Being a writer in a country that prides itself on having an abnormally high percentage of writers can lead to a unique type of neurosis. This existential-imposter syndrome is the world of Sturla Jón Jónsson, a middle-aged published poet/building-superintendent and long-time sufferer on the frontlines of the creative arts.
As the book opens, Sturla has only just published a new collection of poetry – one which he hopes to be his last, as it is about time he turns his attention to the more lucrative trade of the novel. Even so, he soon finds himself being accused of plagiarism, as the poetry has a striking resemblance to the writing of his brilliant, long-dead cousin Jónas.
Sporting a new and expensive frock coat – another attempt at reafirming his outward identity as a poet – he escapes his woes in Reykjavík for a poetry festival in Vilnius. There he is hoping to get the recognition he craves, being as he is the festival’s de facto Icelandic Ambassador. However, the absurdities of his interactions only continue to escalate until he has lost far more than just his good name and his expensive new coat.