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Funny, clever, surreal, and thought-provoking, this Kafkaesque masterpiece introduces the unforgettable Bjorn, an exceptionally meticulous office worker striving to live life on his own terms. Bjorn is a compulsive, meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works - a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Funny, clever, surreal, and thought-provoking, this Kafkaesque masterpiece introduces the unforgettable Bjorn, an exceptionally meticulous office worker striving to live life on his own terms. Bjorn is a compulsive, meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works - a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Bjorn is in his room, what his co-workers see is him standing by the wall and staring off into space looking dazed, relaxed, and decidedly creepy. Bjorn's bizarre behavior eventually leads his co-workers to try to have him fired, but Bjorn will turn the tables on them with help from his secret room. Debut author Jonas Karlsson doesn't leave a word out of place in this brilliant, bizarre, delightful take on how far we will go--in a world ruled by conformity - to live an individual and examined life.


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Funny, clever, surreal, and thought-provoking, this Kafkaesque masterpiece introduces the unforgettable Bjorn, an exceptionally meticulous office worker striving to live life on his own terms. Bjorn is a compulsive, meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works - a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Funny, clever, surreal, and thought-provoking, this Kafkaesque masterpiece introduces the unforgettable Bjorn, an exceptionally meticulous office worker striving to live life on his own terms. Bjorn is a compulsive, meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works - a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Bjorn is in his room, what his co-workers see is him standing by the wall and staring off into space looking dazed, relaxed, and decidedly creepy. Bjorn's bizarre behavior eventually leads his co-workers to try to have him fired, but Bjorn will turn the tables on them with help from his secret room. Debut author Jonas Karlsson doesn't leave a word out of place in this brilliant, bizarre, delightful take on how far we will go--in a world ruled by conformity - to live an individual and examined life.

30 review for The Room

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    I first read Jonas Karlsson's cult favorite this past spring. But when I closed the book I couldn't bring myself to actually write a review. And for a very personal reason: revisiting the white collar office experience was simply too painful, bringing to mind many of my own nasty encounters with coworkers and managers on top of the tedium of pouring over memos, data, correspondence, files and reports. There's something about an office specializing in accounting, finance, insurance, banking, real I first read Jonas Karlsson's cult favorite this past spring. But when I closed the book I couldn't bring myself to actually write a review. And for a very personal reason: revisiting the white collar office experience was simply too painful, bringing to mind many of my own nasty encounters with coworkers and managers on top of the tedium of pouring over memos, data, correspondence, files and reports. There's something about an office specializing in accounting, finance, insurance, banking, real estate and the like that thrives on an uptight, constipated mindset, one that I have always found not only abrasive and suffocating but downright disgusting and ugly in the extreme. However, when recently roaming the stacks at my local library, I espied The Room on the shelf and decided to endure the pain and draw on my years as a young man working in various departments and offices within the insurance industry to write this review where I could link my own day-to-day grey flannel flunky minutes with the narrator's. Here goes: "I had started work at the Authority two weeks before, and in many respects I was still a newcomer. Even so, I tried to ask as few questions as I could. I wanted to become a person to be reckoned with as quickly as possible." ---------- Ah, the power player! Office as soap opera where the most important thing is to impress the men and women in your little world. "I worked out a personal strategic framework. I arrived half an hour early each morning and followed my own timetable for the day: fifty-five minutes of concentrated work, then a five-minute break, including toilet breaks. ---------- Narrator Björn wants to follow not the internal rhythms of his body but mimicking a machine by strictly adhering to a clock-driven contrived schedule. On Ann, a fifty-something coworker; "She had a framed child's drawing near her computer. It showed a sun sinking into the sea. But the drawing was wrong, because on the horizon there were landmasses sticking up on both sides of the sun, which of course is impossible. Presumably it had some sort of sentimental value to her, even if it wasn't particularly pleasant for the rest of us to look at." ---------- In this way Björn's mindset accords with others in the office - he wants military-like regimentation where any childlike creative expression is scoffed at. "The next day my new boss came over to our desk in the big, open-plan office, with his thinning hair and cotton cardigan. His name was Karl, and the cotton cardigan wasn't very new, but looked expensive. He stopped next to Håkan and pointed out, without any introductory pleasantries, that my shoes were dirty." ---------- Did I mention uptight and tight-assed? Managers pronouncing such harsh judgements on trivialities is on a par with jackboot totalitarianism. In many important ways, the office environment of a company or corporation demands more conformity than even states like the Soviet Union or Red China. "Inhibited people don't see the world the way it really is. . . . A lot of people, more than you'd imagine, think everything's fine. They're happy with things the way they are. They don't see because they're too lazy to allow themselves to have their everyday routines disturbed." ---------- True irony since author Karlsson has Björn working his 55-5 minute schedule and all of his thinking revolving about his position within the office. Office = The World. Björn passing sharp judgement on 'inhibited people'. What a joke. "That night I lay in bed and went through the evening moment by moment. Over and over again. From the frosty greeting and Hannah's strange comments, to the encounter with Margareta from reception, to my strong sense of having been master of the situation. In some ways it was a novel experience. A feeling of power." ---------- The office exerts such a pervasive influence on office workers, over time they think of nothing but the office. Cramped, squeezed and small-minded - as the saying has it: "The mind is a terrible thing to waste." "I should have seen through her earlier. Obviously she was a junkie. All that smiling. That optimistic outlook. It was a chemically produced friendliness. I'd walked straight into a trap. Being taken in by the surface appearance of a drug user was one of the dangers of being an open, honest person. Never suspecting anything." ---------- May I be spared from ever again being obliged to deal with such "open, honest" people! It shouldn't come as a surprise that relations between men and women in an office setting are nearly always strained. Working year after year in an office has its consequences: sexual energy and sexual feelings become suppressed and twisted. At one point regarding his special room, Björn is addressed by manager Karl: "You have to appreciate that it upsets the rest of the group when they see you standing like that, in your own little world. It's perfectly all right if you want to do it at home. But not at work. You're scaring the staff. Don't you think you should try socializing with your colleagues a bit more? They say you hardly ever take a break." ---------- It isn't enough to do you job, even if you become a workaholic - the world of the office wants all of you - your heart, your mind, your soul. Years ago I took an improvisational acting class with a bunch of office workers. They couldn't even move their arms and hands beyond a small circle in front of them. The office's influence in action - cutting people off from their own bodies and emotions along with their ability to express themselves. "Rumors of my success swept through the whole department like a wave. Someone had heard and carried the news to the rest of the group. . . . I tried to read their reactions, but it was difficult as I was constantly having to pretend I hadn't noticed and was preoccupied with my work." ---------- Ah, pretending - the key note to an inauthentic, half-baked, phony life. The perfect company man, a custom fit for office work. "The loaded atmosphere in there, their infernal obstinacy and united front made my cup run over. I could hear that I was speaking louder than necessary when I was no longer able to hold back the torrent of frustration growing inside me." ---------- But Björn can only take so much. Thus the secret room. "I realized it was only a matter of time before they forced the door open and got inside and started poking about. I looked round to find somewhere to hie but couldn't see anywhere particularly good. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and walked into the wall. The wall closed around me, like yogurt around a spoon." ---------- Here's a micro-fiction I wrote years ago in much of the same spirit: OVERTIME For many years Neal Merman commuted back and forth to his place of work like the others. It was to an insurance office, a room with blank walls, linoleum floor and forty desks under naked florescent lights. Coming in with regularity, Neal performed the job of an everyday clerk. This mechanical routine shifted abruptly, however, when Neal became part of his desk. First, the desk absorbed only two fingers, but by the end of that afternoon, his entire left hand was sucked up by the metal. And the following morning Neal’s left leg from the knee down also became part of his desk. So it continued for a week until the only Neal to be seen was a right arm positioned beside a head and neck on the desk top. When the other clerks arrived in the morning, all of them could see what was left of Neal, head down and pencil in hand, reviewing a file with utmost care. To aid his review, Neal would punch figures into his calculator fluently and with the dexterity of someone who knows he is total command of his skill. Such acumen brought a wry smile to Neal’s face. One day, Big Bart, the department boss, came by to check on Neal’s files. “Your work, clerk, is better and better, although you are now more desk than flesh and bones.” “What files do you want me to review today?” Neal asked, still scrutinizing some figures. “Not too many files, clerk, but enough to keep you.” Big Bart withdrew and Neal followed him with his eyes until his boss could no longer be seen. Later that same day Neal’s right arm faded into the metal. Then, like a periscope being lowered from the surface of the sea, his neck, jaw and nose sank down, leaving his eyes slightly above the gray slab. Neal looked forward and saw his pencil straight on – a long gleaming yellow cylinder with shiny eraser band at the end. Over the pencil, his telephone swelled like some giant mountain. Hearing the phone ring, Neal instinctively reached for the receiver, but this was only a mental gesture. Neal felt his forehead sinking and closed his eyes. *Special thanks to Ilse for bringing this unique novel to my attention. Swedish actor and author Jonas Karlsson, born 1971

