The Circus

Jonas Karlsson, trans. from the Swedish by Neil Smith. Hogarth, $23 (192p) ISBN 978-1-101-90517-3
Karlsson (The Invoice) delivers a pithy and sagacious jaunt into an uncanny reality in his riveting third novel. In modern-day Sweden, the unnamed narrator, a placid, middle-aged loner, has moved on from the bullying and isolation of his adolescence to enjoy a reasonably tolerable existence. He meticulously organizes his record collection, works at a bakery, and occasionally hangs out with a few friends. But his life is disrupted while visiting a circus: his childhood friend, Magnus, volunteers to participate in a disappearing act and then actually vanishes. Unnerved and annoyed, the narrator attempts to solve the mystery of Magnus’s disappearance, only to discover that the parameters of his own existence are starting to blur after he starts receiving phone calls in which a mysterious person plays him music, asks him questions, and dredges up long-forgotten memories. He waits outside Magnus’s apartment, seems to see the magician from the circus around every corner, and entertains the irrational advice of his psuedotherapist friend Jallo. As the narrator’s confusion increases, he gradually begins to examine his friendship with Magnus and confronts the nagging suspicion that he is somehow responsible for Magnus’s fate. Karlsson’s knack for Kafkaesque surrealism and suspense is wonderfully paired with sardonic humor and a deeply sympathetic protagonist. This excellent, clever yarn is Karlsson’s best yet. Agent: Niclas Salomonsson, Salomonsson Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/27/2019
Release date: 01/28/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-1-101-90518-0
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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