ABSOLUTION by Olaf Olafsson


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 The English-language debut of an Icelandic writer now living in New York: a novel that perceptively probes the depths of two ÇmigrÇ Icelanders' self-deceptions. When a nameless young Icelander, working in New York, is asked by his boss to translate papers found in a locked vault of the recently deceased Peter Peterson, he acknowledges that ``sometimes...Peterson's words might just as easily have flowed from my own pen.'' Indeed, both men settled permanently in the US, both allude to unhappy love affairs, and both men have--or had- -obsessive tendencies. But it is the shared failures in love that shape the story: failures at the heart of both lives, confusing memory and permanently wounding psyches. In his part of the story, moving back and forth from the past to the present, Peter, now a wealthy old man estranged from his family and cared for by a young woman whom he dreams of seducing but is too frail to do so, recalls a seminal comment of his father's. The change that his father observed in him after his year in Denmark explains, Peter thinks, his subsequent unsavory reputation as a businessman and parent. He recalls his tranquil middle-class childhood in Iceland: how in high school he fell in love with a fellow student, whom he followed to Denmark, obsessively pursuing her even though she saw other men; and how the Nazi invasion of Denmark precipitated the events that changed him forever. When the girl turned him down, preferring Jon, the handsome Resistance leader, Peter committed what he thought was a terrible crime, and fled Denmark. But there is a tape, the translator learns, made a few months before Peter's death, that suggests how strong and pervasive ``deception, pure and simple'' may have been after all. Beautifully crafted, and, even though both the pace and the conceit pall a little, a welcome new voice.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42891-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1994


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