Hallgrímur Helgason and Fiona Mozley at Harvard Book Store
Harvard Book Store welcomes celebrated novelists HALLGRIMUR HELGASON and FIONA MOZLEY for presentations of their respective new novels, both published by Algonquin Books. Helgason has thrice been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, including for his latest novel Woman at 1,000 Degrees. Mozley, with her debut novel Elmet, was a finalist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize.
About Woman at 1,000 Degrees
“I live here alone in a garage, together with a laptop computer and a hand grenade. It’s pretty cozy.”
And . . . she’s off. Eighty-year-old Herra Bjornsson, one of the most original narrators in literary history, takes readers along with her on a dazzling ride of a novel that spans the events and locales of the twentieth century. As she lies alone in that garage in the heart of Reykjavik, waiting to die, Herra reflects--in a voice by turns darkly funny, bawdy, poignant, and always, always smart--on the mishaps, tragedies, and turns of luck that took her from Iceland to Nazi Germany, from the United States to Argentina and back to a post-crash, high-tech, modern Iceland.
Born to a prominent political family, Herra’s childhood begins in the idyllic islands of western Iceland. But when her father makes the foolish decision to cast his lot with a Hitler on the rise, she soon finds herself abandoned and alone in war-torn Europe, relying on only her wits and occasional good fortune to survive.
For Herra is, ultimately, a fierce survivor, a modern woman ahead of her time who is utterly without self-pity despite the horrors she has endured. With death approaching, she remembers the husbands and children she has loved and lost, and tries, for the first time, to control her own fate by defying her family’s wishes and setting a date for her cremation--at a toasty temperature of 1,000 degrees. Each chapter of Herra’s story is a piece of a haunting puzzle that comes together beautifully in the book’s final pages.
Originally published in Icelandic and based on a real person whom author Hallgrímur Helgason encountered by chance, Woman at 1,000 Degrees was a bestseller in Germany, France, and Denmark, and has been compared to “John Irving on speed.” But it is deeply moving as well, the story of a woman swept up by the forces of history. With echoes of All the Light We Cannot See and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, as well as European tours de force such as The Tin Drum, Woman at 1,000 Degrees is, ultimately, original, introducing a fresh new voice to American audiences.
The family thought the little house they had made themselves in Elmet, a corner of Yorkshire, was theirs, that their peaceful, self-sufficient life was safe. Cathy and Daniel roamed the woods freely, occasionally visiting a local woman for some schooling, living outside all conventions. Their father built things and hunted, working with his hands; sometimes he would disappear, forced to do secret, brutal work for money, but to them he was a gentle protector.
Narrated by Daniel after a catastrophic event has occurred, Elmet mesmerizes even as it becomes clear the family's solitary idyll will not last. When a local landowner shows up on their doorstep, their precarious existence is threatened, their innocence lost. Daddy and Cathy, both of them fierce, strong, and unyielding, set out to protect themselves and their neighbors, putting into motion a chain of events that can only end in violence.
As rich, wild, dark, and beautiful as its Yorkshire setting, Elmet is a gripping debut about life on the margins and the power—and limits—of family loyalty.