A central character with no history or context beyond his working life. A focus on office life that fails to clarify the purpose of the work undertaken. An enigma that is never completely resolved. A plain understated style. From a lesser writer, this might make for a frustrating read. But from actor, playwright and short story writer Jonas Karlsson, and translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith, The Room is a marvellous Kafkaesque fable about office politics, diversity and differing versions of reality. Published early last year by Hogarth press, to whom thanks for my review copy, it’s short enough to gobble up in a single evening, and intriguing enough to keep coming back to, my only regret is not picking it up earlier. Evidence that surreal can be highly accessible, and that humour can inspire deep reflection, The Room is an absolute gem.
Considered an allegory of the rise and fall of apartheid when it first appeared in 1993, The Folly is relevant to any situation in which different cultures meet and one takes advantage of the others good nature. In its focus on seductive illusions, it has parallels with the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I received my copy of Ivan Vladislavić’s debut novel from the UK publishers, And Other Stories. Thanks so much for an unusual and enjoyable read.