The Seducer: A Novel Paperback – Jun 26 2007
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'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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.