Hotel Silenceby Audur Olafsdottir Translated from Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon
Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize, Hotel Silence is a delightful and heartwarming new novel from Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize, Hotel Silence is a delightful and heartwarming new novel from Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, a writer who “upends expectations” (New York Times). Told with grace, insight, and humor, this is the story of one man’s surprising mid-life adventure of self-discovery that leads him to find a new reason for being.
Jónas Ebeneser is a handy DIY kind of man with a compulsion to fix things, but he can’t seem to fix his own life. On the cusp of turning fifty, divorced, adrift, he’s recently discovered he is not the biological father of his daughter, Gudrun Waterlily, and he has sunk into an existential crisis, losing all will to live. As he visits his senile mother in a nursing home, he secretly muses on how, when, and where to put himself out of his misery.
To prevent his only daughter from discovering his body, Jónas decides it’s best to die abroad. Armed with little more than his toolbox and a change of clothes, he flies to an unnamed country where the fumes of war still hover in the air. He books a room at the sparsely occupied Hotel Silence, in a small town riddled with landmines and the aftershocks of violence, and there he comes to understand the depths of other people’s scars while beginning to see his wounds in a new light.
A celebration of life’s infinite possibilities, of transformations and second chances, Hotel Silence is a rousing story of a man, a community, and a path toward regeneration from the depths of despair.
Dusk is falling as we drive into the town under the bloody sky. The streets are narrow and cobbled and the car meanders on. My gaze wanders down a paved lane and I notice that there are large holes in the exposed pipes like flayed flesh.
As the driver is taking the suitcases out of the trunk I notice that the left jacket sleeve, which had lain motionless on his lap, is empty.
He raises the stump.
“Landmine,” he says and adds that he was lucky because he got away with losing his hearing in one ear and half an arm.
“It makes all the difference to have kept my elbow.”
Then he moves the hair off one ear with his whole hand and shows me the half ear and the scar that stretches to his temple.
“The rear-view mirror helps me to understand what people are saying. I look and then I hear,” he adds.
I hear and I see, I think.
As I’m walking through the entrance of Hotel Silence holding my tool box, I hear him say:
“You think air raids solve everything.”
“Witty, soulful, lighthearted, and tender … charming and immersive.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“A beautifully spare and insightful tale of redemption.” —Booklist
“With humor and simple, heart-piercing prose, Hotel Silence tells the story of a man and his past, and the community where he finds himself. Ólafsdóttir’s world is full of surprise, sadness, love, and transformation. I didn’t want it to end.” —Bethany Ball, author of What to Do About the Solomons
“Hotel Silence is one of the most human books I’ve read in a while. It reminds me of The Clown by Heinrich Boll. I loved it.” —Daniel Wallace, author of Extraordinary Adventures and Big Fish