Hallgrimur’s first novel is a small picturesque tale set in the quiet village of Hella in South Iceland. The book describes one summer in the life of a local 14 year old girl. She takes her first summer job in the highway diner and has her first sexual encounter at the annual Horse Fair.
The book clearly shows that its author spent the decade before in the art world. Hella resembles more a conceptual work of art, in the manner of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare, than a regular novel. It was written between 1988 and 1990 in Siena, New York, Þingeyri, Akureyri and Paris. The writing style is completely cool and detached but very visual. The text never enters the characters’ heads but only describes them objectively, from the outside, allowing their emotions to be played out in poetic descriptions of the village and its surroundings, famous for earthquakes and the presence of Hekla, the volcano.
At its publication Hella did no wonders. It got lukewarm reception and sold moderately.