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The Seducer: A Novel Paperback – Jun 26 2007

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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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: #1,061,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Infinite Possibility April 29 2007
By Jed P. Sonstroem - Published on Amazon.com
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.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Most Entertaining Book in Years Aug. 14 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just want to set the record straight :: This book is NOT only about sex. Was the negative reviewer expecting a steamy romance novel? This book is about philosophy, and memory, and socialism, and our individual and collective unconsciousness(es). The writer's got style to spare so that EVERY page is a joy to read and can be savored again and again. Yes, it IS postmodern. To paraphrase Madonna: We are living in the postmodern world, and I'm a postmodern girl. This is definitely a desert island book...and the the trilogy would be a luxury and a blessing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
What is the most crucial story in your life? Aug. 6 2010
By jdh - Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An incredible novel Aug. 4 2010
By JAG - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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 Kjærstad 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 Kjærstad 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! Kjærstad 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.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TV Producer Highest On The Food Chain in Olso? Nov. 17 2009
By Joel Graber - Published on Amazon.com
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.