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The Room
Cover of The Room
The Room
A Novel
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. ...
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. ...
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Description-

  • 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 and 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.

Excerpts-

  • From the book 1.

    The first time I walked into the room I turned back almost at once. I was actually trying to find the toilet but got the wrong door. A musty smell hit me when I opened the door, but I don't remember thinking much about it. I hadn't actually noticed there was anything at all along this corridor leading to the lifts, apart from the toilets. Oh, I thought. A room.

    I opened the door, then shut it. No more than that.



    2.

    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.

    I had gotten used to being one of the leaders in my last job. Not a boss, or even a team manager, but someone who could sometimes show other people what to do. Not always liked, not a sycophant or a yes-man, but well regarded and treated with a certain respect, possibly even admiration. Ever so slightly ingratiating, perhaps? I was determined to build up the same position at my new place of work as soon as I could.

    It wasn't really 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.

    Eventually my former boss came and put his arm round my shoulders and told me it was time to look for a better solution. He wondered if it wasn't time for me to make a move? Move on, as he put it, gesturing upward with his hand to indicate my career trajectory. Together we went through various alternatives.

    After a period of consideration and reflection I decided, in consultation with my former boss, upon the big new Authority, and after a certain amount of discussion with them it turned out that a transfer could be arranged without any great difficulty. The union agreed to it, and didn't put the brakes on like they so often do. My former boss and I celebrated with a glass of nonalcoholic cider in his office, and he wished me good luck.

    The same day the first snow fell on Stockholm, I carried my boxes up the flight of steps and into the entrance of the large, redbrick building. The woman in reception smiled. I liked her at once. There was something about her manner. I knew straightaway that I had come to the right place. I straightened my back as the words "man of the future" ran through my head. A chance, I thought. Finally I would be able to blossom to my full potential. Become the person I've always wanted to be.

    The new job was no better paid. Quite the opposite, in fact, it was actually slightly worse in terms of perks like flextime and vacation. And I was forced to share a desk in the middle of an open-plan office with no screens. In spite of this, I was full of enthusiasm and a desire to make a personal platform for myself and show what I was capable of from the start.

    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 socializing along the way. I requested and took home files documenting previous policy decisions so as to be able to study which phrases recurred, and formed the basic vocabulary, so to speak. I spent evenings and weekends studying various structures and investigating the informal communication networks that existed within the department.

    All this so that I could quickly and efficiently catch up and create a small but decisive...

About the Author-

  • JONAS KARLSSON writes plays and short fiction. One of Sweden's most prominent actors, Karlsson has performed on Sweden's premier stage and in several acclaimed feature films and television series. In 2005, Karlsson made his debut as a playwright, earning rave reviews from audience and critics alike. Spurred by the joy of writing for the stage, Karlsson began writing fiction.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 15, 2014
    Swedish actor and playwright Karlsson’s short novel offers a monologue that builds from simple office satire to a reality-bending psychological profile with insights into the nature and importance of personal space. Bjorn, a Stockholm bureaucrat, is a meticulous but unreliable narrator whose sense of superiority comes in conflict with the facts. When his boss eases him into another job, a demotion in several ways, Bjorn sees it as his chance to blossom into his full potential, which unfolds in a series of short, often humorous, and increasingly disturbing narratives. Bjorn begins the new job by organizing his days into 55-minute intervals with five-minute breaks. During one such break, he sees a door. When he steps inside, he finds a small, tidy, unused office. The problem with this room is no one else sees it—and it’s not the only thing Bjorn sees that others do not. In the receptionist’s smile Bjorn sees an invitation; in his desk-mate’s pile of papers he sees encroachment; in his coworkers’ denial of the room he sees conspiracy. Bjorn visits a psychiatrist, promises to never reenter the room, and meanwhile devises a strategy to defeat his adversaries. Karlsson deftly captures individual voices, which he conveys directly (as Bjorn reveals his obsessions) and indirectly (as Bjorn describes interactions with coworkers). Using Bjorn’s voice to draw characters and build dramatic tension, Karlsson exposes the gifts and gaffes, visions and delusions, and the rise and fall of a seemingly ordinary civil servant.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2014
    Could a banal office act as an incubator of madness? That's the question posed in this provocative fictional debut by a prominent Swedish actor.The Authority is a government department in Stockholm. Its purpose is obscure; its days may be numbered. The unreliable narrator, Bjorn, starts work there after being eased out of another civil service job. He's a loner who sees himself competing against the other paper-pushers, rebuffing help from a co-worker. Bjorn discovers the titular room early on. Its door is next to the toilets. It has standard office equipment and is apparently unused. The room gives him energy, but does it really exist? Where he sees a door, his colleagues just see a wall and are disturbed by his standing motionless against it for minutes on end. Karl, the weak-willed boss, calls a meeting at which the staff sound off. Bjorn doesn't give an inch. He's as intractable as Melville's Bartleby, but while that tragic lost soul aroused compassion, Bjorn alienates the "little people" with his haughty defiance, though he allows that "I am prepared to forgive you." Karlsson laces his narrator's megalomania with hints that stultifying work and an acquiescent office culture can drive a person to extremes. The twist comes when Bjorn steals a co-worker's project and does a vastly better job with it. Suddenly he's hot! His expertise, which he insists on attributing to the "room," attracts the attention of the Authority's director. Should Bjorn be allowed to indulge his obsession? Karl, the hapless bureaucrat, tries to make folks happy with the formula "the room does not exist for everyone." Nobody is appeased; the director must decide; Bjorn's fate hangs in the balance. Karlsson's deft jab at dead-end workplaces keeps you agreeably off-balance and eager for more of his work.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from November 15, 2014

