Andrew Linkner has, I think, largely missed the point of the "sex scenes"'s predictability or episodic nature. Yes, they proceed in similar fashion; yes, the women featured in them appear and then disappear from the narrative. But KjŠrstad is very clear in why this should be so: the short chapters comprising the novel are intended to evoke the structure of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights as well as the epic poem; the sexual episodes echo a more compact narrative related to the protagonist (Jonas) as a youth by his eccentric aunt; they provide a contrast to the two females/women whom the protagonist truly loves, who stay with us throughout the entire novel; and they are some of the "parts" into which Jonas's life is split by his prism, which guides him from his childhood love to his adult love, from his childhood aimlessness to his fame-making television series (23 episodes, mirroring his 23 sexual experiences).
It is ironic that Andrew's criticism makes so much of the episodes' depicting sexuality in a juvenile fashion, considering that they occur primarily during Jonas's teenage and early adult years. The criticism is ironic, too, in that it suggests a moralistic discomfort with sexuality lampooned by KjŠrstad in the form of Jonas's cousin Veronika. Veronika struggles to reduce a complex, incomprehensibly beautiful world into simplistic, flat dichotomies that only nauseate Jonas. That anyone reading this novel could come away from it thinking it to be sex-obsessed nauseates me, a bit.
It is true that Jonas's appeal -- to his sexual partners, to the nation that adores him, to the narrator -- is mysterious and his motivations unexplained. But again these are part of the point in a novel that makes no firm commitment to causality or temporality. And, indeed, we are constantly asked, How do the pieces of a life fit together? How can we describe our lives as anything other than a series of disconnected stories (which is how the novel is structured)? One of Jonas's mentors reveals the infinite possibility of being human -- how do you bring that all to a point? And to be frustrated by the omniscient narrator's unresolved identity! KjŠrstad is toying with us here -- the narrator tells us directly that there are things being related to us the narrator would have no way of knowing. Let it be!
This is an exquisitely structured novel, full of beautiful moments, philosophical moments, moments that crack your head open and make you look at the world a different way. The chapters are very short, which makes the prose, which can be long-winded at times, much more bearable -- though by the end I scarcely noticed the long sentences any more. Take your time with this novel, let it seep into your brain, and the world around you will take on a deeper texture. It will make you a more patient person.