It’s Mad Martha with you today for another dip into oddity – specifically, the oddity of Jonas Karlsson’s translated, magical realism tale, The Room. This one certainly qualifies under the “odd subject matter” category of the Oddity Odyssey reading challenge and also the “odd language element” category, as this one is a translation from the original Norwegian. For more info on the O.O. Reading challenge, just click on the image above.
Bjorn works in a government office as a public servant and discovers a room between the toilets and the lift on his floor. He finds that the room houses a perfectly ordinary office space, and as the space seems unclaimed, he begins to take his breaks in the calming quiet of the room. When his colleagues refuse to acknowledge the existence of the room, Bjorn realises that an elaborate conspiracy must be afoot. Is it a strange, collective case of workplace bullying, designed to drive Bjorn (and his significant talent) out of the office? Or is it a more sinister plot to see Bjorn unhinged? Regardless, workdays in Bjorn’s office are about to get a lot more interesting.
draws us into fray
Regular readers of this blog would know that Bruce does not have the greatest relationship with magical realism. I can understand why. Is it meant to be an allegory? A metaphor for some greater meaning that’s going over his head? Or is it meant to be taken at face value? Just a bit of craziness in an otherwise ordinary setting, perhaps?
I experienced a bit of mild confusion after finishing this book, but decided that overall, I wouldn’t bother trying to assign deeper meaning to some of the odder parts of the story and just appreciate it as a gem of weirdness in the midst of the mundane. So Bjorn goes to work, finds a room in his office and hangs out there. The other people in his workplace deny that there is a room at all. Interoffice conflict ensues. And it’s eventually resolved in a satisfying (from my point of view, anyway) fashion.
The great things about this book include it’s brevity and the fact that the main character is just as puzzled about the turn of events as the reader. Bjorn is a singularly unlikeable character – he’s arrogant, socially awkward and self-centred – which kind of added to the perversity of the situation for me. I certainly didn’t feel sorry for him or the predicament in which he finds himself, and I think that helped me just go with the magical elements of the story. Bjorn is also so sure of himself throughout the majority of the crazy events that are happening around him that he just brings everyone else along with him and by the end everyone else is questioning their own sanity – including me, at some points.
This is a reasonably quick read, with short chapters and very few wasted words or scenes, which I also appreciated greatly. There’s nothing worse than having to puzzle over nonsensical content while the author revels in their own superior, prescient knowledge of the outcome. Overall, I have to say I definitely enjoyed this story and, while magical realism won’t be going on my favourite genres list, The Room is definitely worth a look when you’re in the mood for something a bit unexpected in a totally mundane context.
This book is the perfect reading choice after a long, hard day working in your non-existent office.
Progress towards Oddity Odyssey Challenge total: 2/16