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The Joker Paperback – January 1, 1995

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From Library Journal

The unlovely characters in this novel by a contemporary Norwegian author are drug addicts and minor criminals mingling with ordinary working-class people. A bank robber in hiding reads his own obituary in the paper and sets out to discover the real identity of the dead person. What follows is an exciting and plausible detective story with much realistic detail and local color. The author's intent is not only to entertain but also to expose social ills like gambling and drug trafficking, examining its perpetrators and victims. In this respect he resembles P.D. James but falls short of her artistry. The translation is competent but at times stiff. Recommended for collections of Scandinavian fiction.
- Ulla Sweedler, Univ. of California at San Diego Lib.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Hans Windelband finds himself, at age 26, among the living dead. He lives alone in a small apartment in Oslo, his life a mere hollow of an existence, without purpose or direction. This wasn't what he had expected; somehow his life has gone terribly astray, but caught in a web of uselessness and despair, he lacks the strength or desire to try and determine precisely what went wrong -- until he opens the morning newspaper and reads his own obituary! Was this a mistake?, a macabre joke?, who was behind this? -- and why? Who had stolen his identity and will be buried with his name in the West Cemetery in just three days? Hans Windelband has been given a purpose, a kind of second chance. The hunt begins! Norwegian novelist Lars Saaybe Christensen has written a brilliantly crafted crime fiction that will simply mesmerize the reader from beginning to end! -- Midwest Book Review

"Soil" by Julie Kornegay
Drawing on elements of dark comedy and modern dysfunction, Kornegay’s novel is about the gravitational pull of one man’s apocalypse and the hope that maybe he can be reeled in from the brink. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: White Pine Press; English Language edition (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1877727113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1877727115
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,275,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on June 26, 2008
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Norway is a country of supernal freshness. A rugged, sea-charmed landscape --mountains, forests, fiords. After a rain, the air is soft with inhalable innocence. Oslo sparkles in sunshine and in snow. The Norwegians you meet wear candor like a summer smile. So why are all the Norwegian novels I read so grim? Hamsun? Borgen? Now Christensen, whom my Norsk friends consider the best living Scandinavian novelist!

The Joker is a mystery story, in which the "detective" is a burned-out drug-using petty thief. Hans Windleband, at age twenty-six, considers himself a waste of air space -- going nowhere, doing nothing, living in a shabby little apartment in a shabby little corner of Oslo, the reality of which I, a mighty walker, cannot ascertain. Like hey, dudes and dudettes, nothing in Norway is that sleazy! Well, one day Hans opens his morning paper (aha! a pre-internet novel!) and reads an obituary of...himself! Just a small item. Somebody's idea of a joke? The rest of the novel follows Hans as he slumps around town, hassling other slackers and sleazers, not quite hooking up with his maybe-girlfriend Berit, and eventually finding somebody's urn of ashes being buried in the Winkleband family plot. In a fumbling moment of selflessness, he ends up assuming the identity of the really dead somebody in order to offer consolation to the somebody's heroin-crazed mother. Is this the fresh start Hans has been seeking? Read and find out!

Honestly, this novel isn't as bad as I make it sound. It's suspenseful and tightly plotted. If you enjoy mystery tales, you might enjoy The Joker. But me, I'm sick of novels about low-lifes! I'm tired of literary figurations of mental illness! All stories about junkies have begun to look the same!

Go ahead, ask me why I read it then!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By PJ Walsh on September 3, 1998
Hans wakes up one day and reads his obituary in the paper. Someone has stolen his name. Who? Why? And what game is The Joker playing?
A nice book, but not his best. Lars SC has written so many good books (Beatles, Bly, Gutten som ville vaere en av gutta, Billettene, Jubel, Herman...) so I was a bit disappointed with this one. But he still is the best Norwegian writer of today!
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