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101 Reykjavik

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,109 ratings  ·  97 reviews
Hlynur Björn is an unemployed 30-something loner, still living with his mum, who spends his days on the Internet, watching satellite TV, and gazing at girls in the pub. But Hlynur's cosy, unthreatening world is shaken when his mother comes out as a lesbian, and her Spanish girlfriend Lolla moves into their home. 101 Reykjavík is a first-person account of a blackly funny an ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 3rd 2002 by Faber Faber (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,109 ratings  ·  97 reviews

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May 05, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the English translation of this book. The translator, Brian FitzGibbon, has his name buried on the copyright page, which is a shame because a novel like this has got to be a tough one to translate. FitzGibbon seems to have done an admirable job, but since I can hardly compare his work to the Icelandic original by Hallgrimur Helgason, I can't be sure.

I had trouble with the first third or so of this novel; the style of writing that puts the reader inside protagonist Hlynur Bjorn Haffsteinss
Lorenzo Berardi
Nov 25, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2005, icelandic
Oh My Bjork.
I still remember this one. I wish I had forgotten it.

Well, I might have a very good reason for keeping the memories of '101 Reykjavik' alive.
You may say it's because of the post code, but you would be wrong. Actually I'm not planning to send any flattering paper letter to Hallgrìmur Helgason. And I am afraid that dispatching a wrapped package full of rotten tomatoes to him would cost me way too much via air mail. What a pity!

Perhaps I can recall this novel 6 or 7 years after having
Rachael Hewison
Feb 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
This is possibly one of the most bizarre books I have ever read. It doesn’t actually go anywhere; just details the life of an incredibly annoying moron.
Hlynur is just awful. He has no social skills, no awareness of what’s going on, is incredibly self-centred and overall an idiot. He lacks any charm to make the reader emphasise or even like him and seems mentally disturbed. A lot of what he says and thinks is really quite offensive and vulgar and at times it made unpleasant reading, particularly
Apr 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
I am so glad this book is over. The author tries far too hard to be edgy and witty. There were one or two fleeting moments in the book that made me smile but these were needles in a haystack of misogynistic crap. I have no idea how this book got published. I would only recommend this book to somebody I despised.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read, absolutely enjoyed it! I have a thing for books about the lost and messed up people of society. Helgason's writing style is very unique. He writes in short sentences some even just the length of one word. He often describes things in a way that no other writer has done before. You can laugh your ass off, be disgusted, purely shocked, or pulled into deep thoughts from these short sentences. Sometimes all of this happens at once.

This book is definitely an adventure into a lost man's
Helgason was the only author I couldn't interview back when I was in Iceland in 2000, so maybe that's why I never got around to reading it; or maybe its because it was the most over-hyped thing ever when I was living there; or maybe because everything I ever read about it made me dislike it; or maybe because every interview with Helgason made him seem like a complete dick. Anyway, I've never read it, but I still hate it. ...more
Thomas Strömquist
OK book. Does not stand out very much from others in its genre (reading the blurb will tell which that is) other than that it's set in Iceland. Which is a nice difference. ...more
May 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy quirky books and are not easily offended.
Shelves: iceland
Hlynur, the novel's protagonist, is healthy and intelligent enough to support himself, but is so unmotivated that he prefers to live with his mother and take advantage of the welfare system. He spends his days watching porn, partying, and chasing women, assessing every female he meets based on how much he would be willing to pay to sleep with her. Being an ambitious young woman who abhors misogynists, I expected to hate this book based on the nature of its protagonist. In the end, however, I lov ...more
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a ridiculous book, but the way Hallgrimur Helgason plays around with words describing weather, mood, taste of alcohol, pretty much anything is so precise and funny. It's very Icelandic and dark-humored story, where there is not much of the story, just a description of a year in a life of this 34 year old guy from Reykjavik.
It is quite impressive that the book taking place in 1995 (when I was 9 years old) speaks to me with no need of translation. I know every song he mentions, I know the ref
Jun 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 20/30 somethings, who have been to Reykjavik
This is probably one of Iceland's best known film exports, if not just for the fact Damon from Blur did the soundtrack with ex-Sugarcube Einar Orn. Again, Hilmir Snaer is in it, so I would see it just for that...hehehe...but, seriously, I could not get into this book at first...even after I saw the movie. I just could not understand or relate to Hlynur Bjorn...but then I went to Reyjavik and got to know alot of the people (not because of the movie) and I read it again, and it Hlynur started to s ...more
Jul 11, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-liked
i wanted to like this. but about five pages in, i wanted to punch the protagonist in the face. set in iceland makes you almost forget the book is about an unemployed slacker hipster doofus. almost. i like iceland. i want to visit iceland. i do not want to read about a hipster doofus.

