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The Seducer: A Novel Paperback – Jun 26 2007

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Cyber Monday Deals Week in Books
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 612 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; 1 edition (June 26 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585678686
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585678686
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 4.4 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #247,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'A magnum opus that can take one's breath away, a work so rich and heterogeneous that its like can hardly be found in recent Norwegian literature' - Dagbladet --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jan Kjærstad was the recipient of the Nordic Prize for Literature in 2001. He was also awarded Germany's Henrik Steffer Prize for Scandinavians who have significantly enriched Europe's artistic and intellectual life, as well as the Norwegian Literary Critics Prize and the Aschehoug Prize.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a difficult book to review. Narratively, descriptively and prosaically, it is a very well written book and the translator deserves the highest of praise. For anyone wanting to immerse him/herself into the personae of accomplished Norwegians and the historicity of Norwegian institutions and culture, it can offer an a la carte menu of trivia. For those attracted to passive male, active female sexuality it could be a collector's item. For those beguiled by exotic adventures in alien environs it can offer twists and turns with the hero being reliably, or accidentally competent.

This book can be a nauseating ride. The chapters do not follow a timeline. It's often two steps forward, four back, or five forward, eight back. The anonymous third person biographer runs in circles around his/her subject Jonas Wergeland, examining his life from every obscure angle, geographic location and instant in time. This work is camouflaged as a murder mystery but for me its stream of consciousness style completely distracts the plot. Kjaerstad revels excessively in his verbose cleverness. He may be a genius to some but I found his style and artifice too eccentric.

In substance this book can be like a chopped liver fricassee stewed in vanilla custard--incoherently unpalatable. Due to my Norwegian ethnicity I clung on stubbornly to attempt digesting it as it was ingested chapter by chapter. But more and more I felt like a bewildered mouse in a maze being gloated over by a smirking feline Kjaerstad ready to pounce. I finally got my respite by cutting short my consumption ninety pages from the end! Hopefully the erotic cover and title will attract a buyer at our next yard sale.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Infinite Possibility April 29 2007
By Jed P. Sonstroem - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Constructed as the biography of Jonas Wergeland, Norway's very popular TV documentary producer, the novel begins with a strange Publisher's Forward that explains that the biographer remains anonymous. Written in the first person by an author who knows more about Wergeland than Wergeland himself, the enigmatic author tells an enigmatic story. Non-linear in form, the biographer relates the story telling to a bicycle wheel, a story told as a "spinning narrative in which I keep picking spokes at random, which is something which I can do because I know that all of the spokes run from the outer rim to the centre and that chronology is not the same as causality." Cause and effect magically become effect generating its own cause.

The story begins with Wergeland coming home to find his wife, Margrete, murdered. But this is most certainly not a murder mystery. Instead, it's a story about storytelling itself, the possibilities of life, and the reader`s own imagination. Wergeland is the both subject and of the story and the teller to Norwegians of stories about world-famous Norwegians. He is the seducer of women and of a nation, and I, for one, have also been seduced. Like a rug described in the book, The Seducer presents a world of infinite possibility.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TV Producer Highest On The Food Chain in Olso? Nov. 17 2009
By Joel Graber - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
606-page purported psychohistory of a Norwegian pop intellectual, a producer of entertainment documentaries for NRK, extolled as a big fish in a small pond, but impliedly deserving of global adulation. One is incessantly reminded that our hero is destined from an early age to seduce not only this small, wealthy, complacent nation but certain predictably remarkable and singular (and needless to say beautiful and libidinous) Norwegian women, and that he does so effortlessly, often inadvertently, as though gifted by an obscure Norse goddess. Indeed, Kjaerstad's claims for his brilliance notwithstanding, the seductive producer seems to drift through life, as one reviewer said, Tom Jones-style, continually baffled and awed by his next wacky experience, rife in this ponderous tome, which is not PoMo simply because constructed almost entirely of flashbacks, many or most of which entail the cheap titillation of teen and even pre-teen sex. Furthermore, a female reader might well wonder what is supposed to be so interesting and attractive about this guy? The author isn't sure himself so imbues his subject with magic. Which represents, some women might say (you'll have to ask them), male fantasy, and adolescent besides.

