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The Conqueror


by Jan Kjaerstad

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February 15, 2009
novel | hc | 481 pgs
5.5" x 8.5"

"An enormously accomplished and compelling novel by one of Scandinavia's outstanding contemporary writers."
—Paul Auster

Jonas Wergeland is in prison for the murder of his wife. The most beloved and celebrated television personality in Norway, Wergeland’s programs on the history of Norway held the country in his thrall. The spectacle of his downfall has done the same.

A professor is hired to write the definitive biography of Wergeland, but finds himself unable to process the astonishing volume of contradictory information he unearths—until a mysterious woman appears on his doorstep. Possessing innumerable intimate stories about Jonas, the woman details the dark side of his rise to prominence, and through her stories tries to explain what made him a murderer.

Told in a series of short, interconnected, self-referential, and constantly evolving passages—each shooting off from the last like light from a prism and moving indifferently from the past to the present—Jan Kjaerstad has constructed a wonder of a novel whose form and subject explore what, in the apparent absence of simple cause and effect, makes life coherent. (Read an Excerpt)

Translated from the Norwegian by Barbara Haveland


About the Author: Jan Kjaerstad made his debut as a writer in 1980 with a short story collection, The Earth Turns Quietly. The three books making up the Wergeland trilogy—The SeducerThe Conqueror, and The Discoverer (forthcoming from Open Letter in 2009)—have achieved huge international success, and led to Kjaerstad receiving the Nordic Prize for Literature in 2001. He has also received Germany’s Henrik Steffen Prize for Scandinavians who have significantly enriched Europe’s artistic and intellectual life.

"Whimsically Sterneian, with a dark hint of Paul Auster and a dash of Marquez, breezily narrated by Tom Robbins... grandly entertaining."
Daily Telegraph

"Kjaerstad's novels are redolent with the fantastic profusion of the stories they tell, of all that flows forth from them, presented in ever-new guises."
Die Welt