There's a knock at the door or a ring of the bell. You aren't really in the mood for guests so take a sneaky peek through a chink in the curtain. Oh bugger, it's someone you really don't want to see. So you pretend you aren't in.
Emil has just flown back to Reykjavik from London. He has made a date with a woman he met on the plane. When he spots Havard, an old acquaintance he'd rather forget, on his doorstep he hides under his bed and waits for him to go away. But Havard isn't going anywhere, which comes as no surprise to us as we've already seen him be an awkward soandso for a number of chapters.
Peering through the window Havard notices a pot boiling over on the stove so breaks in and waits for his friend to arrive, assuming he will return at any minute.
Which he won't, what with him hiding under the bed and everything.
And the rest of the book unfolds with Emil peering out from under a bed and Havard wandering around the house, answering the phone, inviting people round, hosting a party. You know the sort of thing.
The Pets is a short book with a very simple, compellingly awkward and very funny premise. A perfectly decent chap is stuck under a bed while a bloke he would really rather avoid holds court in his house. Whether you like it or not is almost certainly down to whether you find that idea funny.
I think it is fucking hilarious. And I loved it. One of the most refreshingly different books I have read all year.
Bragi Olafsson is an award-winning Icelandic novelist. Before writing books he was the bass player in The Sugacubes alongside Bjork. The Pets is published by Open Letter Books, a fascinating American publisher specialising in fiction in translation. I am definitely going to check out more of their titles and I would love to read more of Olafsson's work but nothing else appears to be available in English. I'll have a word with someone.