Monday, June 17, 2019
Hallgrímur Helgason - The Woman at 1,000 Degrees
As a young girl Herra is trapped on continental Europe by the outbreak of World War Two. Through a series of misfortunes she finds herself a refugee in various parts of Eastern Europe and Germany itself. Her father is a fanatically follower of Hitler who joined the SS and then loses Herra in a British bombing raid. The book tells of her experiences - both while lost in rural Eastern Germany and while an outsider living among the Germans with her mother. While the book is run through with humour, its also deeply honest about life as a refugee for a young woman in wartime. Rape and murder are part and parcel of Herra's life and on returning to Iceland she cannot cope with peacetime and those around her who've escaped the war's ravages.
The story of how Herra becomes the woman in the bed with the hand-grenade is beautifully written and very poignant. From wartime Germany to Argentinian farms and Iceland's fishing villages it's a story of how we are shaped by the world we are in, and the relationships we have. It's also a story about Iceland's place in the wider world - and how the nation was buffeted by wider imperial interests and the economic world. It's a lovely book - funny, poignant and difficult in places - but well worthwhile.