This is a room full of books, but is it a book shop?

Last Saturday I went to a bookshop on Hverfisgata that I’d been told about, with my German friend from Icelandic lessons. It was incredible, like no other bookshop I’ve ever been in before. There is a television programme here on Wednesdays called "Kiljan", which means "The Paperback", and is also the adopted middle name of Halldór Kiljan Laxness, my favourite author and to some extent still the literary darling of Iceland. Even though he was somewhat controversial during his lifetime, he remains the only Icelander to have won a Nobel Prize, which sort of makes his position as king of twentieth-century Icelandic literature unassailable. It is a programme about books and literature, as you have probably guessed, and every week there is a feature called "Rykkornið", meaning "the speck of dust", in which the presenter goes to talk to the owner of this book shop about some old books. The bookshop-owner, Bragi Kristjónsson, always takes snuff during this short interview, and by all accounts is slightly eccentric.

We didn't actually see him when we went to his shop - in fact there didn't appear to be any staff there at all, which would probably have made it quite difficult to actually buy a book. But lack of staff was not as much of a problem as the sheer impossibility of finding anything that you might be looking for. There was a system of sorts, but mostly it was like being in someone's attic. 

This, I presume, is the place where you are supposed to pay for your books. As you can see, it is unmanned. And quite cluttered.

I loved it, but I wouldn't advise anyone to go in with a specific book in mind... it's more of a browsing experience.


  1. Sveitakall was very helpful to me- if you are looking for a valuable book they keep the "good stuff" in the basement, but you have to earn their trust first.

    My adventure:

  2. I couldn't earn their trust, they weren't there! I looked all over the shop. Translated Laxness was exactly what I was looking for - he is sadly still beyond me in Icelandic. What I really want is Salka Valka. I will have to go back another time.

  3. Salka Valka is quite rare in English. There are two editions, one from the 30's and one from 1963. The later version has some minor corrections, but is basically the same. Copies go for over 100USD on Amazon. Its a wonderful book, perhaps my favorite of all of Halldór's books. Google "Laxness in Translation" for a list of my reviews.

  4. I know. High time for a re-print, I'd say.

  5. Hi, its me Again. I was wondering if you are the same Abi on Goodreads who has reviewed various Laxness novels. I've started a new website "Laxness in Translation" with reviews and appreciations from a number of Laxness fans.

    Give it a look, if you'd like to be on board, let me know. We'd love to have all your longer reviews with ours.

    Stephen Cowdery (AKA Professor Batty)

    P.S. Philip Roughton is working on a new translation of Gerpla, but no word yet on a new Salka Valka.

  6. I am indeed. Sorry for the delay replying, I've been really busy this past week.

    I will have a look at that for sure, thanks.