i may try reading this again when i don't have anything else on my list. it has a certain weird charm. just maybe. if i can get past hating the main character.
Angelina Gefjun
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant way of portraying a cynical mans thought, written so well that even I, aperson with adhd can follow it. Even though nothing much happened, I was always so interested and entertained by his every move. I read it about 4 times now. Movie is kind of a let down though.. they left many important parts out.
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own-books, fiction
I am not really the target audience for this, to be fair, but I don't think this is one I would want to reread. It's a stream of consciousness, of an unemployed Icelandic man in his 30s who appears to make no attempt to do anything other than masturbate and watch TV with occasional sorties to drink or take drugs in the bars of Reykjavik. The bodily fluid quota is quite high (there's a revolting nose-picking description and quite a bit of lavatorial stuff as well as the all the masturbation and s ...more
Laurence Boyce
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Helgason's hedonistic first person tale of a man trying to stave off adulthood by indulging in porn, satellite TV and endless nights out that drift into hazes of drunken parties and unsatisfying sex.

It is to Helgason's credit that a protagonist so outwardly unpleasant as Bjorn - all outward misogyny and misanthropy - garners our sympathy. Partly because the story is told - sometimes as a gushing, angry stream of consciousness - from his POV and partly because there is a vulnerability on offer d
Gemma Alexander
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iceland
You’re supposed to read the book first. The movie is never as good and it will limit your imagination when you do read the book. I know this. But I watched Baltasar Kormákur’s movie, 101 Reykjavík, before I knew it was based on Hallgrímur Helgason’s novel. I really liked the movie. It felt a lot like an Icelandic Slackers; that’s the primary difference between the book and the movie.

