la pelicula de las mascotas, el protagonista no puede ser otro que gaston pauls
Cenhner Scott
Aug 30, 2015 Cenhner Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islandia
Quizás sea la pregunta que se hacen todos: ¿qué piensan los demás sobre mí? Leí una vez, no recuerdo dónde (o acaso lo haya visto en una película o escuchado en la radio) que la fantasía de todo ser humano es ver quiénes van a su funeral y qué dicen sobre él.
Este libro habla sobre eso, un poco.

La historia va así: Emil se gana la lotería y se va a Londres de compras. Vuelve a su casa en Reykjavik y, justo cuando está por sentarse a disfrutar de sus compras (cds, libros, whisky, cigarros), llega a
Dec 20, 2012 Owen rated it really liked it
Shelves: notable
I'm not quite sure what to think of this book. I've had no exposure to Icelandic literature or humor, but I didn't find any of it confusing. The Pets is about a man (Emil) that comes home from a trip, and when an old friend of his that had been in a mental institution knocks on his door, he hides under the bed. The other man climbs through the window, and then over the course of a few hours, more people show up and they have a party, all while Emil is hiding under the bed. The other characters a ...more
Jan 28, 2009 Maren rated it really liked it
The Pets by Bragi Ólafsson (in a translation by Janice Balfour) is a surprising, funny ultimately deeply disconcerting little book. It is not surprising that the former bassist of The Sugarcubes would make his main character a music lover and reference bits of music and bands though out his novel what is surprising is that he would also create such a darkly comic and anxiety-driven story.

Emil Haldorsson is returning from London after having won the lottery and gone on a musical shopping spree. O
Jan 27, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People looking for something really different
This was one of the strangest books I've ever read. I saw it at the library and thought, "I've never read an Icelandic book." The situation in the book gets more and more bizarre as it goes on. If you are looking for a traditional novel, this is not it. That said, it kept me reading til the end to find out what would happen. I'll not spoil it for the few people who will read this book by telling what does happen.
Chad Post
DISCLAIMER: I am the publisher of the book and thus spent approximately two years reading and editing and working on it. So take my review with a grain of salt, or the understanding that I am deeply invested in this text and know it quite well. Also, I would really appreciate it if you would purchase this book, since it would benefit Open Letter directly.
Nov 01, 2012 Adriana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lo compré por la tapa hermosa y el exotismo. Me sorprendió que en la hermana Islandia también los personajes se vean envueltos en las cosas por la fuerza de los acontecimientos y terminen en situaciones imposibles sin casi extrañarse. No podía faltar la mención a la Argentina, que aparece nada menos que a través de Carlos Saúl.
Feb 28, 2016 MaryJo rated it really liked it
This is a short, funny novel. It took me a little while to get into it. (The characters are not particularly interesting or appealing.) But soon enough, the droll humor captured me. Step by tiny step a social situation moves from possible to impossible. And the small disaster of an unplanned party reveals both the larger disaster of the foundational (to the story) relationship between the two main characters and the surprising attempted resolution of their unfinished business. The story, however ...more
May 24, 2016 Eileen rated it it was ok
Shelves: northern-europe
Bragi Ólafsson used to be in a band with Björk, which should probably give you a clue as to the . . . uniqueness of his character, although Open Letter Press director Chad Post claims he is a very nice guy. I like Chad so I'll take his word for it, but the Ólafsson novel I'm about to review does feature some very, um . . . funny animal abuse. Is that the right word? Funny?

The Pets is essentially one of those pieces of black comedy that is really funny but also probably shouldn't be funny at all.
Mar 05, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book, my first ever foray into Icelandic fiction, starts odd and then gets weirder and weirder. The characters include an iguana killer who is no longer at a Swedish mental institution, which is where Emil (the main character) thought his old friend was safely ensconced. For most of the book Emil is hiding under his own bed, while a party goes on in his flat. There's a drunken linguist and a tipsy single mother, and neighbor who does his gardening in the snow and frost. The story is told in ...more
Jul 13, 2016 Jim rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Quite honestly, I only got about halfway through with this when I said to myself that I couldn't take any more. Possibly it is the translation, or maybe just that Icelandic writers have a different style, but I found it, well. . . boring. Plodding. I'm sure there is some reason he told the two parallel stories and that there will be some climatic clash at the end, but I think I would be dead, frozen stiff on an Icelandic beach, before I'd get there. I usually polish off novellas in a day, or eve ...more
Gemma Alexander
Sep 15, 2015 Gemma Alexander rated it really liked it
Shelves: iceland
I have to say, I’m not sure what to make of it.
At least superficially, the book has a lot in common with Sjón’s The Whispering Muse. Both are short, lean novels that say less than they mean. Both books lean heavily on classical literature: the Whispering Muse is in a sense a post-script to the Odyssey, and the Pets is littered with references to Moby Dick. A first edition of that book and a model of the whaler Essex are the stolen items, and the ostensible reason for Havard’s return. The dead pe
Mar 30, 2013 Miro rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: is-og-land
At first Ólafsson's Gæludýrin struck me as loquacious to an extraneous extent. The longueur of having to listen to the many meanderings of the protagonist's mind and to endure the many meanderings of another character, a mysterious and slightly unhinged person, through Reykjavík, is very trying yet strangely engaging. One feels like being part of a Q-A session with a respected director given to eloquent but pointlessly intricate ramblings; it is impossible for one not to try to listen as attenti ...more
William Herschel
Nov 23, 2012 William Herschel rated it liked it
Shelves: own, iceland, 2012
This book is such a tease. You know the premise, you read it on the back cover. There's a lot of build-up to it, though, which one thinks might have been disposed of all-together. And then... and then there is never any release. It just ends. Dot.

