Summary and book reviews of The Room by Jonas Karlsson

The Room

by Jonas Karlsson

The Room by Jonas Karlsson X
The Room by Jonas Karlsson
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2015, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What were your first impressions of Björn? Do you think the author intends for us to like him? Is it important to like the protagonist of a story?

  2. The Room has been compared to the film Office Space, NBC's The Office, and Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End. How does The Room portray office life?

  3. According to Björn, "Inhibited people don't see the world the way it really is. They only see what they themselves want to see." What does Björn perceive that others don't?

  4. Indoor shoes and shoe covers, caviar for breakfast. How did the foreign setting affect your interpretation of the story and characters?

  5. Björn makes several references to music and movies during his time alone. What was the effect ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A distinct sense of humor and playfulness underlies the plot but doesn’t sacrifice the novel’s depth. Swedish playwright (and now novelist) Jonas Karlsson has delivered a delightfully eerie debut that will keep a smile on your face as you burn through the pages...continued

Full Review (685 words).

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(Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).

Media Reviews

Booklist
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 Reviews
Provocative…Karlsson's deft jab at dead-end workplaces keeps you agreeably off-balance and eager for more of his work.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Enjoyable reading, extremely well executed, this fable should become mandatory reading for cubicle and office workers everywhere.

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

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

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

Knack (Netherlands)
A flawless novel that you will finish with a smile.

DeZondag (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.

Göteborgsposten (Sweden)
The Room has the qualities of a masterpiece.

Author Blurb Nick Offerman, author of Paddle Your Own Canoe
The Room is the most effective chapbook on workplace comportment since Glengarry Glen Ross. Hats off!

Author Blurb 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.

Reader Reviews

AmberBug @ ShelfNotes

The Room
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. Bjorn, the main character, is completely on the spectrum and the reader is fully aware of...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Office Fiction

DilbertPeople today seem to spend more time at work than ever before. So why is it that once we've gotten home, kicked off our uncomfortable shoes and loosened our ties, we relax by watching The Office, Mad Men, or cult classic Office Space, read books like Jonas Karlsson's The Room or even comics such as Dilbert?

Perhaps it's because we can relate to the inane antics of the average office, and because the use of satire is therapeutic. Maybe it makes us feel better to watch fictional characters say or do things that could get us fired. Or possibly - as this article in The Guardian suggests - it's because "anywhere is more interesting than your office, even if it's just someone else's office." Whatever the reason, fiction set in the workplace ...

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