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The Room
Cover of The Room
The Room
A Novel
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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. ...
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 cover 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.

  • 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."
  • Booklist
    "Karlsson deftly captures individual voices, which he conveys directly (as Björn reveals his obsessions) and indirectly (as Björn describes interactions with coworkers). Using Björn'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." --Publishers Weekly (starred)

    "A contemporary tale worthy of comparison to Franz Kafka's works, Amélie Nothomb's Fear and Trembling, and Herman Melville's classic 'Bartelby, the Scrivener,' while the antics of Björn'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." --Library Journal (starred)

    "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."
  • Kirkus
    "Provocative...Karlsson's deft jab at dead-end workplaces keeps you agreeably off-balance and eager for more of his work."
  • Göteborgsposten (Sweden)
    "A flawless novel that you will finish with a smile." --Knack (Netherlands)

    "Jonas Karlsson masterfully tells us about his main character's Kafkaesque adventure."
    --Panorama (Italy)

    "A Beckettian drama in an open plan office." --Il Giornale (Italy)

    "Sweden has its own Kafka in Jonas Karlsson." --DeMorgen (Netherlands)

    "Fascinating.... Every time you think you know where Bjorn is heading, he does or says something that tilts the whole story. Minimalism and surrealism, bundled in a short but powerful novel." --DeZondag (Netherlands)

    "The Room has the qualities of a masterpiece."

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