By Jonas Karlsson

Jonas Karlsson has with two short story collections to date ensured that the tradition of genuine Scandinavian short stories persists in contemporary literary fiction. With his third, highly anticipated, collection of stories, The Rules of the Game, Karlsson continues to entice and play with his readers’ expectations.

Karlsson’s technique is even more refined and tuned in on exquisite details that border on the surreal. Everyday life’s distortions are exposed, creating relentless misunderstandings. At the same time, Karlsson doesn’t hesitate to take things a step further, creating darker and more twisted outcomes from seemingly simple situations. Like, for example, the man who receives an invoice for 5,7 million kronor. Or the man who decides to become an actor since everyone thinks he is so “special” but is heckled by his audience. But perhaps it’s worst for the man who is forced to be a host animal for a group of unexpected and unwanted backslappers.

First published by Wahlström & Widstrand, Sweden 2011

Sweden, Wahlström & Widstrand

“Best of all is the deeply absurd story that bears the same name as the book. Here Karlsson’s almost musical sense of language, his originality, his humor and his sharp eye for our time and ourselves astonish me. Reading-candy. Shining brightly is also the longest piece in the collection, The Invoice, which pokes fun at a society where everything can be bought for money while we regard it as natural that just us, in our little corner of the world, are entitled to enjoy a lot of free privileges that people in other places and in other times not even dared dream about. /…/ Yet another lively, well-written collection of short stories that is also equipped with an elegant little narrative thread that connects the stories with one another.”
– Hallands-Posten, Sweden

“Direct and clear prose… Jonas Karlsson’s short stories enhance the experience of one’s reality.”
– Göteborgs-Posten, Sweden

“The curious thing about Jonas Karlsson’s short stories is that the protagonists are so pliable, so manageable. For as treacherous and capricious as life is in Karlsson’s best short stories, just as slyly and pleasurably they’re constructed. The reader is lulled into a sense of anticipation only to see the story give the middle finger at the next turn. And once a story is over, it suddenly greets you in the next. It is skillful and ceaselessly entertaining. In the serious way. Jonas Karlsson has for at least a decade and a half belonged to the acting elite in Sweden. I’m beginning to suspect that he is also in the process of penetrating the Parnassian.”
– Expressen, Sweden

“Dexterous and creative … Kafka’s presence become even clearer in the new collection The Rules of the Game. … [Jonas Karlsson] has good ideas, and the fact that they are reminiscent of other writers simply proves a meaningful intertextuality, and Jonas Karlsson demonstrates an exquisite sense of everyday absurdity.”
– Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden

“As usual, Karlsson’s writing is clean, assertive and smooth, always with the plot in focus. The exception is the title story, The Rules of the Game, that has a hysterical pace but which is almost the best one in the collection thanks to its sardonic, realistic humor that brightens up among all the existential acrobatics.”
– Sydsvenskan, Sweden

The Ludvig Nordström Award, 2018