By Jonas Karlsson

After Jonas Karlsson’s literary debut in 2007, Swedish critics showered him with praise for having Paul Auster’s sense of relativity and Raymond Carver’s sharp eye for detail. In The Perfect Friend, Karlsson continues to dazzle with his minimalistic yet skillfully crafted stories, headed for the evocative and the surreal. Making us question our own perception of reality and bending the rules of honesty and deceit, Karlsson has created an ingenious collection of stories with literary weight. The Perfect Friend examines the classic theme of appearance vs reality, juxtaposing a variety of rather dull, everyday lives with bizarre encounters and misunderstandings.

First published by Wahlström & Widstrand, Sweden 2009

Sweden, Wahlström & Widstrand

The Perfect Friend shows an author who has set his mind on never repeating himself and somehow always surprising the reader. /…/ …Jonas Karlsson is skillfull. He is best in the novella ‘The Room‘, in which the narrator and the trouble he causes as an employee at a Swedish government office, continually slips out of the readers hands. You think you know where Karlsson is heading, but then he twists the story an additional few notches. He is also clever. /…/ A completely realistic story can slip into the fantastic and another can be just as predictable as you didn’t think it actually would be because that would have been far too… predictable. It is just this predictability that one comes across in the first two stories, so one initially thinks that one has pinned down Jonas Karlsson as a really good author, who may underestimate his readers. But then in comes ‘The Room as the third story and, after that, one is not so sure. A refreshing collection of stories, in other words.”
– Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

“The short stories in this good collection strengthen and question one another. /…/ The novella ‘The Room’ has the qualities of a masterpiece, where the narrator is a furiously meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a room that no one will acknowledge at the government office where he works.”
– Göteborgs-Posten, Sweden

“When Jonas Karlsson is at his best, he is disconcerting. /…/ The significance of Jonas Karlsson’s short stories are in their depictions of emptiness as an unnoticed movement, the curse of small changes.”
– Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden

“The owls are not what they seem. Agent Dale Cooper in David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ best describes the feeling in Jonas Karlsson’s second short story collection, The Perfect Friend. The novels move between reality and imagination and a couple of them are simply absurd, like the KafkaesqueThe Room’ or the Lynch-like story ‘Circus’.”
– Expressen, Sweden

“It’s a coincidence that looks like a thought that Jonas Karlsson right now performs Erland Josephson‘s part from ‘Scenes from a marriage’ at The Royal Dramatic Theatre. No Swedish actor has, since Erland Josephson, written as well as Jonas Karlsson does.”
– Helsingborgs Dagblad, Sweden

“Jonas Karlsson’s second short story collection, The Perfect Friend, is rich in ideas and innovation. Imagination, illusion, slapstick comedy and magic tricks are certainly not lacking in this playwright and esteemed actor. Futhermore, the composition itself with reoccuring characters in the different short stories is smart and disconcerting, as if the reader was confronted with a veiled novel.”
– Kristianstadsbladet, Sweden

“[The Perfect Friend] is a number of dexterously caught everyday annoyances. /…/ It is accurate, amusing and alarming. Quite simply good.”
– Öresunds-Posten, Sweden

“Jonas Karlsson’s second short story collection is a set of sharp-sighted stories about human shortcomings. /…/ Karlsson is brilliant in his descriptions of sweaty palms, wandering or ogling eyes, galloping hearts and words that get caught halfway. With his background as a playwright and parallel job as an actor, it’s not surprising that the dialogues excel. With accuracy and a lot of humor, he pinpoints linguistic nuances. That a sentence seldom has only one meaning becomes obvious in Karlsson’s twisted literary world.”
– Dalarnas Tidningar, Sweden

“When Jonas Karlsson takes his time and stretches the format it’s obvious that he is a gifted writer. He builds atmospheres. He accurately finds the tone. /…/ It’s nicely done and you read it with a crooked smile in your head. /…/ …it’s plainly and simply talented.”
– Arbetarbladet, Sweden

“Karlsson writes with a treacherous ease. /…/ It’s also a far cry from this decade’s insistance on realistic and exposing texts. This is storytelling, period. It doesn’t make it less important or moving. On the contrary. For anyone who feels the least bit discordant in life or just wants a good read, this book may well be the perfect friend.”
– Borås Tidning, Sweden

“With The Perfect Friend, Jonas Karlsson clearly demonstrates that he takes his authorship seriously.”
– Gefle Dagblad, Sweden

“[Jonas Karlsson] has a distinctive and personal address, a style that carries. It’s nonetheless the short stories’ everyday quality, their clearly realistic foundation in today’s Sweden and their starting point in interrelational problems that we all recognise, which is really convincing and which gives Jonas Karlsson’s stories their strength.”
– Ystads Allehanda, Sweden

“Now [Jonas Karlsson] has done it again, he’s written a very good short story collection.”
– Norrbottens-Kuriren, Sweden

The Ludvig Nordström Award, 2018