At the opening, and at the conclusion, the seducer's spouse, a socialized-medicine physician, the love of his life, is shot to death in the living room in Olso's version of a villa, but a police procedural this is not, nor a treatment of violence a tenth as compelling as what Steig Larsson later conjured. There's no ending, though, to "give away" in this review.

Finally, it should be noted the story is related by an anonymous narrator in an old-fashioned "dear reader" style that may not be to everyone's taste, unless one has plowed through such things as Tristram Shandy, and the identity of the omniscient psychohistorian is also not satisfactorily resolved.

Overall, the novel is far too expansive, and pretentious, and long, effectively to convey the tight angst of even the semi-intellectuals of those chilly environs.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
What is the most crucial story in your life? Aug. 6 2010
By jdh - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Is this the most crucial story in Jonas Wergeland's life?" Like Karosawa's 'Rashomon,' the novel tells stories, one after the other, in the form of short chapters that fit together (the whole mosaic makes sense) and don't fit together (each glows on its own). The stories are spiced with a luscious sexuality ("The one thing the women who made love to Jonas had in common was that they all instinctively sat astride him."). Good sex seems to flow to him, like the prom king you hated in high school, without much effort. And each sexual event permeates his being with a new sense of who he is.

The sustenance of book, though, is the story of Norway, what it is now, a nation of comfortable (indeed VERY comfortable) risk-averse, xenophobic social democrats watching TV, smug at times, breaking into a sweat not very often (perhaps only during Nordic races). "When do we see who we are?", asks the narrator.

The author brilliantly, and often comically, keeps the reader engaged in cliff-hanger moments that rivet attention: Jonas as a child is trapped inside a snow fort and left for dead by his cousin, and the next chapter begins with Jonas as a teenager talking about Dostoyevsky's description of sable eyebrows and the Russian ideal of beauty. Disconnected? Yes. Totally effective in creating a
can't-put-it-down novel? Definitely!

The erudition of the author is impressive, his cliff-hanger style engaging, and his comments on present day Norway hilarious and thought-provoking. He is so in love with details his protagonist vomits when he sees his hometown at altitude and can't make out the beloved familiar texture of it. I loved reading this book, beginning it as a 'have to read it for book club' task and then finding I couldn't get enough.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Almost laughably bad! June 26 2009
By Andrew D. Linkner - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After all the very positive reviews, I was surprised by Kjaerstad's ridiculously inflated and unsubtle writing. This is the kind of language which keeps me away from pop fiction bestsellers. The intermittent attempts at witticsm invariably fell flat and I only finished the book because I found myself learning a lot about what I don't like about this kind of writing.

The reason the book is so big is because of Kjaerstad's complete lack of restraint: every point hammered away at over and over throughout in never anything other than the most grandiloquent (and usually quite infantile) hyperbole. His gushing manner comes across very much like a writer enthralled by his own voice.

But nothing in the book is as laughably beyond the pale as Kjaerstad's extremely juvenile and simplistic portrayal of his characters' sexual escapades. These scenes, as they appear one after the other, through the story, become utterly predictable in their hackneyed repetitions of the powerful, sexy woman (always on the verge of future celebrity) reeling in the irresistible protagonist for a night of mad screwing, only to immediately and permanently disappear from the narrative without explanation. Everything about these scenes, in particular, reeks of the most stereotyped pubescent boy's view of sexuality.

I definitely won't be reading the rest of the trilogy.
A Moving Work of Art April 18 2013
By N. K. Goldsmith - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Other reviews have told the opening - Jonas returns from a business trip to find his wife's body in the living room floor. You expect a murder mystery, and it's in there. But there is so much more: shades of James Joyce as stream of consciousness flows from the mind of Jonas as he tries to understand (or deny) what he is seeing. Then begins the true journey, a journey into memory, into fantasy, into angst, into life, and the author takes the reader on a sometimes leisurely, but often fast-paced ride into the world of Jonas' past. A brilliant work and sincere kudos to the translator, who has surely managed the near impossible, bringing the story from the Norwegian language into marvelous English prose. This should not be a fast read; relax and enjoy the pace as you travel the world with a master storyteller as your guide. Hints of Michener, Hemingway, Rutherford, and many, many others. Savor.