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Hotel Silence

Hotel Silence
Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Pushkin Press
English translations
Review Author
Björn Halldórsson

(Ör, 2016)

Divorced and alone, Jónas Ebeneser is pretty much done with life. No one seems to have much use for a middle-aged loner who has little to offer but his abilities as a handyman; versed in all manner of home improvements and domestic maintenance he is utterly incapable of expressing his feelings to the people he loves. When he finds out that he is not his daughter’s biological father, Jónas sees it as the final confirmation of his having nothing to live for and stoically decides to end his life.

To spare his friends and family the shock of discovering his body, he picks a random travel destination as the setting for his final act, deciding haphazardly on an anonymous war-torn country as he figures the locals will be familiar enough with death not to bat an eye at his own meagre end. Ever the pragmatic, he packs his drill and toolbox (the smaller one) for the trip, in case he needs to install a ceiling hook to ensure a successful hanging. However, once he finds himself living among these survivors of war, his reasons for ending his life begin to seem rather small.

Resplendent with Auður Ava’s signature bleak humour and stripped-down poetic language, Hotel Silence addresses the subtle process of physical and emotional healing and the human desire to be of some use in the world.