Book Reviews

The Room by Jonas Karlsson



“Bjorn is a compulsive, exacting 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 coworkers 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 coworkers to try to have him fired, but Bjorn will turn the tables on them with help from his secret room.

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.” ~Goodreads


Bizarre and quirky are two adjectives that sum up this little book nicely. The Room by Jonas Karlsson is a mere 186 pages and the perfect read after a much heavier and lengthy novel such as A Little Life. It felt more like a short story with elements of magical realism, fantasy and psychology at play.

It reminded me of The Office and Office Space with the spot-on references and descriptions of working in an office milieu. The “know-it-all”, “the slacker”, “the suck-up”, “the over achiever”…all of those characters are present and Bjorn is an entirely different character himself. Is he mentally ill or are the entire office workers playing a mean trick on him? He waivers from delusional to coherent throughout the book and this is one of my favorite moments and quotes:

“On the other hand, it’s good to realize that we aren’t as remarkable as we might imagine. We want to earn a lot, eat well, and generally have a nice time. Listen to the radio sometimes or watch something on television. Read a book or a journal. We want to have good weather and be able to buy cheap food close to home.

In these terms we are all relatively simple creatures. We dream of finding a more or less pleasant partner, a summer cottage or a time-share on the Costa del Sol. Deep down we just want peace and quiet. A decent dose of easily digested entertainment now and then.

Anything more is just vain posturing.” p.115

It’s being labeled “Kafkaesque”. Having not read any Kafka myself, I had to look that up. According to The Collaborative International Dictionary of English, Kafkaesque is “often used to describe illogical bureaucratic entanglements with no reasonable solution.” The Room is that and also snarky, sharply observant, witty, strange and full of satire. I can definitely see this little book make it to the stage as a theatrical performance.

Karlsson is a Swedish actor and author and has a collection of short stories out. I believe The Room is his first contemporary novel translated and released in the US. I am eager to read more of his work. Check out this great little book!

4 thoughts on “The Room by Jonas Karlsson

  1. I finally got to reading this book, after your review put it on my radar. I liked it, mainly because it was so different. Not sure how to describe it. I’ve not read Kafka either. Room felt so … minimalistic and surreal. Maybe that’s what I liked it. I like simple things and strange worlds.

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