The protagonist Hlynur Björn is hapless in the movie. In the novel he is hopeless. The word play in 101 Reykjavík
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: scandinavia
Well, I have now read this book. And yeah, it was mildly diverting, and yeah, I got to the end of it, but overall I was a bit disappointed by it and a bit overwhelmed by the way this guy's mind just drivelled on and on and on. This is narrated in the first person by 30-something Hlynur Bjorn, who is an absolute waste of a space, still lives with his mother, treats people, particularly women like crap, lives off unemployment benefit and spends his days sleeping, watching porn (he is an utter perv ...more
James G.
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am guilty of loving this, feeling like it's a ridiculous "No Girls Aloud" clubhouse and a throwback to Bret Easton Ellis or Tama Janowitz; but I just came from Reykjavik and one of my closest friends has settled there. It felt like there was a kinda truth to this book, even if it might've been better if the author had more of ironic distance from the protagonist's amoral stance, but I just kept reading on. Other reviewers complain of the trying-too-hard writing. I was all: Clockwork Orange, Ke ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 20th-century, iceland
Read it in English because it was there. One day I'll read the original, if I ever get through 10 ráð that is. Turns out Lola's not a Spanish flamenco instructor, or called Lola. She's actually an Icelander called Ólöf, known as Lolla, which is better because this is a very Icelandic book. So of course I enjoyed it, and the translator has surely done an excellent job - sometimes on the punny bits I could see what the Icelandic must have been. ...more
Jane E
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, icelandic
Somewhat dated popular culture references but not surprising given the mid-90s publication date. Overall it has aged well but is very much of its time. Much would be less relevant and easily understood without having visited Iceland. Odd and sometimes laugh out loud funny. Worth the time investment.
Jun 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good, and I suspect a very good translation. It's a little Nabokov, a lot of Hamlet, and probably many other references I missed, with pell-mell stream-of-consciousness good enough to make me not hate the present tense he uses. A touching story about a boy and his penis. ...more
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, sometimes weird, vulgar, sexist, and full of surprising insights. I found this stream-of-consciousness novel about a 33-year old slacker to be quite entertaining. Not a great work of art but a fun read.
Emily Creek
Confusing, annoying, and honestly gross. There are plenty of amazing books where you hate the main character but I just couldn't stand reading his annoying point of view and objectification of woman. ...more
Randy Paterson
Other reviewers have pointed out that the lead character in 101 Reykjavik isn't precisely likeable, and this is absolutely true. He's self-involved, entitled, and prone to self-pity and a sense of victimization when his own actions lead to predictably difficult outcomes. That said, I can't imagine the author viewed him in any other way. Certainly he was not attempting to create a character that everyone would love. What the book does do is create and sustain a completely unique voice from beginn ...more
Jane Mulkewich
I bought this book in the Keflavik airport in Iceland on a stopover on my way to India. This is the most famous book of one of Iceland's most famous authors, yet I have mixed feelings about it... some funny parts and lots of sex / masturbation and an intriguing story line, and I enjoyed it because I enjoy reading about Reykjavik (even the raunchy aspects), but the protagonist in the story gives every single women a rating (as in a monetary value) and I just don't find that funny. Apparently ther ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story (the stream of consciousness, really) of a man who can’t escape from himself. I definitely don’t recommend this book to men, because there’s a risk that they’ll think the book is glorifying terrible behavior. But I don’t think that was the author’s intent.
The author freely acknowledges the many influences/ tropes he used. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the writing is genius or cringeworthy. But I like it.
Let’s be clear- I like the book, but the characters are often pretty awful. Hyln
Ken Jurish
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reminded me most of Douglas Coupland's, "Generation X," with a bit of Bret Easton Ellis' "Less Than Zero" and "American Psycho" thrown in. A good, if dense, read. Bits were absolutely hilarious and others were absolutely cringe-inducing. The main character is as about as reprehensible as they come. If you liked any of the books I listed above, you'll like this. It's worth your time. ...more
Adam Helsel
Jan 15, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
My hard and fast rule is if I fall asleep reading a book more than once I’m done with it. This book hit my face at least 6x.

The story was interesting and the witty writing was too but this book takes a long time to go nowhere. I can appreciate nothing on screen but not in print. I might have to check out the movie.

Typical slacker 90s bullshit, Iceland style. DNF.
Pamela Arya
Decided to read this book after my trip to Iceland. A super odd stream of consciousness book that has some dark moments. Yet... so weird that I couldn't put it down. I don't know. Wondering what others felt about this book. ...more
Ignacio Peña
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A darkly funny novel about a pitiful man in Reykjavik. If the main character has a heavily puerile outlook on life and all the women he encounters, he also doesn't also flinch at his own self-loathing. It's entertaining and sad and weirdly kind of wonderful. ...more
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: european-lit
It's satisfying to read a book about a slacker who makes absolutely no self-development in the course of a book. I wonder if the K-Bar still exists? ...more
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Hallgrímur Helgason is an Icelandic author, painter, translator, cartoonist and essayist. He has studied at the School of Visual Arts and Crafts in Reykjavík and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.

His most famous works are 101 Reykjavík, which was made into a popular film, and Höfundur Íslands (Iceland's Author), which won the Icelandic Literary Prize in 2001. He was nominated for the prize again

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