  2. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Everyday Solipsism Long ago I was told a purportedly Hungarian folk-aphorism by a dimly remembered acquaintance: If one person calls you a horse, ignore them; if two people call you a horse, look in the mirror; if three people call you a horse, you’re a horse. One way to interpret The Room is as a confirmation of that titbit of popular wisdom. To some extent, at least, we are or become what we are thought of by others. On the other hand the book could be a cautionary tale suggesting the precise op Everyday Solipsism Long ago I was told a purportedly Hungarian folk-aphorism by a dimly remembered acquaintance: If one person calls you a horse, ignore them; if two people call you a horse, look in the mirror; if three people call you a horse, you’re a horse. One way to interpret The Room is as a confirmation of that titbit of popular wisdom. To some extent, at least, we are or become what we are thought of by others. On the other hand the book could be a cautionary tale suggesting the precise opposite, that for better or worse we live in a world of our own making, including the making of our own personality, regardless of the opinion of others. I think it is this ambiguity, or rather range of possibility, that makes The Room an exceptional piece of art. It twists and turns with little visible effort, provoking all sorts of insights from social attitudes toward mental handicaps, to an appreciation of autism as extreme perceptual realism, to the philosophical fragility of the concept of reality. Karlsson has packed more literary punch in his short novel than I can recall in any book many times its length. My preferred take on The Room is as a critique of the casual, everyday, unnoticed attitude that we probably all adopt as a default strategy for dealing with the stresses of life. This attitude is one of solipsism, the belief or presumption that other people are not as fully present, as conscious, as intentional as we are. As a philosophy, solipsism is very difficult to refute. As a behavioral response, it is equally difficult to cope with practically. Among other things solipsism stops all real discussion. Communication becomes a matter of insistent command and resentful obedience rather than negotiation. The world becomes an implacable enemy for the solipsistic mind which is isolated in a sea of irrational resistance. Solipsism shows up not merely when others inhibit our own intentions but when they act in ways we don’t understand or find odd. We literally cannot imagine the purpose of such behaviour and therefore disparage, avoid, and suppress it as abnormal. It makes no sense to inquire about the purpose of others because they are, implicitly, either ill-conceived or simply absent. Karlsson’s protagonist, Bjorn, is obviously ‘on the spectrum’; but he’s not crazy, at least not to begin with. He is annoying and odd. Nevertheless he is not solipsistic. He constantly considers what might be going on in the minds of his colleagues, who all treat him as a mental defective with little capacity for thought much less productive action. Bjorn might get his colleagues’ motives wrong but they act as if Bjorn doesn’t have any motives at all. In fact Bjorn is a canny operator. He cleverly demonstrates just how talented he is. He knows the reason he is talented is precisely the thing that his colleagues find most distressing about him, his ability to retreat entirely inside his head in order to think, to contemplate, without interruption. Unlike him, they do not have the imagination required to understand his mental workings. Until, that is, he demonstrates its value. Karlsson’s subsequent twist - in fact two - on this tale of a flawed but perceptive mind in society is brilliant - so brilliant it both confirms and denies the Hungarian aphorism. Human beings are indeed strange but intriguing creatures. And Karlsson has got their measure, or at least enough of it to create something classic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    It's been more than ten months since I worked in an office. I missed it from day one six and still do. I’m unlikely to be back there any time soon, and in a couple of weeks, this time away will exceed what I took as maternity leave, years ago. The difference is that now I’m trying to work from home, don’t have the joy of a baby… oh, and there’s a raging pandemic. My former(?) workplace is too small to be like Dilbert’s cube farm, and too benign to be akin to Kafka's insurance office, but there’s It's been more than ten months since I worked in an office. I missed it from day one six and still do. I’m unlikely to be back there any time soon, and in a couple of weeks, this time away will exceed what I took as maternity leave, years ago. The difference is that now I’m trying to work from home, don’t have the joy of a baby… oh, and there’s a raging pandemic. My former(?) workplace is too small to be like Dilbert’s cube farm, and too benign to be akin to Kafka's insurance office, but there’s a dash of The Office, and like many software firms, there are staff on, or very near to, the autistic spectrum. This comic novella has all those elements, plus a dash of Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine. It’s as if Kafka wrote a double-length episode of The Office as a long short story. The employer is the opaquely hierarchical and sinisterly named, Authority, and the boss is even called Karl. Tasks include checking investigators’ judgements, though what’s being investigated and judged is never stated. There’s often humour in Kafka’s originals, but it’s more overt here. Image: Open-plan office (Source) Realism The narrator, Björn, has just started working at the Authority. He is determined and ambitious: “To become a person to be reckoned with as quickly as possible”. He has a high opinion of his abilities, but is self-aware enough to know that in his previous job he wasn’t always liked and might have been thought slightly irritating. He mentions that it was not his decision to move jobs. He’s analytical, detached, and seemingly oblivious to social niceties, let alone tact. “She had a framed child’s drawing near her computer… But the drawing was wrong… Presumably it had some sort of sentimental value to her, even if it wasn’t particularly pleasant for the rest of us to have to look at.” He relishes noting his colleagues’ flaws - in his narration, and sometimes to the people themselves. “You have to show people… what their shortcomings are.” He’s obsessive, awkward, easily upset by criticism, and inadvertently funny. It’s all fairly realistic and familiar, including a passive-aggressive response when a colleague’s papers encroach on the adjacent territory of Björn’s desk, and concerns about job security arising from rumours that the Authority might be closed down. Magical realism I need some sort of happy place or state, especially at times of stress and doom. In the last six months, I’ve been regularly losing myself in local woodland. Being alone, dwarfed by the beautiful and ever changing splendour of trees, hills, and sky, and drowning in near silence, punctuated only by the occasional bird, is transporting in some profound psychological way, even with my feet firmly on the earth and the sun warming my face. Escape implies freedom and thus makes return bearable. Image: Looking up from my happy place, as dusk approaches. Björn accidentally discovers his happy place: a small office, nicely furnished but unused. “The walls closed around me, like yogurt around a spoon.” He starts popping in there: it's calming and it makes him more productive. But that’s not how it appears to his colleagues who find his increasingly odd behaviour disturbing. It becomes clear that things are unclear. Reality is a fluid thing, and possibilities are shaken and stirred. It is enticingly elusive to the end. Image: Inside, outside, or an illusion? “The Architect” by Erik Johansson (Source) Ethics “Stupid people don’t always know they’re stupid.” Björn says that, but is he such a person? Alternatively, is he putting on an act, mentally ill, or some sort of savant? Difference can mask brilliance, or create a façade of brilliance. Perhaps he is just what he seems to be: odd and probably Aspie. Whatever the diagnosis, Björn, his boss, and colleagues need to make adjustments: what, how much, and by whom? In my world, ramps, flexi-time, and custom furniture are common, and you learn to tune out Tourette's tics, but how much rudeness and creepiness is tolerable and excusable? And what about accepting other people’s (un)reality? “Perhaps we could agree on the formulation ‘The room does not exist for everyone’?” Sometimes I felt a little uncomfortable laughing at Björn. I told myself that it’s written as a humorous story, which implies a degree of permission, and that I was laughing at his colleagues as well. But then there was a confrontation, culminating in Björn accusing everyone of psychological warfare and systematic bullying. Thereafter, the laughs still dribbled over the pages, but in thicker, darker ink. Illustrations Image: Covered shoes, at the start of chapter 5 My copy is peppered with little line drawings, including a stapler, briefcase, partially unwound paperclip, wristwatch, computer mouse, and pot plant. They wouldn’t meet Björn’s exacting standards, and he’d be annoyed that some appear more than once, but not the same size or position on the page. Quotes • “People made various excruciating attempts to engage me in conversation. As you might imagine, it was a pointless task.” • “I worked out a personal strategic framework. I arrived half an hour early each morning and followed my own timetable for the day: fifty-five minutes of concentrated work, then a five-minute break. Including toilet breaks. I avoided any unnecessary socialising along the way.” • “I suddenly felt how lonely it is, constantly finding yourself the only person who can see the truth in this gullible world.” • “I thought I might as well take a turn around the department and try to build up my social network. First I went over and stood beside John’s desk.” Realising that “John made a hopelessly bland impression. What did someone like that have to offer me?”, he goes to Ann’s desk: “I adopted a relaxed posture… so she could be left in no doubt that I was amenable to having a conversation.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    This is the story of Björn, the newest employee of 'the Authority' - an organisation which, as mysterious as it sounds, resembles the sort of very ordinary office found all over the world. Convinced of his own superiority to his co-workers, Björn immediately develops a plan for success, involving 55-minute periods of intense work and as little contact with his colleagues as possible. But it's only when he discovers 'the room', a small, beautifully furnished office which appears to belong to no-o This is the story of Björn, the newest employee of 'the Authority' - an organisation which, as mysterious as it sounds, resembles the sort of very ordinary office found all over the world. Convinced of his own superiority to his co-workers, Björn immediately develops a plan for success, involving 55-minute periods of intense work and as little contact with his colleagues as possible. But it's only when he discovers 'the room', a small, beautifully furnished office which appears to belong to no-one, that his awakening really begins. In the room, he can focus perfectly on his work, become an improved version of himself. The problem is, nobody else believes the room exists. The Room works on lots of levels: – It's a satire of office culture in which the characters, and the workplace, are at the same time generic and completely recognisable. (The author bio at the beginning informs the reader that Karlsson has never worked in an office - pretty amazing given the merciless accuracy of his portrayal of this environment.) – It's a psychological drama - we don't know (at least at first) whether Björn is mad, whether he's consciously pretending, or whether the room really exists and his colleagues are playing a cruel trick on him. His visit to the psychiatrist provides a real stomach-flipping twist. – If you choose to read it this way, it's a mystery - what does the Authority do? Do its employees even know the answer to that one? If the room does exist, what reason do the other staff have for pretending it doesn't? This conundrum is one that's investigated by Björn himself, and forms part of the breakdown charted in the novel. – It's a comment on workplace bullying and the way we respond to mental illness. When the staff of the Authority confront Björn, it reads partly as funny - there is an element to this setting, with its lack of detail, that's somehow unnatural, so the reader knows not to take what happens entirely seriously, and some of the details are explicitly comic (Björn shuffling around in his plastic shoe covers). But if you put yourself in his place, it's also horrifying: his fellow workers talking about his 'madness' in insulting terms right in front of him, speaking about him as if he's not there, becoming openly threatening and nasty. Another aspect of this: if Björn's soujourns to the room help him to do his job, make him more productive and a more valuable member of the team, does it matter whether they're real or not? How should the others balance their discomfort about Björn's activities - which, after all, are harmless - against the benefits they gain from allowing him to carry on? Again, this is a question the characters are forced to ask themselves and, by extension, a question the reader is encouraged to face too. Björn is a brilliant character. He's unreliable on several fronts (lying to the reader and/or lying to himself?), incredibly pedantic, and his personality combines extreme awkwardness with extreme arrogance, producing an effect that's both awful and hilarious. He isn't supposed to be likeable, and other readers will no doubt have mixed reactions to him, but I couldn't help liking him. Maybe I sympathised with Björn because one way to read The Room is as a critique of individualism: his colleagues object to his behaviour not just because of its obvious strangeness, but because Björn acts alone and apart from the group. Is the story, perhaps, a cautionary tale about the dangers of daring to aim too high or 'think outside the box'? (Literally, in Björn's case.) The Room is the first of Swedish author Karlsson's works to be translated into English. As far as I can tell, it was originally published as part of a volume of short stories, and that shows in the precision of its minimalist style. Which is not to say it's too short to count as a novel in its own right - it has 65 chapters. But each tiny detail is finely honed. Björn's brief, faintly sinister summary of his history - 'I have to admit that I didn't always see eye to eye with my colleagues', he says of his previous job, no doubt significantly downplaying whatever that situation was. His scathing pen portraits of workmates - 'pinned up around his desk... were loads of jokey notes and postcards that obviously had nothing to do with work, and suggested a tendency towards the banal'. The room itself - its neatness, its clean lines, its atmosphere akin to 'early mornings at school... the same relaxed feeling and limited freedom'. The blurb for The Room describes it as Kafkaesque, a comparison that's often thrown about without having much real relevance to whatever it's attached to. The last book I read, The Spirit Cabinet by Paul Quarrington, came with a quote on the jacket likening it to 'a more expansive Kafka' - I liked the book, but that comparison is frankly ridiculous. In Ch'oe In-ho's Another Man's City, the influence of Kafka is made explicitly obvious - not least through the fact that the protagonist is known only as K - but I found the references too overt. The Room, however, really does deserve to be called Kafkaesque. The subtle surrealism of Björn's situation, the overwhelming and disconcerting power of the Authority and all its bureaucratic regulations, and Björn's persona - halfway between ignorant and knowing, looking for a way out of this labyrinth but going about it in all the wrong ways - all fit the term very well. The Room is more than just a homage, however: Karlsson's style and humour make it a strong story in its own right, quite apart from any influences. A short, sharp, quick read that's nevertheless full of details ripe for analysis, The Room has the makings of a cult classic, and I'm really looking forward to reading more from Karlsson.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    Thanks to Goodreads and Crown Publishing for the advance review copy. I may be the #1 fan of Hogarth, the imprint of Crown Publishing that will be releasing this book in the U.S. in February. I was somewhat skeptical of this based on the synopsis. First, it’s written by an actor, Jonas Karlsson. I don’t want to name names, but the actor-turned-writer thing has me a bit skittish. Second, it was described as Kafkaesque. For me, that’s never a good start. Not that I don’t like Kafka, of course. I ju Thanks to Goodreads and Crown Publishing for the advance review copy. I may be the #1 fan of Hogarth, the imprint of Crown Publishing that will be releasing this book in the U.S. in February. I was somewhat skeptical of this based on the synopsis. First, it’s written by an actor, Jonas Karlsson. I don’t want to name names, but the actor-turned-writer thing has me a bit skittish. Second, it was described as Kafkaesque. For me, that’s never a good start. Not that I don’t like Kafka, of course. I just don’t typically enjoy Kafka knockoffs. The Room is the real deal. It actually is reminiscent of The Trial, but less bleak, more accessible, and much more entertaining. Bjorn, the main character, finds himself at a new job in an archetypal office setting (The Office or Office Space). He’s somewhat ambitious and decides that he’s going to move up quickly. However, his plan is quickly thwarted when he discovers a secret room in the office that only he can see. Of course, his coworkers think he’s crazy and tension ensues. No need to spoil the plot. I think this would be a great read for anyone that follows Kafka and enjoyed books like A Confederacy of Dunces. Reading this, it was hard not to picture a cleaned up version of Ignatius Reilly. Here’s what I found most interesting about this small book and story. There were no mistakes. Not a single misplaced word, phrase, or sentence. Karlsson's writing is absolutely flawless. Knowing the writer's background, I found this most intriguing. Towards the end, I was doing everything I could to find a misstep, and I even slowed down my reading. I didn’t find a single one. Karlsson’s writing is methodical, precise, and picture perfect, and if this is his beginning, I can’t imagine the trajectory of his career. This was originally written in Swedish, so I have to give a hats off to the translator, Neil Smith. I could see this being a perfect book club selection as well. The existential elements beg to be discussed and contextualized. Here’s more information about the publisher, Hogarth (www.hogarthbooks.com): Hogarth is a new home for a new generation of literary talent. Its list is made up entirely of fiction; its intention is to publish contemporary, voice-driven, character-rich writing that entertains, informs, and moves readers. Hogarth prizes authorial conviction, an awareness of the world, and the pleasures of storytelling. Its works are eclectic, adventurous, provocative, vividly written, and always energetically and individually published for a devoted and lasting readership.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mish

