By Jonas Karlsson

When do you cross the line for what is acceptable, normal behavior? In his finely tuned short story collection The Second Goal, Jonas Karlsson explores the thin line between the normal and the absurd in everyday life through placing a number of characters in situations in which they are forced to confront themselves or each other. Drawing on his solid experience as an actor for stage and screen, Karlsson displays an absolute pitch for the pauses that give meaning to dialogue. In a number of narrative gems that soon prove interrelated, the author delivers cryptic, twisted and humoristic reflections on what it is to be human in the company of others.

First published by Wahlström & Widstrand, Sweden 2007

Bulgaria, Roboread
Denmark, Tiderne Skifter
Germany, Pendo
North Macedonia, Tabernakul
Sweden, Wahlström & Widstrand

Film rights
Sweden, Chamdin & Stöhr

“You read some books the way you look at art or architecture: you can form an impression of the whole quickly, even though you know that there are a thousand details which they eye does not manage to catch – at least not the first time. This is very much the case with the Swedish actor – and now also writer – Jonas Karlsson’s lucid and complex short stories… /…/ The letter with the mysterious question and the encounter with the minister [are examples of things] that weave together people and events to the of the music of happenstance: music that rings beautifully, oddly, skewedly in Jonas Karlsson’s fascinating and puzzling short stories.”
– Weekendavisen, Denmark

“Jonas Karlsson has created a genuinely light prose form that you read with a smile on your lips – and with the somewhat naïve sense of wanting to know how it all fits together. /…/ Jonas Karlsson is no doubt an apt dramatist, and in addition his cool, toned-down prose works very well. … it is rare that you encounter truly smooth short story art of this kind. In fact, you recognize Karlsson’s acting art – the whole tone is simply genuinely believable, no matter how incredible the story may seem.”
– Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

“A highly interesting debut… In its strongest moments, it in parts reminds you of Raymond Carver or an early Stig Larsson: there is a similar sense of detail and an ability to charge the unimportant unto the limit where it will burst.”
– Expressen, Sweden

“While reading Jonas Karlsson’s debut collection The Second Goal, I am filled with joy at how ingeniously the stories are connected. /…/ Karlsson’s prose is austere and fastidious. You can tell he is a dramatist, in each of the short stories as well as in the construction of the entire collection. /…/ The dialog is to a T. /…/ What makes The Second Goal a convincing debut is the playful form and the sense of humor.”
– Sydsvenskan, Sweden

“The combination of realism and unrestrained literary fiction from time to time has the book feeling like The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, re-created by Jonas Gardell. The Second Goal is an ingenious collection of texts.”
– Vestmanlands Läns Tidning, Sweden

“Misunderstandings and chance events in a Paul Auster like way prove to follow a hidden, mysterious pattern and reality starts rocking under your feet. /…/ It is clever, well written and confidently done stylistically. /…/ The short stories have an elegant and a clean structure, with an almost anachronistic feel in their faith in the ingenuity of the short story format.”
– Fokus, Sweden

“The short stories of Jonas Karlsson are often very funny, without becoming droll. The writer is poignant in his observations and in a liberating way low-voiced and soft in his prose, which is also full of well-put observations. /…/ human, humoristic and thought provoking at the same time. /…/ These shorts stories are a wonderful read… /…/ Almost all of the short stories have a twist or a surprise, and there are Paul Auster like characteristics.”
– Arbetarbladet, Sweden

“Promising writer debut by Karlsson. It is a fastidious and minimalist constellation that no doubt fascinates and entertains. /…/ It is very post-modern. And if you, like me, like Paul Auster, chances are you will like Jonas Karlsson. There are quite a few similarities and many of the classic style features: coincidences are tied together, truths are dislodged and you are left with the sense that nothing is absolute.”
– Västerbottens Folkblad, Sweden

“Jonas Karlsson writes subtly, energetically, rhythmically, with many nuances and with attention to every detail. … I [hear] the skilled actor’s voice and breathing and feel his pulse in each of the eighteen short masterpieces.”
– Västerbottens-Kuriren, Sweden

“It does not take more than that to create a literary fiction, and Karlsson does it with a self-assurance and a confidence that is charming, entertaining and, not least as a debutant, impressive. … it is short story art with an ease and a playfulness that is unusual in the often heavy-footed contemporary literature. Jonas Karlsson adds to it a dimension that seems to be unique to him /…/ It is a joy to read such a debutant.”
– Sundsvalls Tidning, Sweden

“Karlsson writes simply and with a sensitive ear. He uses an observant, almost somnambulistic tone of voice, a style that easily and smoothly glides along; in the same way that the language hovers, we hover with it into something peculiar and twisted in this everyday existence and normalcy. But Karlsson narrates so carefully and in such a toned-down way that we do not really notice how we end up there, in the absurd. /…./ Much is dialog or revolves around dialog. Somebody said that an actor acts in the pauses, in that which is between the words; that is where you find your expressions. Karlsson is an actor and I think something similar goes for these short stories: the he uses the openings and spaces of the text, exploring voices and conversations as though he were inside the dialog and heard something else and more, all that which is between the words and which we normally are not conscious of.”
– NSD, Sweden

“He is a deft prose stylist with a sense of rhythm. He avoids decorative adjectives and imagery. /…/ As an actor, he knows that human communication to a large extent is non-verbal – and chooses to interpret. /…/ Playful, shrewd, talented! – not a bad mark for a debutant.”
– Eskilstuna-Kuriren, Sweden

“…Karlsson has written a suggestive, somewhat surrealistic and highly interesting book. The simplicity of the narrative makes the story direct but also somehow cunning, and the palimpsest structure gives you the feeling that a puzzle is about to be completed, a mystery solved. It is captivating from beginning to end.”
– Borås Tidning, Sweden

The Ludvig Nordström Award, 2018