In case you haven't read the back cover yet, poor Emil is hiding under his bed after a trip to London because some lunatic he used to know has broken in through the window. The longer he remains under the bed, however, the more impossible it is to revea
Jul 20, 2013 Downward rated it really liked it
the pets is a sort of screwball comedy that consistently keeps you on edge because of the volatility that olafsson imbues his characters with. its a book about a man who, upon returning from vacation, is shocked to find an old friend (one that he doesnt want to see) visits him. our protagonist hides from this visitor, who enters his house through the window with the pretense of waiting. The house slowly amasses guests while our protagonist hides under his own bed. the premise is that of a wacky ...more
I read about this book on a book blog (Nancy Pearl?) and was able to order it through our wonderful library system from who knows what far-flung library. I'd forgotten about it by the time it arrived and yet have been engrossed in reading it ever since. I've not read Icelandic fiction before so I cannot speak in those terms but Olafsson has such a unique voice and style of drawing you into the character's lives through the smallest details (like a pair of glasses - if you read it, you'll see wha ...more
Andri Freyr
Var fyrir miklum vonbriðum með þesssa bók. Nokkrir sem ég þekki halda mikið upp á þessa bók en ekki ég. Hún byrjaði vel, góður texti, auðvelt að lesana, skemmtilegt flugvéla atriði, en svo byrjar langavitleysan. Maður er haldin í gíslingu undir sæng í hálfa bókina og eina sem maður heyrir er leiðinleg samtöl drukkina manna. Já, tvær stjörnurnar eru fyrir texta og frumlegheit en þetta hefði átt að vera smásaga 30-50 bls. max!
Axie Barclay
Dec 17, 2012 Axie Barclay rated it really liked it
This was a very well-written, brisk, odd book. A man, Emil, sits next to a linguistics professor on a plane an tries to escape having to chat with him, while flirting with a pretty girl who's seated nearby. When Emil returns home, he realizes he's in possession of the linguistics professor's eyeglasses. Emil has just enough time to call the man when an intruder, who Emil recognizes as an old friend, breaks into his house. He hides under his bed in desperate attempt to avoid the friend, who start ...more
Julio César
Jun 06, 2014 Julio César rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bien, está muy bien. Construya una semi comedia de enredos pero seteada en la fría Estocolmo. Los personajes son pocos pero bien delineados, ni caricaturescos ni superficiales. La relación del protagonista con la música se beneficia de que el escritor es, de hecho, un músico. No hay alarde ni derroche de conocimiento, por suerte. Las tres partes están bien definidas y el final es sorpresivo.
Oct 12, 2008 Oriana rated it really liked it
after: This is a quick, fun little book. The main character spends more than half the book hiding under his bed, as several people he knows (who don't know each other) come over and try to figure out where he's gone and why he's not at home. Bragi Ólafsson has a very engaging writing style, which makes this a very enjoyable evening spent with some interesting people. The whole thing works because it's suffused with the tension of how and when he will come out from under the bed and confront/reve ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Erica rated it liked it
Emil comes home from a trip abroad to find an old acquaintance on his doorstep. In order to avoid Havard he takes refuge under his bed, and is forced to stay there even after Havard breaks in and begins to entertain his friends who have stopped by to welcome him back.

I feel bad saying this about a book that was only about 160 pages, but I really don’t think we needed the first 60. All it did was establish Armann Valur and why he later came to Emil’s house, and the bit about Hinrik which went abs
Jan 28, 2009 Christopher rated it liked it
The Pets by Bragi Ólafsson, translated from the Icelandic by Janice Balfour.

Emil, a 30-something native of Reykjavík, finds himself in a most bizarre situation. A former acquaintance with an apparent psychiatric illness, Harvard, pays a visit to Emil after a five-year hiatus. Emil hides to avoid contact with Harvard, and during this multi-hour hideout, several of Emil's friends visit. It is through the dialogue between Harvard and Emil's friends (as well as Emil's internal dialogue) that the rea
Aug 15, 2016 Nicole rated it it was ok
This book was awful. The entire thing could've been summed up in a few pages. Just when I thought it was finally getting interesting (could've skipped the whole first 1/3 of the book), still nothing happens. It was a short book and that's the only thing that kept me reading.
Oct 10, 2015 Carly rated it it was ok
While it does carry with it interesting ideas about the damaging effects of consumerism and a modern world where we treat others like pets more than equals, I was disappointed in the book overall, and in particular the abrupt ending. I think it would have been better kept in the parallel plot line structure found in the first section throughout.
Feb 07, 2014 Theresa rated it it was amazing
The ending (or non-ending?) made me feel like the author wrote himself into a bit of a corner, so he just took off running away from the whole book. But: everything up til then was so good that it doesn't really matter.
Žiga Malek
Feb 15, 2016 Žiga Malek rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel
One of the best books I've read in the last years. Incredibly refreshing and frustrating at the same time. I recommend.
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Bragi studied Spanish at the University of Iceland and the University of Granada. He has had a number of different jobs in Reykjavík, at the post office, in a bank and in a record store. He was also a member of the Sugarcubes, and toured with them in Europe and America.
Bragi's first published work, the poetry collection Dragsúgur (Draught), appeared in 1986. Since then, he has published other book
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