    The Room is absolutely brilliant. An original and delightfully, peculiar short story that will appeal to people with a warped sense of humour, as nothing really specular happens. It’s a keen observation of office workers in a typical open plan office environment, set in dead of winter in Stockholm. But the office location could be anywhere as it had the same feeling and atmosphere of any office workspace that I’ve worked in. It’s a glimpse into office interactions, work procedures, office celebr The Room is absolutely brilliant. An original and delightfully, peculiar short story that will appeal to people with a warped sense of humour, as nothing really specular happens. It’s a keen observation of office workers in a typical open plan office environment, set in dead of winter in Stockholm. But the office location could be anywhere as it had the same feeling and atmosphere of any office workspace that I’ve worked in. It’s a glimpse into office interactions, work procedures, office celebrations/parties through the eyes of an eccentric new comer Bjorn with a hint of the unexplained. Or is it supernatural!? Or perhaps it’s madness!? Take your pick!! Starting a new job is always a daunting experience; you want give people a good impression; you want to come across as a confident person without appearing too cocky, and generally fitting in. And hopefully your co-workers will like you too. But with Bjorn, he devised an image in his own mind of how he wants to be portrayed. It probably didn’t sit well with the accepted image of a newcomer, but it fit with the reputation for ambition and tough tactics that I was happy to help spread about myself. The Room was entirely narrated by Bjorn, who was also an unreliable narrator. He is self absorbed and delusional and his superiority complex gave off a very bad first impression. You only have to pay attention to the reaction from his co-worker to know what they really think of him. I had come to recognize the little stress wrinkles they all got whenever I did actually ask. Obviously they weren’t to know that I was aiming to get to the top of the Authority He adopted a stringent personal framework, of 55 minutes work and then 5 minutes break and avoided socialising. But I had noticed that he becomes easily ruffled; an interruption to his routine or a colour pattern in a drawing that wasn't right, can really throw him off. Which makes me believe there might be signs of mental disorder of some sort. But either way his work colleagues found him weird. But the situation became worse, when Bjorn found a room. Upon entering this room, Bjorn felt a sense of calm but what his co-worker saw was an entirely different matter, which had thrown the office into frenzied panic. Karlsson’s writing is quite amazing. Strong characterisation that doesn’t require the use of flowery language to create an powerful image or understanding of the person. The sentence structure is short, crisp and easy to read. The Room was a real pleasure and amusing to read and I really hope more of his short stories are translated to English.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    This short sharply written novel features Bjorn, an office worked trying to live and work on his own terms. He finds a room, in this room he feels stronger, cleverer and he can't figure out why know one uses the room. The trouble is everyone else believes the room does not exist and that he is mentally ill. But is he? Does the room actually exist and does it matter of it is real or not? This amusing, surreal novel will appeal to all who work in offices, cubicles for space trying to live an existe This short sharply written novel features Bjorn, an office worked trying to live and work on his own terms. He finds a room, in this room he feels stronger, cleverer and he can't figure out why know one uses the room. The trouble is everyone else believes the room does not exist and that he is mentally ill. But is he? Does the room actually exist and does it matter of it is real or not? This amusing, surreal novel will appeal to all who work in offices, cubicles for space trying to live an existence of non-conformity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Meet Bjorn - a legend in his own mind with a superiority complex that is off the charts and who considers himself management material through and through. He is profoundly inept socially, obtuse, odd, off-putting, awkward, and downright creepy. You know, one of those people who keeps tabs on everyone else…when they go to lunch and when they come back, how long they talk on the phone, chat by the coffee machine, etc. Yes, you know exactly the kind of person I’m talking about. You probably have a Meet Bjorn - a legend in his own mind with a superiority complex that is off the charts and who considers himself management material through and through. He is profoundly inept socially, obtuse, odd, off-putting, awkward, and downright creepy. You know, one of those people who keeps tabs on everyone else…when they go to lunch and when they come back, how long they talk on the phone, chat by the coffee machine, etc. Yes, you know exactly the kind of person I’m talking about. You probably have a particular version of Bjorn sitting three cubicles down from yours. Better get back to work before he catches you reading this and makes note of your lack of diligence and dedication. Meet Bjorn’s colleagues. Yes, it’s safe to say that they have been thoroughly creeped out by Bjorn. They look up from their work and find him standing silently by their elbows, saying nothing. Or, if they do start to speak to him while he’s working away at his desk, he will extend his arm, palm out, rather like an NFL blocker. One interesting thing that seems to make Bjorn very special indeed: he can see and visit a room that no one else acknowledges. He can’t understand why no one has laid claim to this neat, orderly office where all the furniture is precisely arranged and possesses a mirror which reflects such a, well, complimentary view of Bjorn - not as he really is, but rather, an idealized depiction. Bjorn’s naturally suspicious attitude is whetted whenever he attempts to bring the room to his co-workers’ attention or, even more startling, when he takes them into the room for private conversations. Afterward, he is met with strange looks and finds that everyone begins to avoid him. For Bjorn, he finds his creative juices and business acumen improve when he works in this special room and he finds himself unable to stay away from it even in the face of growing pressure from boss and co-workers to cease and desist. So, the question is: is the room real? Is there some dark conspiracy afoot? Or are his co-workers trying to drive him mad with their strange looks and denials and avoidance? Is his boss in on it? Are the powers that be, that strange Authority for which he works, in on it as well? What is happening? Is there a conspiracy or is Bjorn in the middle of a psychotic break? Well, that’s the interesting question isn’t it? I’m rather in awe of this book. It’s only about 130 pages long, but Karlsson manages to depict fully fleshed out characters and events that would take another author three times the number of pages. The characters are sharply etched, drawn by a master minimalist. The prose is astringent and as clear as glass. The story itself is fascinating and you are compelled to see it through - I defy you to start this book and lay it down unfinished. I couldn’t do it. I read it from beginning to end, completely hooked, silent except for the occasionally verbalized “whoa!”. I absolutely loved it. Quirky, odd, cool, original, fascinating, surreal, Kafka-esque, fun. A book I enjoyed so much that I immediately looked up Mr. Karlsson’s other books. Imagine my extreme disappointment when I found this was his only book published in English! Publishers, please correct this immediately, or else I may throw you all into The Room…and turn the lock on you. I want to thank Net Galley for providing a copy in exchange for my fair review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Hatley

