Tuesday March 10th, 2009

The Conqueror by Jan Kjaerstad


Recommended by E.J. in Rochester, New York.

The Conqueror is the second novel in a trilogy of books about the fictional Norwegian television celebrity Jonas Wergeland. While the experience of reading all three novels is not to be missed, each book is also written in such a way that it can stand alone. Kjaerstad is one of Norway’s most popular and well-regarded novelists, and he told me that he wrote this trilogy to tell the story of his tribe, the Norwegians. He tells this epic story like a pointillist painter. The Conqueror is made up of a series of small chapters, each of which tells a more or less self-contained story, a moment in Wergeland’s life. I sometimes get carried away by the architecture of the thing, but as impressive as that architecture is, what makes The Conqueror great, and what makes the Wergeland trilogy so incredible as a whole, is how natural Kjaerstad makes the whole project feel; however ornate the substructure, there’s ease in how he tells one compelling story after another. Seemingly effortless and highly imaginative, the stories we’re told about Jonas’s fascinating, complicated life are what make these novels so amazing.