The Room: Jonas Karlsson

Well. I wasn’t expecting that.

I hate to typecast a person’s writing style by where they come from, because stereotypes rarely go hand in hand with education or the general enlightenment of society.  Especially with art, however, and writing – which are themselves distillations of the artist’s experience and world view, which is of course influenced by the background they come from – sometimes it’s not so inaccurate. By which roundabout way I am saying: this book is so very very Swedish. SO Swedish. Especially if by Swedish you mean minimalist, elegant, slightly bizarre, and cheerfully cynical.

The thing about The Room is that nothing really happens. Imagine The Secret Life of Walter Mitty except more Swedish, in book form, and actually interesting, and you’d have a vague approximation of what this book is about. But that is awesome! That a book like this can hold my attention long enough to read in one sitting is an impressive feat in its own right, but beyond that it’s also a book where nothing heart-thumpingly exciting happens yet it’s impossible to put down. The setting is an open-plan office in the middle of Swedish winter, and if you can get any more starkly dull than that, please let me know.

If my brief research was correct, this story was originally published in a collection of Karlsson’s short stories, and it retains a short story’s crispness and spareness of prose, which works astoundingly well with the subject matter. With this unreliable protagonist who in his delusions kind of reminds me of the character of Alan Partridge except less comedic, Karlsson has created someone who I ended up feeling unwilling sympathy for. Because this guy is like, completely delusional and crazy and also kind of a dick, but in the end – well, you can read for yourself.

The Room was published in Swedish in 2009 and is being released in English on February 17th, 2015. And I would totally buy this book.  8.5 out of 10 on the totally subjective scale of whatever.

(Note: I obtained this book as a free ARC.)

 

 

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