The Room – a book review

The Room – a book review

Title: The Room Author: Jonas Karlsson Publisher: Hogarth (2009, trans. 2015) Pages: 186 (not incl. discussion guide) ISBN: 978-0-8041-3998-4 Price: $11.17 (USD, Amazon.com) The Room is the absurd, slightly sad and intriguing tale of Björn, who finds a strange room in the office where he works. From the start, I suspected that Björn would be the sort of insufferable jerk that we’ve all had the misfortune to work with at some point or another. Björn was transferred from his previous work place for reasons never made entirely clear: It wasn’t my decision to move on. I was fairly happy at my last job and felt comfortable with the routines, but somehow I outgrew the position and ended up feeling that I was doing a job that was way below my abilities, and I have to admit that I didn’t always see eye to eye with my colleagues. It became clear very quickly that Björn was going to be a very unreliable narrator – after all, if he were really “happy” and “comfortable” in his job, it seems absurd that he’d suddenly “somehow” feel the work was beneath him. I can only assume that his old boss was all too happy to see him go and become someone else’s problem. By page 14, Björn cemented my dislike of him with his petty observations about his co-workers: Slowly but surely I built up profiles of my closest neighbours, their character and place in the hierarchy. Beyond Håkan [Björn’s desk mate] sat Ann. A woman somewhere around fifty. She seemed knowledgeable and ambitious, but also the sort of person who thought she knew everything and liked being proven right…Opposite Ann sat Jörgen. Big and strong, but doubtless not possessed of an intellect to match… In addition to his nasty little asides about his co-workers, there is the room – a strange puzzle of a place which increasingly becomes the focus of Björn’s working life (in good and bad ways) to the point of a being an obsession for him and his co-workers. At first, from the descriptions, it seems that the room is real and merely an unused office. But as a reader, I never felt absolutely certain of its existence because Björn had already established himself as a character I couldn’t trust. Later, when it turns out his colleagues can’t see the room at all – and see nothing more than Björn standing in the hallway even when he insists he’s in the room – you feel almost sure that the room isn’t there, but not enough to say so definitively because Björn is always so insistent that it does exist – and his insistence about the room’s existence is the only time his emotions seem...

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