The Woman at 1000°C
Konan Vid 1000°
“I live alone in this garage, with a laptop and a hand grenade for company. It is terribly cosy.”
Three sons by nine men, that is enough. While the oven for her cremation gets fired up, eighty-year old Herbjoerg sits in her garage, surfs the net and pays her last debts.
The granddaughter of the first president of Iceland, she spent the war years in Denmark and Germany, then lived in Argentina, where she married and lost her first child. The fifties and sixties saw her in places like Brazil, New York and Germany, where she studied photography and partied in Hamburg with the young Beatles, before moving back to Iceland. A heavy smoker all her life, she got lung cancer at the age of sixty-three. The doctors gave her a year, but she defied them, even without giving up her habit. Eighteen years later she’s still fighting the odds. She has just endured her 80th birthday in solitude and the thought of yet another holiday season without company has prompted her decision: Herra wants to go before Christmas. She has opted for cremation and even contacts the cremation service at the local church, asking them about everything from vacancies in December to the temperature of the ovens. While waiting for her oven to reach 1000°C, she recounts her life and plans her final acts of revenge.
Hallgrímur Helgason’s new novel is a journey through the history of the twentieth century: moving and full of Icelandic quirkiness.
Praise for The Woman at 1000°C
‘Book of the year!’ – SWR3 Radio
‘Helgason’s characters are rare beauties. One falls for his absurd fantasies immediately.’ – Spiegel (online) 14 Oct 2011
‘A ride through the 20th century of the ice island through the Nazi German Reich to Argentina and back again – wildly, tough, and devilishly clever. “Like” it? It rocks!’ – Stern
‘Hallgrimur Helgason has written a superb Icelandic version of Heinrich Heine’s Mattress Grave.‘ – Deutschland radio
‘This novel is toxic. The cover, the crumpled lady with the pink wig should have been warning enough, still one is stunned. This novel charges at you like a little terrier after you have opened a garden gate. It barks short, hoarse sentences. However, you don’t want to put this book down again!’ – Der Spiegel 1