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2015 Books in Translation

The Room by Jonas Karlsson

The Room Translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith

Five words from the blurb: colleagues, different, fable, reality, office

The Room is a short, but entertaining fable about an office worker who discovers a room that no one else can see. Björn begins a new job at the “Authority” and when trying to find the toilet he accidentally walks into a strangely calming room. He becomes increasingly drawn towards it, discovering that he is easily able to perform complex tasks whilst there. The only problem is that his new colleagues are unable to see the room and become convinced that Björn is losing his mind.

“I passed the room twice that day. Once on my way to the toilet, and once when I tidied my desk and went to put two old journals in the recycling bin. I tried not to think about it. I did my best to imitate the others and pretend the room didn’t exist. It felt utterly ridiculous. Of course there’s a room there, I thought. After all, I can see it. I can touch it. I can feel it.

This book was very easy to read and managed to combine a satire of office politics with a surreal story that questions our perception of reality. I loved the way that the bizarre circumstances were made to feel completely normal and I felt great sympathy for those on both sides of the argument.

If you’ve ever worked in an office you’ll appreciate the humorous observations about working with people with whom you have nothing in common and if you enjoy Kafka’s books then I’m sure you’ll appreciate this modern equivalent of his style. Recommended to anyone looking for something a little different.

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The thoughts of other bloggers:

For something that sounds and appears so bare and simple it is a richly complex and refreshing read. The Literary Tree (warning this review contains spoilers)

The Room has the makings of a cult classic. Learn this Phrase

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this on my Books of the Year list come December. Me and My Big Mouth

Note: I couldn’t find any negative reviews of this book. I don’t know if that is because it has only just been published or because it is universally loved!

9 replies on “The Room by Jonas Karlsson”

Jenny, This one is especially good for those looking to try translated literature for the first time (I know that’s not you!) as it doesn’t feel translated. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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