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The Conqueror Hardcover – February 15, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 481 pages
  • Publisher: Open Letter (February 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934824038
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934824030
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,764,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Kjaerstad's second installment to the Wergeland trilogy (after The Seducer), loosely connected vignettes about troubled Norwegian television director Jonas Wergeland's life reveal large and often unpleasant truths about him. The action stretches over Wergeland's more than 50-odd years, over many countries and through a wide swath of women and a murder. The novel is presented as the work of an academic turned popular author who has been commissioned to write a Wergeland biography. However, the professor has been stymied by a writer's block that is only lifted when a mysterious stranger with insight about Wergeland appears at his doorstep. Despite the collage of stories, the name-dropping of Norwegian artists and the complex system of symbolism that Kjaerstad creates, the narrative (thanks to Haveland's faultless translation) never feels head-scratchingly Norwegian, and Kjaerstad leaves overly obvious signposts to assure there is no ambiguity about his motifs and meanings. Kjaerstad's reminder that the connections between the stories in a life are as important as the stories themselves yields well-knit–together stories, so that a darkly humorous picture of Wergeland's life finally emerges. (Feb.)
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Review

'An enormously accomplished and compelling novel by one of Scandinavia's outstanding contemporary writers. Barbara J. Haveland and Arcadia Books have performed a great service by giving us Kjaerstad in English at last' - Paul Auster'I read the Norwegian writer Jan Kjaerstad's energetic blast of a novel, The Seducer, in one. It's irresistible and playful' - Ali Smith, TLS'Jan Kjaerstad is a brave writer. The Seducer succeeds at being a great work of fiction, and a terrific read' - Anna Paterson, Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Mandelbaum on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Conqueror is the only book in the Wergeland trilogy I've read, but it is an outstanding portrait of a fallen man or, maybe, a man who has fallen in the public's eye. The book seamlessly weaves details of Jonas Wergeland's life together with episodes of his television program. What I like best, is that the narrator (who at times annoys me to know ends, but in a manner a real individual would) is not reliable. You don't know if what she is saying is true or not, but it does not matter. You are taken by her telling and want to know how it all plays out, how all the disparate pieces come together at the end and what they reveal about this man who was so revered. I look forward to reading the Discoverer and eventually picking up The Seducer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Bogenschild on November 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I picked up 'The Conqueror' by chance in my college bookstore, on remainder, after developing a casual interest in Scandinavian literature, or to be more specific in Scandinavian detective and crime fiction along the lines of Peter Hoeg's 'Smilla's Sense of Snow' and Steig Larssen's fabulous 'Dragon Tatoo' trilogy. 'The Conqueror' is also one of a trilogy (the second in the series) and the only volume I've read. It is a wonderful book, but it took me a while to understand the mechanics of the narrative, likewise to grasp the truly monumental and symbolic elements of the protagonist Jonas. Kjaerstad weaves short chapters together in non-chronological order, plumbing the life and experiences of Jonas from an early age as he experiences the world. At one level, the events of Jonas' life are related by a mysterious narrator who visits 'the professor,' who is taking notes and offering interpretations and opinions about the events leading to Jonas' involvement in a dastardly crime against a loved one. Or is she loved? Differing versions and interpretations of what led up to the crime offer glimpses into Jonas' soul - and through it his symbolic role as a Norwegian. Norway itself is an unacknowledged character in this drama, and Kjaerstad skillfully examines the Norwegian character as an amalgamation of its history, its environment, and its role in the broader world. In this sense Jonas and the book's other characters are but artifices in Kjaerstad's wider study of how narrative, history, and geography conspire to form identity on the individual and cultural level. The book is difficult to grasp at the outset, but it grows on you. Having just finished it and come to an understanding of its reach and power I want to start it all over again and read it more closely. But I'm hoping to find volumes one and three of the trilogy first...
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Format: Hardcover
This novel is the middle volume of Jan Kjaerstad's trilogy exploring the life of Jonas Wergeland. Jonas (as he is called throughout the book) is a successful producer/director of a Norwegian television series that consists of biographical sketches of important Norwegian figures. His impressionistic portraits make the series a huge success, and Jonas is a star in Norway, someone who has explained these historical figures to his fellow Norwegians. It is thus a shock to the nation when first people learn that his wife was brutally murdered, next that his brother turned him in, and third that he confessed to the crime.

An unnamed historian specializing in academic biographies of obscure Norwegians is given a huge advance to write a biography of Jonas. He completes the research but serious writer's block keeps him from writing the book until one day a mysterious woman arrives at his turret (yes, turret) and tells him she will dictate the story he needs to write, he need only take down the story. Does this sound a tad far-fetched, fairy princess kind of stuff? Yeah, well it is. What follows is a book of 60 chapters, 54 stories about Jonas and 6 chapters of asides by the Professor on the writing of the book. The book is told in something like third-person semi-omniscient one step removed. Meaning you are reading a tale and then reminded that it is the mysterious woman dictating the story to the Professor. That rigamarole of adding the Professor and the mysterious woman I found just annoying. It distances the reader from the written material, which is fine, but only if it serves a point, and I saw none.

Okay, so first there is the odd, distancing, narrative gimmick, and second there is the only real character in the book, Jonas.
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