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Non 1001 Book Review: The Seducer Jan Kjaerstad

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The Seducer Jan Kjaerstad
Published: 1993
606 pages
Original Language: Norwegian
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★★★ ♥
Find it here: The Seducer: A Novel

Synopsis (from Amazon): Interludes of memory and fancy are mixed with a murder investigation in this panoramic vision of contemporary Norway. Jonas Wergeland, a successful TV producer and well-recognized ladies man, returns home to find his wife murdered and his life suddenly splayed open for all to see. As Jonas becomes a detective into his wife’s death, the reader also begins to investigate Jonas himself, and the road his life has taken to reach this point, asking How do the pieces of a life fit together? Do they fit together at all? The life Jonas has built begins to peel away like the layers of an onion, slowly growing smaller. His quest for the killer becomes a quest into himself, his past, and everything that has made him the man he seems to be. This bestselling Norwegian novel transports and transfixes readers who come along for the ride.

Review
The Seducer opens with Jonas Wergeland returning home to discover his wife’s dead body on the floor of their home. From that moment on, we are taken on a journey through Jonas’ life by an omniscient narrator who wishes to remain anonymous.

Jonas Wergeland is a Norwegian national treasure, a TV star and darling of the people. The narrator takes us back through his history in a non-chronological order to show how he arrived at the point the book opens. The narrative moves backwards and forwards in time because as the narrator tells us “Anyone wishing to understand Jonas Wergeland’s life will first have to dispense with the belief that the passage of time says anything about cause and effect”

This book has elements of magical realism. Jonas knows when he will love a woman by a tingling in his spine and shoulders. Every woman that he makes love to, transfers one of their unique powers to him that makes him a better and more accomplished individual.

The narrator tells us that Jonas has a magical penis, yep you read that right, a magical penis! He is a great lover and his penis suits every woman who experiences it (yes I really did just write that). Normally this kind of content in books would be enough to have me rolling my eyes and stop reading, however in this story these elements are an essential part of the narrative. They are not just there to titillate or repulse like some books I have read recently (Story of the Eye and Crash I am looking at you). The sex scenes are actually about love and sharing and they lead to Jonas growing as a person so I can forgive them.

This is a fantastic book and I really don’t think I can do it justice in a review even if I allowed myself to give away spoilers. I have finished the book and I am left with a happy glow a feeling caused solely by how much I loved this story. Parts of the book are almost written like a poem. There are a couple of sections where the narrator uses the term “you think” at the start of each new sentence and this repetition gives a rhythm to the narrative rather like the noise of a train coming down the tracks.

Overall, an unusual book that I recommend highly.

Here are some of my favourite quotes;

And standing there in that living room gazing at the map of the world covered in all those red pins, he struggled to grasp an idea which obviously, at the age he then was, he did not manage to formulate clearly in his mind, but which he would spend much of his life endeavouring to confirm: that every country contains the whole world. And that the whole world contains something of Norway”

“Sir William is not merely an uncle, Sir William is Norway, disguised in a blue blazer and gold cravat, a nouveau riche upstart”

“at this moment, which is to say the moment which I have chosen to form the hub of this spinning narrative in which I keep picking spokes at random, something which I can do because I know that all of the spokes run from the outer rim to the centre and that chronology is not the same as causality”

“This gave Jonas a desire to know more about the Hades of mythology and that, in turn, is how he stumbled upon the dog Cerberus. From the stars to Hell – but still only a short hop”

“I think what I am trying to say is that every human being could be said to be as much an accumulation of stories as of molecules. I am, in part all the things I have read over the years. They don’t leave me. They settle inside me like – how can I put it? – like sediment”

” and now you realize, now you know, you have known it ever since you were very young, that life can only be comprehended as a collection of stories”

“and finally, and first of all, and at the centre of it all: the story of the hub, because there is meaning to life, there are so many meanings to life that at least once on the journey from the cradle to the grave every human being will experience something that will move them to exclaim, quite spontaneously: Yes there has to be some meaning to life.”

Want to try it for yourself? Find it here: The Seducer: A Novel

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