    I had read this brilliant novella before, in a different language, and I enjoyed it equally well both times. A man considered by his colleagues to be "different" and delusional tells his own story. I had read this brilliant novella before, in a different language, and I enjoyed it equally well both times. A man considered by his colleagues to be "different" and delusional tells his own story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    And suddenly I realized the difference between me and my colleagues. I was ahead of them the whole time. By about two weeks. It took them numerous attempts to understand what I could see at the first go. Was it the same thing with the room? Would they stand there one day and discover what I had tried to show them such a long time before? Maybe they were just too immature to see what seemed utterly obvious to me? Was this how Copernicus felt? I can literally open this book to any page and find a l And suddenly I realized the difference between me and my colleagues. I was ahead of them the whole time. By about two weeks. It took them numerous attempts to understand what I could see at the first go. Was it the same thing with the room? Would they stand there one day and discover what I had tried to show them such a long time before? Maybe they were just too immature to see what seemed utterly obvious to me? Was this how Copernicus felt? I can literally open this book to any page and find a line where he's thinking he's better than everyone or belittling a coworker. Maybe I just don't get it, perhaps this humor is going completely over my head. I'm all for dark humor, but I saw nothing funny about Bjorn. Readers who enjoy his characterization are practically guaranteed to be a fan of The Room, but I couldn't stand him. For the full review and more, head over to The Pretty Good Gatsby!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sally906

