Öræfi: The Wasteland


By Ófeigur Sigurðsson
Translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith

An ambitious epic novel showcases the brutal elements of human nature and mother nature alike in Iceland’s most desolate region.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Paperback: 9781941920671
Ebook: 9781941920688



“Sigurðsson is without a doubt one of the best writers of his generation.” — Frettabladid Daily

After a grueling solo expedition on the Vatnajökull Glacier, Austrian toponymist Bernhardt Fingerberg returns to civilization, barely alive, and into the care of Dr. Lassi. The doctor, suspicious of his story, attempts to discover his real motives for venturing into the treacherous wastelands of Iceland — but the secrets she unravels may be more dangerous than they’re worth.

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“But the novel certainly inherits Thomas Bernhard’s style of reports of reports of reported speech, leading to sentences like the following which closes the first section, much as mathematical brackets close a formula . . . Highly recommended and one to watch in the 2019 Best Translated Book Awards.”- The Mooske and The Gripes

“It’s a brilliant, ecstatic, hallucinatory arabesque consisting of nested tales of decreasing reliability and increasing self-awareness—all centering upon this blasted Icelandic emptiness where having or knowing anything seems only barely possible, where one glimpses the struggle to verify the contents of the world in bleakest terms.”-David Searcy, The Literary Hub

“Part adventure, part history, and part madness! Sigurdsson’s nested rant of a narrative swept the literary awards in his native Iceland and is now one of the best books translated into English this year. and the winner is…ORAEFI: THE WASTELAND!!!!”- Keaton Patterson, Brazos Book Buyer’s Book of the Year Awards

“Stunning novel . . . What follows is a collection of Icelandic stories, realist and mythic, historical and fictional, nestled inside an epic adventure. It is at once a history of place, and a man’s intensely personal journey through the elements of the land, and of his own mind. A delightfully complex play on the epistolary novel, the narration of Öræfi is layered, at times coming to us through five or six levels of character interpretation.”- The Arkansas International

“Amazing storytelling, plotting, perfect recursive structuring, just compulsively readable. . . I thought I’d put in a word today for the book from Deep Vellum that is completely rocking my December days! take a chance! It’ll change your perspective!”- John Darnielle, The Mountain Goats

“Sigurðsson takes on such a variety of moods and modes that he acts as a kind of ventriloquist, allowing an enormous variety of literature to speak through him. And it is wildly entertaining, this book. It’s both playful and deeply researched, bleak and yet hearty—like a pub full of friends clinking glasses just before the end of the world. Except the friends are all PhDs. And the pub is a gigantic igloo. And the end of the world is an April Fools’ Day prank.”-Katherine Coldiron, The Carolina Quarterly

“Go buy it! it’s worth reading.”- Three Percent 

“Readers who are willing to yield to Öræfi, to open themselves to the unpredictable, will find in these pages one of the most vivacious, most ferociously inventive novels available in any language today.”-Alec Dewar, Splice

“Easy to summarize, but impossible to explain Oraefi is a strange amalgamation of explorer’s tale, travelogue, historical fiction, collection of dramatic monologues, and celebration of place names. Ostensibly the story of a scholar who nearly dies while exploring a wasteland in Iceland, the story meanders through multiple layers and narrators like a stream flowing from the glacier to the forest to the sea. It’s a wild ride, unlike anything you’ve read.”- Staff pick by bookseller Josh Cook, Porter Square Books