A review of

The Discoverer

by Jan Kjærstad

Central question: How can we prove the world isn’t flat?
Format: 504 pp., cloth; Size: 5 ½" x 8 ½"; Price: $17.95; Publisher: Open Letter Books; Editor: E. J. Van Lanen; Print run: 4,500; Book design: N.J.Furl; Typeface: Jenson; Translated from Norwegian by: Barbara Haveland; Author won: the Henrik Steffen Prize for “enriching Europe’s artistic and intellectual life”; Author holds a degree in: theology; Number of times author references the Arabian Tales in The Discoverer: eight; Number of times the author references the Beatles’ Rubber Soul in The Discoverer: fourteen; Representative sentence: “The world’s most beautiful hemisphere: the brain.”

In The Discoverer, the third leg of Jan Kjærstad’s Wergeland Trilogy, celebrity Jonas Wergeland sails along Norway’s fjords and ponders. Famous for the TV series Thinking Big and infamous for the murder of his wife, Magrete, Jonas begins to rewrite his memoir, having destroyed draft one in prison. “Why did he do it?” is the query that frames this tale.

The Discoverer follows The Seducer and The Conqueror, which present Jonas’s story from different perspectives. Each can be read alone, but Kjærstad is tricky. The narrator in book one is revealed in book two; the identity of a “mysterious figure” in two is revealed in three. To find out requires a lengthy commute and stellar vision. The trilogy comprises 1,597 pages; the second and third installments appear to be in nine-point font.

Book three is set aboard the Voyager, “like Noah’s Ark for our technological society,” where Jonas is accompanied by the OAK Quartet (Oslo Art Kitchen), his daughter Kristin among them. Commissioned to “map” Norway’s cultural highlights, the young crew brainstorms and creates multimedia. “What should we take with us?” is reiterated throughout. “They keep branching off into stories,” Jonas observes. “Maybe it’s the boat that inspires them… sitting in the glow of an old paraffin lamp.”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Lara Tupper

Lara Tupper (laratupper.com) is the author of A Thousand and One Nights, a novel about cruise-ship singers. Like Hemingway, she writes six-word tales. (Please see Smith magazine’s Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak.) Unlike Hemingway, she has a lengthy commute.

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