By Jonas Karlsson

In The Room, we encounter a compulsively meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a secret room – that no one else will acknowledge – at the government office where he works. The narrator is a control freak with delusions of grandeur and an insatiable lust for power. He confronts his colleagues in various ways, creating a position from where he can exert insidious influence on his surroundings. A room which the man regularly escapes to becomes a symbol of conflict: between the man and his colleagues and between their different perceptions of reality. Because the room only exists in his disturbed imagination.

In The Room, Jonas Karlsson dazzles with his minimalistic and skillfully crafted story, with evocative elements of the surreal. A sharp depiction of everyday life laced with bizarre encounters and misunderstandings, The Room examines the classic theme of appearance versus reality.

First published by Wahlström & Widstrand, Sweden 2009

China, Shanghai 99 (Simplified Chinese)
Czechia, Zlin
France, Actes Sud
Germany, Luchterhand
Korea, Prunsoop
Netherlands, Signatuur
North Macedonia, Begemot
Romania, RAO
Spain, Salamandra (World Spanish)
Sweden, Wahlström & Widstrand
UK, Hogarth
US, Hogarth

Film rights
US, Anonymous Content

“A gripping, tense, demonic fable in which the unease is precision-tooled and the turns of the screw wholly unexpected.”
–Neel Mukherjee

The Room is the most effective chapbook on workplace comportment since Glengarry Glen Ross. Hats off!”
–Nick Offerman

“Bjorn, the first-person narrator of Jonas Karlsson’s surprisingly zippy novel about office administration, has no life outside of work /…/ His prose is essentially cv-speak, a pitch-perfect mixture of jargon and cliché: I was full of enthusiasm and a desire to make a platform for myself to show what I was capable of from the start. But he is also interesting company for the reader: insufferable, excruciating, at times endearing – but never boring. /…/ This is a very funny book about a magical room, but it is also familiar, humane story about alienation and intolerance, set during a bleak Swedish winter.”
– The Times, UK

“Provocative … Karlsson’s deft jab at dead-end workplaces keeps you agreeably off-balance and eager for more of his work.”
– Kirkus Reviews, US

“Part psychological drama documenting a disturbed man’s possible descent into madness and part satirical take on corporate culture and the alienated workers it produces, Karlsson succeeds admirably in creating the perfect combination of funny, surreal and disturbing.”
– Booklist, US

“This debut novel by Swedish playwright and actor Karlsson is a contemporary tale worthy of comparison to Franz Kafka’s works, Amélie Nothomb’s Fear and Trembling, and Herman Melville’s classic “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, while the antics of Bjorn’s fellow workers recall Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil. Enjoyable reading, extremely well executed, this fable should become mandatory reading for cubicle and office workers everywhere.”
– Library Journal, US

“Jonas Karlsson makes the most of his Kafkaesque premise and manages to make you sympathize with the (insane?) Björn and his crusade against the dull piles of paperwork. A flawless novella that you will finish with a smile.”
– Knack, Netherlands

“Witty, clever, quite possibly brilliant, the only complaint you could level at this book is it’s too short!”
– The Sunday Sport, UK

“The novel works both as a glorious satire of the modern workplace and as a psychological drama played through the eyes of Bjorn, a pedantic and thoroughly unreliable narrator. As entertaining as it is disturbing to be in his mind, I was both intrigued and entertained.”
– Daily Mail, UK

“A clever psychological thriller, The Room creates an intense mood that remains unbroken throughout. /…/ No surprise then that this strange Scandinavian novel has been compared to the work of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett. Those are ambitious claims but The Room deftly creates an intense mood that remains unbroken for the short, enjoyable period this novella takes to read. Jonas Karlsson is a prominent Swedish actor turned novelist, and his prose is typically Scandinavian in its brisk, fuss-free precision. The discipline in the writing makes this wry, clever psychological thriller all the more unsettling./…/ It’s a brilliant nightmare with a terrific ending. If that doesn’t draw you in, know this; Nick Offerman, aka Parks & Recreation’s Ron Swanson, loved this book.”
– The Big Issue, UK

Jonas Karlsson is best in 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”
– Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

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

“A Beckettian drama in an open plan office”
– Il Giornale, Italy

The Room is partly disturbing, partially very funny … Jonas Karlsson masterfully tells us about his main character’s Kafkaesque adventure”
– Panorama, Italy

“This foreign main character is actually completely unfit to be the narrator of this Kafkaesque story – after all, he constantly deceives you with his bizarre interpretation of events. At the same time it is just that which makes the book so fascinating. … Every time you think you know where Bjorn is heading, he does or says something that tilts the whole story. Minimalism and surrealism, bundled in a short but powerful novel by Jonas Karlsson, one of Sweden’s most successful authors of the moment.”
– DeZondag, Netherlands

