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The Pets

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  417 ratings  ·  73 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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3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  417 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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May 20, 2009 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.
Jul 29, 2008 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 13, 2009 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
Dec 30, 2008 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
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Definitely quirky, dark, and slightly strange. At first I was incredibly irritated by the ending but after thinking about it, I do now see (I think) what the author was getting at. Even so, the book commits the sin of the blurb giving away far too much of the plot. Ultimately, the biggest draw for me was knowing some of the streets in Reykjavik where it was set. Otherwise, unless you too have ambled along Grettisgata... maybe give this one a miss.
Jan 07, 2009 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
Oct 26, 2012 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 17, 2009 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.
Erik Wirfs-Brock
May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
With a premise like this Bunuel or Pinter might have made a stark examination of bourgeoisie hypocrisies , but i was okay with this story of a man hiding under his bed while a unwanted party occurs being only mildly amusing. Falls short of greatness because the musings of the protagonist as he is trapped don't quite have the razor sharp quality of observation about modern life that other novels of this type have, and while one could potentially imagine various twists the premise might take, none ...more
May 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
I have to believe that the last couple of chapters were surgically removed from this book. It doesn't "end". It just stops. No resolution at all.

And the main character is annoying as hell. Seriously- grow a pair.
Also- I suppose that the customs and cultures vary since I am on a different continent, but who the hell just goes into someone's home, hangs out and parties for hours while the person who lives there is not there??

Don't read this book. I wanted to see what happened, but literally NOT
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was like reading a movie scenerio by coen bros. The book is folded by dark humor and absurdities. İt was a great pleasure to read just until the end. The ending was sloppy as if the writer was super bored and didn't care anymore. Anyhow i would definitely recommend this book.
John Mcinerney
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
weird. still parsing the ending. somewhat sad this guy
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quirky, off the wall fun read. And the author used to play bass with the Sugarcubes.
May 02, 2016 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.
Feb 13, 2013 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
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
William Herschel
Mar 07, 2012 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
Gemma Alexander
Feb 04, 2015 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
Jul 20, 2013 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
Axie Barclay
Nov 13, 2012 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
Feb 26, 2016 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
Sep 29, 2008 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 08, 2008 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 26, 2009 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
Jul 06, 2016 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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it liked it
As a souvenir from Iceland, I bought this small, rather expensive book on the airport on the way back. And what a choice, as it starts when someone returns from holiday, gets home, and faces an uninvited visitor.

Although most part of the book is a nice read, the author builds up tension and then cuts it by starting a side story which you'd rather want to skip. That's the biggest problem with it: there's isn't a lot of tension relief. And it really takes half of the book before it starts getting
Oct 08, 2008 added it
Shelves: scandinavian
I gave up 1/4 of the way into the book. The author meanders, and in a bad way. I had no confidence that he either knew where he was going or that he would take me anywhere very interesting. He just tiptoed from one slightly-quirky but ho-hum narrative puddle to the next. And when he would, occasionally, get you mildly interested in something, he would then immediately veer off to focus on an unrelated subject. Maddening! I felt no connection to the characters and no interest in the prose style. ...more
Mar 05, 2016 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
Nov 01, 2011 rated it liked it
An odd Icelandic story about a man hiding under a bed in his own apartment throughtout an evening in which his friends have a party without him. It is a quick read....mildly engaging with a disappointing ending. The characters are interesting and the plot is clever, yet pverall the story falls short somehow. Oh well......
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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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