    The "room" in question is visible only to Bjorn, a new employee at a government building known as the "Authority." It is a small space located near the restrooms, neat and tidy yet equipped with everything he needs to do his work, and he seeks refuge there from the constant and severe scrutiny of his coworkers. After several files are accidentally placed on his desk, he voluntarily writes "templates for all future framework decisions in the communal sector." Surprising everyone with his talent for creating these excellent templates, he is now regarded by his boss as an invaluable employee and no longer spends his time adding paper to the copiers and similar mundane tasks. VERDICT This debut novel by Swedish playwright and actor Karlsson is a contemporary tale worthy of comparison to Franz Kafka's works, Amelie Nothomb's Fear and Trembling, and Herman Melville's classic "Bartelby, the Scrivener," while the antics of Bjorn's fellow workers recall Terry Gilliam's film Brazil. Enjoyable reading, extremely well executed, this fable should become mandatory reading for cubicle and office workers everywhere.--Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    December 15, 2014
    Vaguely reminiscent of Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener, this tale of workplace alienation is narrated by Bjrn, a low-level bureaucrat recently hired to work at the Authority. While the exact nature of the Authority's work is unclear, the environment seems to breed mediocrity and complacency. Hoping to shake things up and exhibiting odd, obsessive behavior, Bjrn immediately irritates and offends his coworkers. Shortly after arriving at the Authority, he finds a secret room down a long corridor, outfitted with a neat desk and mirror. Once in the room, he becomes a new manconfident, relaxed, productive, and even virile. However, no one else in the office will acknowledge the room's existence and soon Bjrn's perceived antics produce chaos and strife in the workplace. The reader is left to wonder whose version of reality is correct. Part psychological drama documenting a disturbed man's possible descent into madness and part satirical take on corporate culture and the alienated workers it produces, Karlsson succeeds admirably in creating the perfect combination of funny, surreal, and disturbing. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

  • Publishers Weekly (starred review)
    "Swedish actor and playwright Karlsson's short novel offers a monologue that builds from simple office satire to a reality-bending psychological profile with insights into the nature and importance of personal space."
  • Nick Offerman, author of Paddle Your Own Canoe "The Room is the most effective chapbook on workplace comportment since Glengarry Glen Ross. Hats off!"
  • Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others "A gripping, tense, demonic fable in which the unease is precision-tooled and the turns of the screw wholly unexpected."
  • O, the Oprah Magazine, Ten Titles to Pick Up Now "The daily grind got you down? Escape into this Swedish dark comedy about a scaldingly contemptuous office drone who discovers a secret room in his workplace."
  • Independent.co.uk "Surreal, funny and unsettling."
  • Guardian "Thoroughly enjoyable."
  • Times of London "Hilarious and chilling."
  • Booklist "Provocative...Karlsson's deft jab at dead-end workplaces keeps you agreeably off-balance and eager for more of his work."
  • Kirkus "Brilliant."

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