“Sweden has its own Kafka in Jonas Karlsson. … The Room is a contemporary version of The Trial by Franz Kafka: the same alienating and disruptive bureaucratic environment and the same hopeless struggle of the individual in the large, historically evolved system”
– DeMorgen, Netherlands

“Karlsson deftly captures individual voices, which he conveys directly (as Bjorn reveals his obsessions) and indirectly (as Bjorn describes interactions with coworkers). Using Bjorn’s voice to draw characters and build dramatic tension, Karlsson exposes the gifts and gaffes, visions and delusions, and the rise and fall of a seemingly ordinary civil servant.”
– Publishers Weekly, US

“The daily grind got you down? Escape into this Swedish dark comedy about a scaldingly contemptuous office drone who discovers a secret room in his workplace. The only problem: It might not exist.”
– O Magazine, US

“Kafka meets The Office in this hilarious and chilling Swedish fable of workplace politics.”
– Irish Times, Ireland

“A brief but brilliant tale.”
– Financial Times, UK

“An office outsider discovers a mysterious place of refuge in this odd but fascinating fable /…/ Bjorn emerges as a kind of workaholic Bartleby, the inverse of Melville’s famous naysayer, a fugitive being, perplexing and perplexed, unable to explain himself, incapable of feeling at ease in the world, and destined to be alone. He is also, in the best tradition, an utterly unreliable narrator. /…/ If you read only one novel by a famous Swedish actor translated into English this year, make it The Room.”
– The Guardian, UK

“Jonas Karlsson’s surreal, funny and unsettling new novel, The Room, features Bjorn, an ambitious but socially awkward man whose colleagues turn on him. /…/ In Karlsson’s world, no one is quite ready for the imagination through which his oddball protagonist is trying to liberate his desk-job. It’s strangely uplifting to read office ennui fiction, at a time when winter darkness surrounds us. Bartleby and Bjorn are our white-collar heroes, ready to give their lives to the cause. Long may they live, in fictional offices and otherwise.”
– The Independent, UK

“The parallel realities experienced by Bjorn and his colleagues, and the high-strung nature of his interior drama, are sketched with exquisite subtlety in deceptively simple language, and Neil Smith’s translation from the Swedish is pitch perfect. The Room simultaneously approaches claustrophobia in its physical scope and achieves boundless significance. Karlsson’s prose and the inventiveness of Bjorn’s surreal mental workings are often funny; indeed, the humor comes in moments of breathless surprise that amplify its effect. This story will, of course, strike comic chords with the cube-dwelling set. But the overall impact is also deeply thought-provoking and profoundly disquieting, and the combination of the banal and the absurd results in a striking and singular read. The Room is a very slim book with a very large footprint, recalling Kafka and Beckett, and posing questions about the nature of truth as well as the value of defining one’s own work and life. As the reader interprets Bjorn’s world and social cues, doubts are cast on his belief in his own superiority. But the drama persists until the final, bizarre conclusion.”
– Shelf Awareness, US

“Karlsson’s manipulation of the reader is so clever /…/ and great credit to translator Neil Smith for finding such a disconnected, flat, almost robotic tone. /…/ The Room‘s brevity is a virtue.”
– The Observer, UK

“A concise but exhilarating new novel /…/ There are certain passages here that reflect the sterile nature of office life so well I frantically began imagining, momentarily, that I was back working as a highly inefficient bureaucrat in credit-card collections. Karlsson’s narrative from the very first page immediately draws the reader into this confusing and chaotic world of corporatocracy./…/ we can see echoes of Kafka’s two novels, The Trial and The Castle. Clerical work thus functions as a form of institutionalism, totalitarianism and social-control. And Björn, who sees almost all conversations with other humans as a complete waste of time — and everyone he encounters in society as a phony — has a touch of J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield about him./…/ The Room adds another meaningful and insightful contribution to this literary genre one might label “office literature.””
– Toronto Star, Canada

“Karlsson skillfully sets up a series of rapid-fire ­vignettes that could easily be staged (the point perhaps?), masterfully playing on the common threads of office life and reminding his readers that power in any setting accrues rapidly to the employee who generates the most revenue and profits, regardless of quite how that gets done.”
– New York Times, US

“Reads as if Kafka had risen from postmodernism and written a Swedish crime novel. The Room is artful, intense, grim, and captivating.”
– Die Zeit, Germany

The Room is a great office thriller”
– Rbb Kulturradio, Germany

“[The Room] has its readers spellbound from page one. It is surreal, yet strangely real.”
– B5 aktuell, Germany

“Its slimness doesn’t make [The Room] any less exciting: to read it is a great pleasure”
– WDR 5, Germany