    Opens: The first time I walked into the room I turned back almost at once THE ROOM is narrated by Bjorn as he starts a new job after leaving his previous position in slightly murky circumstances. Whatever the implied reason for his change in job circumstances he sees it as a step up the promotion ladder, the reader is not quite sure. Whether Bjorn is a reliable narrator is something that readers will need to sort out for themselves – my personal take is that I would suspect not. At first he seems Opens: The first time I walked into the room I turned back almost at once THE ROOM is narrated by Bjorn as he starts a new job after leaving his previous position in slightly murky circumstances. Whatever the implied reason for his change in job circumstances he sees it as a step up the promotion ladder, the reader is not quite sure. Whether Bjorn is a reliable narrator is something that readers will need to sort out for themselves – my personal take is that I would suspect not. At first he seems like any other person who is focussed on rising to the top of their career. That he is obviously intelligent is not in question, that he is socially inept is not in question either, what is in question is his mental state and how organisations deal with someone who, it becomes increasingly apparent, has an obvious mental issues. As THE ROOM progresses the reader slowly comes to doubt the reality of what Bjorn is saying and to eventually doubt his sanity; at the same time the reader will start to doubt the other characters and their motives, and yes even their collective sanity; finally, the reader may even start to doubt their own perceptions of reality. A short yet surreal story, all the action seems to be based mostly in reality, but whose? The government office where Bjorn works will ring true for public servants across the world. Bjorn is the office odd bod/ weirdo even – oh come on, we have all worked with one. Sadly the office weirdo is often in need of help rather than derision. Bjorn has such a set routine, a strong perception of how other people should be, and an inability to interact with his work colleagues that you immediately start to wonder if he might have some form of Asperger’s – which then makes you feel guilty for thinking him as odd. The whole situation begins with Bjorn annoying his colleagues by his inability to fit in, and in turn the colleagues annoy Bjorn for not doing things properly in his opinion. He rewrites conversation in his mind so they say what he believes is happening, which is the readers first inkling that Bjorn may not be a reliable narrator. The escalating situation overwhelms Bjorn to the extent that he needs time to gather himself mentally, and this is when he discovers the room. It is a small unused office near the toilets with a desk and chair. Bjorn starts to use it. The room becomes a soothing refuge from the main office, a place where he can work more quickly and efficiently. The trouble is when Bjorn goes into the room; his colleagues see something much different, what they see is the ‘weird one’ standing motionlessly and staring at a blank wall, as if he has shut down. And that is when Bjorn’s idealism clashes with his colleague’s realism - they doubt his sanity whilst he suspects conspiracy – how can they not see the room. I did not like Bjorn as a person; I would hate working with someone like Bjorn and it would be an HR minefield dealing with a Bjorn-like person in the workplace. This is not to say I have issues with people with mental issues in the workplace – far from it. I worked with a person who had Asperger’s and he was a delightfully quirky character who the whole office got on with and accepted his quirkier habits. In THE ROOM Bjorn does not have nice personality, and I couldn’t feel a lot of pity for the events that followed, well only a little, and that is the crux of my problem. Does it make me a bad person to not like someone who is clearly under the influence of a mental illness? Alternatively should I force myself to like someone because they do? To be fair though I don’t much like his ‘normal’ colleagues either, although many would argue what is normal? In reality working with someone who has mental issues should not end up the way it did in THE ROOM. There appeared to be no compassion from any of them at all, and the one attempt at counselling/diagnosis was a joke. Summed up THE ROOM is very thought provoking, and anyone who has gone through stressful events in an office environment will find themselves relating too much of what occurs. Jonas Karlsson does not stick to political correctness when dealing with mental issues in the workplace, instead he brings out the reality of what occurs – the whispers, the intervention, the counselling – in fact anything that political correctness says should happen does happen – and as in real life political correctness adds to the problem. Just because an action is the politically correct way to do something, doesn’t mean it is the right way, and can make things much worse. I went out of my comfort zone while reading THE ROOM – but I cannot recommend enough; is there a room, and if so where is it? Read it for yourself and make your own mind up. With thanks to Crown Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    I can't really say that I didn't like this short novel—it's well-written at the sentence level, it moves quickly, and it kept me entertained and even made me laugh out loud a few times. Ultimately, though, it just didn't work for me. The protagonist, Bjorn, is your classic unreliable narrator—we can't tell if he's mentally ill, or a clueless asshole, or just a creative, nonconformist guy in a department of colleagues who don't care for creativity and lack of conformity. Because we don't know who I can't really say that I didn't like this short novel—it's well-written at the sentence level, it moves quickly, and it kept me entertained and even made me laugh out loud a few times. Ultimately, though, it just didn't work for me. The protagonist, Bjorn, is your classic unreliable narrator—we can't tell if he's mentally ill, or a clueless asshole, or just a creative, nonconformist guy in a department of colleagues who don't care for creativity and lack of conformity. Because we don't know who Bjorn really is, we also don't know if his colleagues are justified in their reactions to him or not—or even if their reactions are really their reactions, since we get everything through Bjorn's eyes. This is all well and good, in theory. In practice, though, I really felt like I saw the author pulling the puppet strings. None of it felt organic; I could picture the author writing this and thinking, "Okay, I've made Bjorn seem like a decent guy and his co-worker seem petty and narrow-minded; now I have to do something to make Bjorn seem like an unhinged jerk again." Precisely because it all seems so calculated, it's impossible to really pull it all together in the end—it just seems ambiguous. I'm all for ambiguity in novels—that's life, after all—but not if it's a result of author shenanigans rather than a genuine attempt to say something true about human nature. So while I had a decent time reading this, it was ultimately a pretty empty experience. I won this ARC via Shelf Awareness. There was no expectation of any kind of review whatsoever.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    Context informs every reaction, and certainly your work experience and cultural conditioning will influence your reaction to this ingenious novel about corporate office life. For decades I worked in corporate offices and hated almost every minute of it. I used to come home numb, sit in my big chair in my big room and fantasize about a time when I would never have to go into an office again. So boy, could I relate to the protagonist of this tale. And the fact that he’s set up to be someone most ev Context informs every reaction, and certainly your work experience and cultural conditioning will influence your reaction to this ingenious novel about corporate office life. For decades I worked in corporate offices and hated almost every minute of it. I used to come home numb, sit in my big chair in my big room and fantasize about a time when I would never have to go into an office again. So boy, could I relate to the protagonist of this tale. And the fact that he’s set up to be someone most everyone who’s worked in offices might relate to in one way or another makes this book one of the most subversive I’ve ever read. Add to this that I read The Room at a time when 99 percent of American Democrats believe that we just had a free and fair election, and up to 80 percent of Republicans believe the opposite, and even believe there is evidence to back up their doubt or fury, despite the fact that many vote audits and 60 courts found there to be no election-changing fraud. I believe in objective reality, but I also believe in forces nobody can see—love, for instance. Many people believe in God as a specific being and will condemn anyone who disagrees. Others believe in God as a spiritual metaphor or think the whole thing is a crutch for people who cannot accept that life is hard. Some people have a lifelong experience of personal and systemic bias and others who have never had a problem simply don’t believe it exists. If you’re one of the friends or family of the 400,000 Americans who have died of COVID or if you’ve had a bad case yourself, you damn well believe it’s real; if you’re lucky enough to not be one of those people . . . Ugh. I’m aborting my trip down this heated, upsetting road of dichotomies. I simply brought it up to illustrate the strong beliefs that might inform one’s reactions to The Room, and to suggest that if you are open to examining your beliefs—so much so that you can inhabit even the side of a person you believe is delusional, you may find this book as subversively wonderful as I did.

