101 Reykjavik is Hallgrimur’s best known novel. It was nominated to the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 1999, Baltasar Kormakur’s film based on the book was premiered in 2000, and in 2004 The Student Theatre in Reykjavik performed a stage-adaptation of the book. It has been published in 14 languages.
101 is a slacker’s story. Hlynur Björn is a jobless 34 year old who lives with his mom in the downtown area of Reykjavik that carries the postal code 101. His world is shaken when his mother comes out as a lesbian and her girlfriend starts spending time in their apartment. His mother’s lesbianism is not his main concern though, but the fact that he has already slept with her girlfriend. When she becomes pregnant things start to get even more complicated. 101 is a love triangle between son, mother and her girlfriend, but mostly it is an odyssey through the mind of the late 20th century male.
The plot is partly influenced by and plays with Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. In the first chapter Hlynur meets his dead (drunk) father at a bar called The Castle who tells him his mother is a lesbian, and some of the characters take their names from Shakespeare’s play, like Hlynur’s alleged girlfriend Hófí (Ophelia), her father Palli Nielsar (Polonius), and the gay couple Rósi and Gulli (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). Hlynur also smokes Prince cigarettes throughout the book, made by The House of Denmark. The novel was written in Brooklyn and Hveragerdi in 1995 and 1996.
At its publication in Iceland in 1996, 101 Reykjavik was rejected by most of the critics (“an intellectual wasteland”) and didn’t do very well in the shops. For four years the book lay in a coma, until the film was released in the year 2000, and started picking up prizes at various international film festivals. Soon after, foreign publishers got interested and it became Hallgrimur’s first book to be translated.
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