Angels of the Universe

Einar Már Gudmundsson

translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder
Mál og menning 1995
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
In the first part of Angels of the Universe Paul tells his life story, going back to his grandparents and his birth in 1949, on the day that Iceland joined NATO. What might otherwise be the tale of an innocent, untroubled childhood in Reykjavik is overshadowed from the beginning by flash-forwards to his later mental illness and by the physical presence of the asylum Klepp where he will be institutionalized. And part two describes Paul's time in and out of Klepp, and some of the friends he makes: Oli Beatle believes he wrote the music of the Beatles; the otherwise dapper Viktor has become obsessed by the figure of Adolf Hitler; and Peter is a Sino-phile waiting for a doctorate from Beijing.

It's a sad and poignant story, but one told with warmth and humour; in the balance Angels of the Universe is uplifting rather than depressing. The terrors of schizophrenia and institutionalization are conveyed, but remain more distant than the joys Paul and his friends find in life. And, though intensely personal, Angels of the Universe also offers an unusual view of Icelandic society, both of its treatment of the mentally ill and more generally.

November 2003

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%T Angels of the Universe
%A Gudmundsson, Einar Már
%M Icelandic
%F Scudder, Bernard
%I Mál og menning
%D 1995
%O paperback
%G ISBN 9979323124
%P 188pp