  15. 4 out of 5

    RitaSkeeter

    A tragic tale of a quirky person in a workplace that values relationships and doesn't tolerate difference. Bjorn starts a new position, but as readers we pick up straight away that all may not be as it seems. Bjorn's former boss encouraged him to look for a new position elsewhere, and Bjorn finds one with the 'Authority', though the conditions are worse than he had in his previous job. Bjorn wants to do a good job. He sets strict schedules for himself, with a 55/5 plan - meaning he works for 55 m A tragic tale of a quirky person in a workplace that values relationships and doesn't tolerate difference. Bjorn starts a new position, but as readers we pick up straight away that all may not be as it seems. Bjorn's former boss encouraged him to look for a new position elsewhere, and Bjorn finds one with the 'Authority', though the conditions are worse than he had in his previous job. Bjorn wants to do a good job. He sets strict schedules for himself, with a 55/5 plan - meaning he works for 55 minutes then takes 5 minutes to get a cup of coffee, for toilet breaks and so on. The rigid schedule Bjorn sets for himself allows him to focus on work, but doesn't allow for socialising or building relationships with his colleagues. Bjorn actively discourages his colleagues from communicating with him, and we see his arrogance and, at times, his contempt for his co-workers. Though Bjorn sees his behaviour at work as 'focused', we glimpse that his co-workers struggle with the lack of relational qualities. Bjorn becomes a talking point, and we see his colleagues begin to feel aggrieved at his behaviour. This becomes heightened when Bjorn finds the room. Bjorn insists the room is real, but his colleagues say it isn't. Who is right? And does it matter if it doesn't harm anyone and allows Bjorn to complete his work efficiently and to a very high standard? I've seen other reviews talk of the humorous nature of this book, but I didn't experience the book that way. For me, this is a tragic, upsetting tale of the way difference can be treated. Bjorn has ASD like traits, and struggles with relationships, but has clear, focused thinking and an ability to complete his work to a standard above that of his colleagues. However, to do that he needs 'the room', which his colleagues will not tolerate. I think everyone will have different views on the room and what it is. (view spoiler)[ I think Bjorn finds the relational struggles of every day life challenging, and the room is a place for him to have quiet and peace, and to recharge his batteries. In short, I think he dissociates, and 'the room' is a dissociative state for him (hide spoiler)] . This book has left me with sadness, as Karlsson draws a clear picture of difference - a difference that doesn't harm anyone - and the lack of understanding, acceptance, and tolerance present in society. The ending (view spoiler)[ where Bjorn dissociates for the final time, is heartbreaking (hide spoiler)] . Karlsson writes with sparse, understated prose where not a word is wasted, and yet builds such a picture. He has timed and paced the novel perfectly, and build concern and care for a character who is, it would seem, unlikeable and difficult to relate to. I'll be looking out for further translations from this author - he is a writer to follow.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    The narrator Bjorn would be the employee/workmate you wouldn't usually want. He has little inter-personnel skills, has no lack of confidence, looks down at his manager and workmate and finds happiness in being in an office which does not exist. Initially he is given quite basic tasks and then reveals himself to be a gifted assessor. But he is a bit of an unreliable narrator. He works for the Authority, a grey behemoth public service bureau with an unspecified role. The book covers power and hiera The narrator Bjorn would be the employee/workmate you wouldn't usually want. He has little inter-personnel skills, has no lack of confidence, looks down at his manager and workmate and finds happiness in being in an office which does not exist. Initially he is given quite basic tasks and then reveals himself to be a gifted assessor. But he is a bit of an unreliable narrator. He works for the Authority, a grey behemoth public service bureau with an unspecified role. The book covers power and hierarchy in the workplace, the blood sucking mundane life of office work, workforce dynamics and who assesses what is acceptable behaviour. There are no pretensions in the writing with the author leaving it to the reader to decide what the book is about.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zaz

    A weird and unusual story, really well written. Bjorn is hired in a new place and he tries to find his place there with tight schedules, hard work and little socialisation. One day, searching for the toilets, he enters a new room he likes very much. But does the room really exist? It was a weird story, stuck between mental illness and paranormal. It was also very funny in the 1st half, I was quite fond of the way Bjorn interacted with his environment and how he described his coworkers (he wasn't a A weird and unusual story, really well written. Bjorn is hired in a new place and he tries to find his place there with tight schedules, hard work and little socialisation. One day, searching for the toilets, he enters a new room he likes very much. But does the room really exist? It was a weird story, stuck between mental illness and paranormal. It was also very funny in the 1st half, I was quite fond of the way Bjorn interacted with his environment and how he described his coworkers (he wasn't at all at the same level as the others). The prose was sharp and witty and the events well described, always leaving the reader in a questioning mind about this intriguing room. This novella rose some interesting topics about being different, and how people can have difficulties to adapt something really weird. A very pleasant and quick read!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Mixed feelings about this... finished in one sitting on my plane ride back to L.A. from Booktopia VT. The concept of the book is wonderful and sets the foundation for several effective metaphors about work-place conformity and banality. But the story took a few turns I thought were for the worse. The story definitely addressed some darker themes (i.e. mental health, lack of empathy, taking productivity to the extreme at the cost of human interaction, and an absence of individuality at the corpor Mixed feelings about this... finished in one sitting on my plane ride back to L.A. from Booktopia VT. The concept of the book is wonderful and sets the foundation for several effective metaphors about work-place conformity and banality. But the story took a few turns I thought were for the worse. The story definitely addressed some darker themes (i.e. mental health, lack of empathy, taking productivity to the extreme at the cost of human interaction, and an absence of individuality at the corporate level), which I loved, but the main character was utterly detestable. And not in a good way. In fact, most of the characters infuriated me. I felt uneasy and uncomfortable spending time with any of them. And ultimately I found them extremely unbelievable. To avoid spoiling various plot points, I shall use my HTML here. :) (view spoiler)[ First, what co-worker will completely ignore you if you stand by their desk for several minutes looking over their shoulder? This happened several times with several different co-workers, each playing their complete indifference card. That just didn't seem believable. People in a office setting are typically friendly and at least attempt to be pleasant to one another (even if they are fuming inside). Second, it is completely inappropriate (legally) to have a meeting with the entire office about someones mental health, especially with them present in the room. Talk about discrimination and work place bullying. This just would never ever happen. Third, if you asked your boss to fire other employees simply because you were good at your job and didn't want them around anymore, you would be terminated immediately. Legally, any company would see you at too much of a liability risk. (yes, as you can see the employment lawyer in me is getting quite agitated with these major missteps). (hide spoiler)] The author crafted the main character very well. I knew who this person was after only a few pages. His character development was excellent. His lack of empathy or feeling towards anything or anyone made him seem like American Psycho, BUT the author didn't provide us with any hints as to why he might be that way (i.e. traumatic past, insecurity, etc.). This made it difficult to glean any meaning from book. I suppose I liked certain parts of it, but ultimately I was unsatisfied with certain plot points and the underlying message.

  19. 4 out of 5

    AmberBug com*

    www.shelfnotes.com Review Dear Reader, Quirky, that is the perfect word for this book. If The Room lasted any longer (approx. 125 pages), I would have picked a less pleasing adjective to describe it. I want to thank the publisher greatly for sending this ARC to me, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Bjorn, the main character, is completely on the spectrum and the reader is fully aware of this after a few pages in. He clearly likes to do things a certain way and can't understand why people m www.shelfnotes.com Review Dear Reader, Quirky, that is the perfect word for this book. If The Room lasted any longer (approx. 125 pages), I would have picked a less pleasing adjective to describe it. I want to thank the publisher greatly for sending this ARC to me, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Bjorn, the main character, is completely on the spectrum and the reader is fully aware of this after a few pages in. He clearly likes to do things a certain way and can't understand why people may live in separate realities from his perfect one. A great example of this was when he sees a drawing his coworkers child has made (primitive drawing of a sun and mound of grass), but he can't understand why she has posted this for everyone to see. He feels completely baffled as to why someone would subject others to looking at something so deplorable. This should give you a little insight into the kind of character Bjorn is, this is also a great way to determine if you want to read this book. Does Bjorn sounds like someone you can spend 125 pages with? For me, it was a resounding YES. I love reading behind the eyes of someone so different from me, even IF they do infuriating things. The whole book is set in Bjorn's workplace, has a cast of characters only from THAT workplace and focuses on only the relationships within that office. Again, this might not be for everyone but I really liked it. I thought it brought a little lightness to the topic and was a great setting for someone with OCD/Autism to be driven to the brink of despair. I felt terrible for Bjorn and how his coworkers treated him, he obviously can't help himself... but at the same time, his uniqueness was also the thing that had me laughing for much of the book. I wouldn't call this a comedy or a drama, maybe a dramady? Anyways, I don't have much more to say other than I really enjoyed it, nice and short but completely for me. I like novellas like this and I wish I would come across them more often. Happy Reading, AmberBug

