Saturday, October 24, 2009

A question about Jan Kjaerstad

There was a review by By Tom Shone in yesterday's New York Times of Jan Kjaerstad’s novel The Discoverer. The review makes the novel, and the whole "Jonas Wergeland" trilogy by the Norwegian author, sound awful, though the review is actually quite funny in a snarky way (the reviewer takes a shot at Salman Rushdie, suggesting he's allergic to postmodernist shenanigans). For instance, Shone claims that Kjaerstad intends to do for Norway what Joyce did for Ireland, but instead achieves "more like 1,500 pages of air guitar in a neo-Nietzschean vein." The Kjaerstad books aren't exactly crime fiction, according to what I've heard, but have a crime plot at their center. I hadn't gotten them because the blurbs made the books sound a bit ponderous--but the review makes them sound beyond ponderous into the realm of pomposity, regarding the self-importance of the main character and his “magic penis." Check out the review here please, and let us know what you think--those of you who have in fact read (or tried to read) Kjaerstad in translation or in the original Norwegian, as well as what you think of snarky (if funny) reviews.


Maxine Clarke said...

I think I've seen the covers of these posted at Skandilit (Thomas)- might be worth seeing if he has read them or knows more details of them?

Jon said...

Just read the first two in the trilogy, and have ordered the third.

I tend to read several books at a time, but had to put the rest down to focus on Kjaerstad's.

His prose grabbed me right away. Witty. Intelligent. Layered with gems from philosophy, but in a subtle way. The more I read, the more absorbed I became. I enjoyed the strange twists and turns in his sentences, and how the collection of stories that is each book meshes together. How he uses metaphors he's laid the foundation for in earlier stories. Each book had a magical effect on me. Even his use of cliches seems to work, going against common writing conventions.

Ponderous? No. Unless you're the kind of person who thinks War and Peace is ponderous.

Shaun Attwood