Lytton Smith’s English translation of Bragi Ólafsson’s Narrator is as compelling and readable as it is bizarre. Our narrator, G.’s otherwise mundane day is interrupted when he spots an old romantic rival, Aron, at the post office. Abandoning his task, he proceeds to stalk his perceived adversary through the city of Reykjavik, casting suspicions about Aron’s actions, and reminiscing about his unrequited love. G. is both endearing and vaguely sinister as we move through his surreal story. The more we learn about his life, his past, and his views of the world, the more we question the truth he is presenting to us.

Ólafsson bends rules of tense and perspective, and Narrator is made all the better by it. Hopping between first and third, between past and present, these breaks in form capture G.’s erratic temperament, and explore the psychic distance between character and narrator. G. strives for objectivity, wants to cast himself as the hero, but cannot help slipping back into his own obsessive, unreliable mind. The kind of novel that teaches you how to read it while you’re reading it, Narrator asks odd, fascinating questions about the function of the narrator as a character, and the reliability of self-reflections and our accounts of ourselves.

Open Letter.

—Review by Claire Pincumbe