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I love that the setting of this book is in a bland corporate workplace without a true identity, only identified as “The Authority”, that is easily relatable to anyone who has had a similar job. It comes off as a satire of how boring and repetitive that can be. The writing is sharp and to the point with enough wit to keep the narrative from becoming dry and boring. The writing is very good, but unusually spare, with only as much detail given to propel the plot. Bjorn, our protagonist, has such a s I love that the setting of this book is in a bland corporate workplace without a true identity, only identified as “The Authority”, that is easily relatable to anyone who has had a similar job. It comes off as a satire of how boring and repetitive that can be. The writing is sharp and to the point with enough wit to keep the narrative from becoming dry and boring. The writing is very good, but unusually spare, with only as much detail given to propel the plot. Bjorn, our protagonist, has such a set routine, a strong perception of how other people should be, and an inability to interact with his work colleagues, that you immediately start to wonder if he might have some form of Asperger’s – which then makes you feel guilty for thinking him odd, unlikable and smug. Then he finds “The Room” and discovers everything. The room offers him peace and provides seclusion for his lack of social acceptance. None of his co-workers believe there is a room or, at least, they deny there is one. And so the reader is wondering, is there a room, is Bjorn really the smartest one, is he simply hallucinating? His boss, Karl, seems to be the only one who rallies to his side; maybe he recognizes his brilliance, or is his brilliance possibly an illusion? The ending is “no ending.” Because of this, I keep pondering what actually happened to Bjorn. It actually made me think that maybe we should be more accomodating to different views and approaches and not dismiss this out of hand because we view them as strange and “crazy.” I loved this book!!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yzabel Ginsberg

    (I got a copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.) This was a pretty strange read in many ways, but also a compelling one. I kept wondering about the mysterious room, whether it existed or not, whether Björn (the main character) was crazy or not, whether what happened in the room actually happened or not... because no matter what, everything was always just a tad bit too ambiguous to allow me to draw clear conclusions. On the one hand, it was slightly frustrating. On the other, it w (I got a copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.) This was a pretty strange read in many ways, but also a compelling one. I kept wondering about the mysterious room, whether it existed or not, whether Björn (the main character) was crazy or not, whether what happened in the room actually happened or not... because no matter what, everything was always just a tad bit too ambiguous to allow me to draw clear conclusions. On the one hand, it was slightly frustrating. On the other, it was interesting. Björn is clearly a narrator of the totally unreliable variety. He's also not very likeable, in that he thinks himself better than the others, more skilled and more knowledgeable—and at times, he's exactly that, while at others, he appears as useless, so once more, you're kept wondering what to believe. I found him pretty interesting, though, if considered from a sociopathic viewpoint (this kind of character tends to grab my attention: they're trainwrecks in the making, fascinating and repulsive all at once). He had a very clear, definite image of himself that may or may not match what other people perceived, yet in his mind, the fault was very seldom his; and when he questioned himself, I would wait for the other shoe to drop. In other words, he wasn't "likeable" as a human being, but as a study of a certain type of mindset, he certainly was. Daily life in the Authority/the Office turned out a quirky study as well. Various social behaviours, people lined in their little cubicles, procedures, work habits, workplace events and how one can quickly fit in or, on the contrary, commit a fatal faux-pas... It wasn't nonsense bureaucracy at its finest, but it still lent the whole book a very peculiar atmosphere, with everybody stuck with everybody else (the only character who's seen being home is Björn, and even then it doesn't really feel like him, much more like "the place where to be when you're not at work"). Everybody had their flaw and good sides, but knowing what they are was to be judged according to Björn's descriptions and to how he perceived his colleagues' reactions. Definitely a clash of realities here, as one can empathise with the other workers, with how they felt the newcomer was strange and hostile... and at the same time, Björn's narrative still manages to sow doubt, considering that, all in all, what he wants is to find his place in his new job, as well as a career to aim for. Commenting on the writing style itself is a bit difficult, since it's a translation. I found it fluid and easy to follow, with short chapters that broke the flow just like Björn's personality seemed to be broken, too (if this makes sense). They also felt like a kind of internal filing system used by the character to compartmentalise and gain control over an environment different from what he expected. This format worked fairly well for me, considering the kind of story told here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katy Noyes

    It’s a bit of a puzzler, this translated short novel. Did I like it? Yes. Did I understand it? Um, I’m not sure. I’ve read a little Kafka and Beckett so I understand the genre and style referred to when this as described as ‘in the tradition of’. Neither would sell millions but if it's to your taste, there's a lot of dry humour, satire and mockery to be enjoyed here. Bjorn is our protagonist. From the start we know he’s not the most reliable narrator. Full of his own worth and importance, dismiss It’s a bit of a puzzler, this translated short novel. Did I like it? Yes. Did I understand it? Um, I’m not sure. I’ve read a little Kafka and Beckett so I understand the genre and style referred to when this as described as ‘in the tradition of’. Neither would sell millions but if it's to your taste, there's a lot of dry humour, satire and mockery to be enjoyed here. Bjorn is our protagonist. From the start we know he’s not the most reliable narrator. Full of his own worth and importance, dismissive and rather Machiavellian (at least he sees himself that way) towards his new colleagues, we are treated to a look at Bjorn’s ‘rise’ (or otherwise) in a new job. Determined to shine and rise quickly, he discovers he can do his best thinking in a room near his desk that nobody else ever seems to enter. A regular office. But it seems that this room isn’t all it appears. If it even appears at all. You find yourself questioning what you’re reading. Knowing Bjorn to be unreliable, it is unnerving as his colleagues question his judgement, his certainty, his reality. His Room. Is it there or isn’t it? And if Bjorn really is succeeding, what is it that’s causing this? It’s disorienting but also very funny. You can’t really sympathise with Bjorn. He’s not a likeable character but you do want to know what’s happening to him, you do want to find out what’s going on. I enjoyed Bjorn’s pompous descriptions of his colleagues, observing their faults and flaws, how they react to him (and how he fails to notice anything underlying their words and actions). The workplace itself is at once familiar and unknown. With a touch of a Big Brother ‘Authority’, it doesn’t come through on a promise of a dystopian workplace of automaton-efficient workers, but is also an office filled with Christmas tinsel and coffee breaks. It’s satire, but I wasn’t completely sure I understood what was being satirised. As Bjorn’s behaviour becomes more outrageous, whole-team meetings are squeezed into a small office as carefully-controlled and repressed tempers suddenly pop. These are funny scenes, as Bjorn’s reality and his co-workers are clearly completely different and he speaks some absolutely shockingly outrageous things to his superiors and colleagues. The concept is good, it would make quite a good stage play, with few sets and some interesting characters that you can already picture from Karlsson’s text. You question reality, you consider paranoia, perception and just what is inside the mind. More than once I changed my mind about Bjorn and about the Room. A good way to spend a couple of hours. Be aware that it is very short, so make sure you read it when the price is right. Review of a Netgalley advance copy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    201125: friends have asked me how do i pick books to read. like this. i have read it before and gave it five but no review, as it is a short short book which needs no excess, but had forgotten it until reading a gr review by my efriend blackoxford, which views the book through philosophical lens of solipsism. i had remembered only satirical, surreal, black humour. so i read it again... black is certainly on point in describing our protagonist as 'on the spectrum'. perhaps autism is psychological 201125: friends have asked me how do i pick books to read. like this. i have read it before and gave it five but no review, as it is a short short book which needs no excess, but had forgotten it until reading a gr review by my efriend blackoxford, which views the book through philosophical lens of solipsism. i had remembered only satirical, surreal, black humour. so i read it again... black is certainly on point in describing our protagonist as 'on the spectrum'. perhaps autism is psychological precursor to solipsism. perhaps imaginary 'the room' is best seen as metaphor for neural difference. i am now rather more disturbed by the radical affects of his solipsism, than simply amused, probably because a certain politician has refused reality and created his own alternate electoral victory. but this book predates that. and there is still great pleasure in comic inversion of placid 'realists' in power with the surprisingly talented 'odd one out'... from what little i have worked in an office, this seems satirical and exact and not far different from the movie 'office space'. there is little doubt Bjorn is not an appealing colleague. he is a strange, repelling mixture of arrogance, condescendence, narcissism, far from empathetic or generally sympathetic to others... but somehow he gets the work done and so his employers 'the authority' seem to want to keep him. even if it means moving him from section to section when he and co-workers do not see 'eye-to-eye'... but the key to this work is 'the room'. what is 'the room', why can he alone find it, even know it exists. is he mad or is he surrounded by madness or conspiracy. he quotes just enough nietzsche to make the argument maybe he is completely aware of what strategy he is doing and he is convinced of his superiority. on the other, by simple measurement he has convinced himself this is an architectural mystery. on the other, he stares at a little girl on the bus with mad intensity... the essential aspect of 'the room' is that it is his place to be alone, when the world somehow manages to penetrate his deliberate insensitivity, threatens his emotional equilibrium, but this is also the sadness underlying the comic. to be convinced of solipsism is to be very, very lonely... to see what no one else sees, to see 'the room', is to walk the razor's edge between genius and madness in the most comically horrific manner...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    What a way to start a new reading year! Bjorn works at "The Authority", having started his new job only two weeks before. He is a workaholic, trying to do his best to gain advantage over his colleagues. He is determined to gain ground fast - he has ambitions to be promoted as soon as possible. When he finds a vacant office (The Room) near the toilets, he finds a sanctuary that he is immediately attracted to. Here is a space where he won't be disturbed, a space that allows him to think freely wit What a way to start a new reading year! Bjorn works at "The Authority", having started his new job only two weeks before. He is a workaholic, trying to do his best to gain advantage over his colleagues. He is determined to gain ground fast - he has ambitions to be promoted as soon as possible. When he finds a vacant office (The Room) near the toilets, he finds a sanctuary that he is immediately attracted to. Here is a space where he won't be disturbed, a space that allows him to think freely with no distractions (like his co-worker's ugly jacket, or the inaccurate child's drawing pinned to another colleague's desk). There is only one problem - when Bjorn enters the room, his colleagues see him enter a catatonic state in which he stands, lifeless, staring at a wall. The room exists for nobody but Bjorn. Soon, his colleagues get tired of his "oddness". As they turn against him, Bjorn must utilise his room to help him get ahead of them. I loved this. LOVED IT. I haven't read any Kafka, so I can't tell you if the claims of being "Kafkaesque" are accurate, but this is just brilliant. I'm still not entirely sure if Bjorn was an honest voice as a storyteller - is he insane, or is he a genius? It came across to me almost as if Shutter Island had met Extras and had an affair. What IS "The Authority"?! Is it just a run-of-the mill office? Is Bjorn, in actual fact, the most intelligent person there? Or is he completely unhinged? There are moments of pure comedy - his description of the child's drawing is very funny, as is his assumption that one of his colleagues is on drugs. He is incredibly deadpan, and there were plenty of unintentionally funny moments. This is a quick, strange read (under 200 pages), but one I'll be recommending. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy - I'm just sorry I've left it so long to read!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    So, after thinking about this for a few hours and rating it a 3.5 for entertainment purposes, I thought I'd inch it up a half to a solid 4.0 due to its use of heavily relatable metaphor in regards to office employment. Many of us who work inside of an office building amongst peers, co-workers, acquaintances, a mixture of all three or one's you couldn't give a damn about can truly relate to this book in ways that Karlsson brings forth with each page. The cast of characters are hateful, dramatic, So, after thinking about this for a few hours and rating it a 3.5 for entertainment purposes, I thought I'd inch it up a half to a solid 4.0 due to its use of heavily relatable metaphor in regards to office employment. Many of us who work inside of an office building amongst peers, co-workers, acquaintances, a mixture of all three or one's you couldn't give a damn about can truly relate to this book in ways that Karlsson brings forth with each page. The cast of characters are hateful, dramatic, gossip-y, jealous, envious and back-stabbing. Bjorn's arrogant nature keeps him aloof of his co-workers, but that seems fine to him. He works better alone; his figurative Room is a place he can think and be efficient. No one can see the room, nor do they know it exists. "I suddenly felt how lonely it is, constantly finding yourself the only person who can see the truth in this gullible world." In my opinion, the Room signifies a place of calm, where any one of us can take a step inside our minds and work things out and be focused on an objective and then step out and be anew...and rid of that damn stress that people put on us. I've seen this mentioned as in the same vein as 'Office Space' or even 'The Office', but the only thing these two have in common with Karlsson's Room is the fact that the majority of the story takes place in an office. I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to screenwriters of movies and/or television writing fiction (can I say George Pelacanos, please?), but I must admit that even though this was a short, fast read, it left me engaged throughout. Good stuff.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marjolein

