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Hallgrímur Helgason: ROKLAND

»Die Verwahrlosung, die das Unbeweibtsein beim Mann auslöst, ist schon bemerkenswert.«

Wie wahr, wie wahr. Während Hlynur, der Protagonist in 101 REYKJAVÍK seine Leiden immerhin noch im coolsten Teil der Hauptstadt durchleben konnte, lebt Böddi in Krókur, einem Kaff im Norden Islands mit genauso vielen Friseursalons wie weiblichen Einwohnern. „Rokland“ nennt sich das Häuschen, in dem der Enddreißiger – wie sollte es anders sein? – mit seiner Mutter lebt. Die hängt den lieben langen Tag vor der Glotze, während ihr Sohn in seinem mitunter spektakulären Blog gerade dieses Medium und seine Anhänger zur Hölle wünscht. Wer des Isländischen mächtig ist, der werfe doch einfach mal einen Blick auf // LOOK

So ist das mit einem intellektuellen Heimkehrer, der in Berlin Nietzsche und Hölderlin lieben gelernt hat: Die einen verstehen ihn nicht, die anderen wollen ihn gar nicht erst verstehen. So fliegt Böddi nach einem eher ungewöhnlichen Klassenausflug von der Schule, an der er unterrichtet hat und schläft anschließend mit der Tochter des Rektors. Pech nur, dass die ihm schon sehr bald mitteilt, dass sie schwanger ist. Als er gerade dabei ist, sich mit seiner Vaterrolle anzufreunden, nehmen die Geschehnisse eines ungeahnte Wendung. Und als schließlich auch noch seine Mutter stirbt und sein Bruder Winnie Puh auftaucht, ist es an der Zeit, die Revolution auszurufen…




Mr. Helgason, reading ROKLAND I wondered if the protagnist either desperately hates his country or just loves it too much. What do you think?

He loves his country very much but he hates its society; he doesn’t like what has become of the Icelandic people in the past decades.

And what about the author? Do you share Böðvar’s (critical) view?

I agree with him up to a point. He’s way too extreme in his views and opinions. He’s the one who always goes too far. This was the biggest problem in writing the book: To fine-tune the character of Böddi, to find the right balance between his extremism and his spot-on criticism. I wanted people to agree with him. I wanted them to say: Yes, this guy is telling us the truth about ourselves. But at the same time I wanted him to be close to a lunatic, so that he would be a bit funny in all his extremism. I had to find the right balance. I wanted the reader to side with Böddi but hold a distance to him at the same time. So he could laugh at him. But not laugh too much. I wanted people to have sympathy for him.

You work and live in Reykjavík. When I’ve visited the city last year, I felt that it is the natural hot spot of Iceland’s cultural life. Anyway I’ve also seen some excellent exhibitions in other places around the island. Is it in your opinion possible for an artist to “survive” outside Reykjavík?

It’s quite hard. But it’s getting better with all the latest computer and internet technology stuff. I myself have a house in the island of Hrisey up north and spend all my summers there. The main difference is that there you have more time, more time to work, and more relaxed atmosphere, more quality time with the kids.
But we still have to be in town for the winter for my wife has a job here and here all the important things are; my publisher, my gallery etc.
I’m just happy to be able to stay in Reykjavík, since when I was growing up the main feeling was that if you wanted to be a real artist on an international scale you had to go live abroad. So in comparison to New York, Reykjavík is a small town in the provinces and there I am living at the moment and very happy with it.

In ROKLAND you write that there are three things, people can’t help to deal with: darkness, silence and isolation. Why is that?

The hardest thing you can do in today’s world is doing nothing; just sitting still in total silence AND total darkness. I think this is maybe the hardest task we, modern people, can take on. Our way of life has filled every minute of the year with information, advertising, books, TV-programs, news, music, e-mails, googling and other sorts of bright-lighted joy so that we are totally unfit to face the dark and silent void. But I still think it is a necessary thing to do. You should try to have at least one hour a day spent with yourself alone and nothing else, no sound, no sight, no nothing, just laying in bath or bed and listening to your own ideas and the sounds of your soul.

I personally found Böðvar H. Steingrímsson to be a sympathic character, even though he is overcritical and disgruntled most of the time. But as I was slowly achieving a deeper understanding of this person and her needs, she suddenly started to freak out. Is it such a dangerous thing to challenge society?

That’s the tragedy of Böddi. He is unable to compromise himself for to fit in with the society of other people. He’s like the guy in the movie LIAR LIAR (starring Jim Carey) who was unable to lie. He had to tell the truth. The same with Böddi. He has to tell the truth, no matter how inconvenient it is. And this people don’t like to hear. Nobody likes to hear that his daughter is stupid. Still Böddi has to put that verdict on his weblog. It’s totally unnecessary but still he can not resist. Here Böddi is a bit related to me, the writer. I have often gotten myself into trouble for saying things that were true but people didn’t want to hear.
In the bigger picture Böddi is the inconvenient truthsayer but he’s also the lone rebel who refuses to march along with the rest. He’s an Außenzeiter. And yes, it’s true, you will put yourself in danger if you go too far in criticising society.

During your studies you have spent some time in Germany. Have you ever come back afterwards? And is there somehing you vividly remember? (Stuff like Lederhosen or Weißwurst? The reason why I´m asking is that we, when visiting Iceland, met some boys playing with their band in a club in Akureyri. When we told them that we were Germans, they turned out to have a certain enthusiasm for the word “Lederhosen”)

Icelanders are like that. They are not very knowledgeable about other countries so they create these stereotypes: The German with a Rudi Völler moustache and a tacky haircut wearing Lederhosen watching porno and screaming for beer. I come back to Germany every year. If I should move there I would pick up the language in some months. I like your country. It’s very cultural and very literary, the true home of serious literature I have to say. I have many memories from Germany, ranging from the horrible underground stations of Munich to the wonderful lakes around Berlin. When I was 20 I made a bold experiment. I took a map of Europe and closed my eyes, then I pointed randomly at the map to a place I was going to visit. My finger landed on a small village called Schwarzenhazel, not far from Fulda. And there I went. It was a bit difficult to get there. The last bit I did by hitch-hiking an old Volkswagen. It was a very isolated village in the middle of Germany buried deep in some forest. The people were a bit backwards and looked at me with great suspicion. I did shoot some arty photographs (I was going to turn this into some kind of an art project which never came into light) but at the only hotel in the village I was turned away by the old lady in the reception with the words “keine Ausländer hier”.

What are your future plans in writing?

For the moment: to write many small books, and perhaps plays as well. Then, in two years time, I will start the big one.


Last but not least, the six tiny HERR BERGE-standard-questions (informally called “sixpack”). I hope you get it, I’ve never translated them so far.

What was the last movie you watched?

HAPPY FEET with my son.

How did you like it?

Excellent visuals but sloppy story.

Name five CDs that take their place in the current heavy-rotation-section of your collection.

I don’t listen to music anymore. No time.

Where should people go on holiday in summer, if they have the money?

Hrísey, Iceland.

Do you read a book at the moment? If yes, which one?

Just finished Bob Woodward’s STATE OF DENIAL – boring but interesting and very valuable. Now I’m reading a “parallel lives” biography on two Icelandic authors of the last century, Þórbergur Þórðarson and Gunnar Gunnarsson. The former was a communist, the latter was leaning towards Nazism and sold a lot of books in Germany before WW2.

What should we abolish to make the world a little better place?

Abolish religion in favour of God.

Annika Hetberg