I’ve finally done it. As promised, I took one for the team I have finished all 606 pages of The Seducer.
One of the things the narrator asks often during various episodes of the book is: “Is this the most crucial story in Joans Wergeland’s life?”
Well, I can tell you one thing. The Seducer was not even close to the most crucial story in MY life.
It’s kind of like Edward Munch’s infamous Scream. You can appreciate the sheer brilliance of it, but that doesn’t mean you enjoy the experience.
I really don’t think Kjaerstad needed 606 pages to explain that Jonas’s wife died because someone didn’t like the television programmes he made. Did it need to be so absolutely agonising to get to that point? Did we need to spend three chapters being part of a study of the life of a dung beetle? (Yes, it really does happen).
Just a little too self-conscious, a little too aware of its own post modernist approach, a little too repetitive, and a little too banal. Not to mention, totally unbelieveable. According to the narrator, Jonas Wergeland is not only Noreay’s foremost documentary maker, making programmes that rile people into riots and murder, he is also a world class tennis player, fisherman, mountaineer, painter, musician, and practicer of the Kama Sutra. And more than that, he apprently picked up these skills via osmosis from the women he slept with.
At one point, he is lying on the floor of a Church listening to his father play the organ, and he has some sort of religious experience that sends him through a stained glass window three metres up and deposits him in the snow outside. Absolutely laughable.
I admit, I started off enjoying this. I started off loving being immersed in the Norwegian culture, the post modernist self adoration, the new and bizarre use of metaphor. (everything, and I mean everything, in this book is a metaphor for something else entirely).
But eventually, it started to grate. And if it hadn’t been for the specific request of my Book Club girls that I finish it, I would have done away with it half way through.
In particular, the fact that we are seeing everything from the narrator’s point of view is very irritating. We don’t get an actual insight in Jonas’s feelings, because everything is relayed second hand. Also, he is never just Jonas. He is referred to throughout the book by his full name. Maybe I’m being petty, but it was blood annoying. You could have saved at least a chapter’s worth of words by cutting that out.
One piece I did like was the description of Jonas’s wife reading. “That is to say, she didn’t read, she laid herself open to the words.”
I like to think that that is what I do. I don’t simply read, I engage. I lay myself open to the writing, to the words winding into my pysche, so that I may surface them later for further examination. And they may effect me far more than a simple “reading.”
Anyhow, it is done. And sorry, girls, there was no more detailed explanation of Jonan’s supposedly “magical penis.” I hate to think that the narrator was implying that Jonas achieved all he did in his life simply because he was male. That’s it. The next thing I am “laying myself open to” will be a book about a woman written by a woman!