    3.5 stars Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com The Room is an intriguing short story about one central question. Does the room exist or not? The room itself isn't special, it's just a room like any other. The only weird thing is, Bjorn is the only one who seems to notice it. Also according to the calculations there shouldn't be a room. Is Bjorn crazy or is there more to it? Bjorn is a very unreliable narrator and has some quite peculiar views. Although the writing was very g 3.5 stars Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com The Room is an intriguing short story about one central question. Does the room exist or not? The room itself isn't special, it's just a room like any other. The only weird thing is, Bjorn is the only one who seems to notice it. Also according to the calculations there shouldn't be a room. Is Bjorn crazy or is there more to it? Bjorn is a very unreliable narrator and has some quite peculiar views. Although the writing was very good, this made me feel glad it was only a short story. I really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I would have been able to like it for another 200 pages. This length was also perfect for keeping the story interesting enough, as there isn't that much happening. I've never worked in an office, so I didn't feel the same recognition as I've read many people experienced reading this novel. Still, an interesting short read, and I would definitely read something else by Jonas Karlsson. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Following him in the first person, you start out thinking Bjorn is a pretty regular guy who is serious about his work and just a little full of himself. He gets transferred to a new job which isn't as good as his last but he's happy with it. (Later you wonder if his last coworkers were eager to get rid of him.) You realize quickly that he's very rude. Oh god he's so narcissistic ... Jesus Christ he's downright socially inept! And finally - oh wow he really is insane. This is a look into madness a Following him in the first person, you start out thinking Bjorn is a pretty regular guy who is serious about his work and just a little full of himself. He gets transferred to a new job which isn't as good as his last but he's happy with it. (Later you wonder if his last coworkers were eager to get rid of him.) You realize quickly that he's very rude. Oh god he's so narcissistic ... Jesus Christ he's downright socially inept! And finally - oh wow he really is insane. This is a look into madness and the effect it has on ordinary people in the workplace. At some point you might start to feel slightly nutty yourself. I have a serious love of the weird so this was right up my ally. It was a nice quick read that doesn't leave you bored for a second and I really enjoyed the Wes Anderson-esque sense of humor.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    This is one weird book, but weird in a good way. Who is the narrator? Is he reliable? Is he unreliable? What does he do for The Authority? What is The Authority? Does the room exist? Why did the narrator leave his former job? Is the narrator a model employee? Is the narrator an overbearing twit? These are all questions the book raises within the first few pages. These are all questions the book never answers. My main question is: When is Karlsson's next book coming out and how do I get on the waiti This is one weird book, but weird in a good way. Who is the narrator? Is he reliable? Is he unreliable? What does he do for The Authority? What is The Authority? Does the room exist? Why did the narrator leave his former job? Is the narrator a model employee? Is the narrator an overbearing twit? These are all questions the book raises within the first few pages. These are all questions the book never answers. My main question is: When is Karlsson's next book coming out and how do I get on the waiting list for it?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Reid

    I fucking hated this book. I try not to swear in my reviews as liberally as I do in real life, but this book makes me angry that I wasted 160 pages waiting to see if it got better. I expected something funny and interesting, in the form of "the 100 year old man", but what I got was like the Rosie Effect if the character was even less likeable and more delusional. Don't bother with this book. I would have given it 0/5 if I could have. I fucking hated this book. I try not to swear in my reviews as liberally as I do in real life, but this book makes me angry that I wasted 160 pages waiting to see if it got better. I expected something funny and interesting, in the form of "the 100 year old man", but what I got was like the Rosie Effect if the character was even less likeable and more delusional. Don't bother with this book. I would have given it 0/5 if I could have.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ebb

    Really enjoyable story. It's short but it definitely packs a lot of story within. I felt the main character to be quite unlikeable but psychologically interesting. His attitude and the way he sees the world was unique. I don't think I've seen a character quite like him before in any book I've read. Really enjoyable story. It's short but it definitely packs a lot of story within. I felt the main character to be quite unlikeable but psychologically interesting. His attitude and the way he sees the world was unique. I don't think I've seen a character quite like him before in any book I've read.

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