Blar prihyrningur. (Icelandic).
"WHEN BENJAMIN TURNED onto Skolavordustigur, Stella had not quite arrived at the same street corner on her way down Laugavegur. They missed each other by only a few minutes this time. The last time. Together with Frakkastigur, this intersection forms a triangle on a city map. He had delineated this triangle with a blue pen on a map which he had torn out of the telephone book and kept on the front seat in the cab when he was driving." The blue triangle (blar prihyrningur) is, however, not only an area of downtown Reykjavik in this novel by Sigurdur Palsson, a well-established poet and playwright and translator of French literature who in 1998 made his debut as a novelist with Parisarhjol (see WLT 73:4, p. 760). It is also the stage in the bar, where Julia makes a living as a nude dancer; the mountain on the distant horizon of the sea, where Stella puts an end to her life; and, most significantly, the relationship involving Benjamin, who desires Julia, who desires Stella (Benjamin's fiancee), who desires him.
The novel covers approximately half a year in the lives of the three protagonists, who are all in their late twenties or early thirties. Benjamin, a country boy, works as a cab-driver for his uncle night and day, partly to support himself and Stella, and partly to kill the boredom in his passionless, though not loveless, relationship with Stella, an oversensitive, somewhat depressive, and introverted woman, whom the reader gets to know primarily through extracts from her diary. When the cheerful, unconventional, and single-minded Julia moves into their apartment building, she immediately catches Benjamin's attention, and soon he finds himself attracted to her, or perhaps to her thirst for life, while Julia herself feels drawn toward the world-weary Stella, the only one of them capable of feeling and expressing true love.
The longing for love, the search for a purpose in life, and the incompatibility of urban and rural lifestyles are the central themes of this well-crafted novel, which speaks to its reader because of its insightful probing into the tragedies of human existence. Blar prihyrningur is a moving and powerful book that will surely appeal to many readers of contemporary Icelandic fiction.
Kirsten Wolf University of Manitoba
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|Publication:||World Literature Today|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2001|
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