Alan's Reviews > The Discoverer

The Discoverer by Jan Kjærstad
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
698826
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: novels, read-in-2012
Recommended to Alan by: just about everybody on goodreads

updated Aug 23rd 2012
not quite currently reading, but about to, when my holiday begins (tomorrow).
..reading on Woolacombe beach, or when it's too wet or foggy in the apartment above W. beach. So glad I bought my iPOd cuz I needed to listen to 'Rubber Soul' while reading, and of course have all the Beatles including most bootlegs on it. Even listened to Michelle and What Goes On which I normally skip. Of course 'Girl', 'The Word', and especially 'Norwegian Wood' are the most relevant tracks in relation to this book. George's 'If I Needed Someone' is my fave at the moment.
..nearly finished, well 100 pages to go, and might slow down now as holiday (and opportunity to read) over. Enjoying it greatly, the first sectio just took my breath away. Have a couple of issues with it, one is repetition - not sure how many times I need to be told that 'Thinking Big' is the greatest programme (or set of programmes) on earth - I think I've gathered that by now. I do like the way it circles around and around key events though, mirroring his attempts at a new way of thinking. And, as a librarian I know exactly what he means about the rigid and rather dumb - well 19th century - Dewey classification system. However in a physical library books have to sit somewhere, and not everywhere. On the net though that's a different matter, and it becomes obvious that the net is Jonas's system in action! The other (slight) problem I have is one I'm not sure I can talk about without giving the plot away... I'll think about that. Proper review coming once I finish these last 100 pages.

...finished, a magnificent book, a proper end to the trilogy. More later...

Later (Aug 23rd) - as many/Manny have/has said it's difficult to review this great book/trilogy, because when you're asked what it's about (and I was and spluttered, a TV producer, Norway...) you have to say (as manny says) 'everything' (I did). I've read several other reviews too (M's, Not's, Karen's etc) and feel it's difficult to add much, so instead these are notes rather than a proper review (what a cop out).

Jonas: he’s well informed, gifted and full of insight into history and Norway’s place in the world, its heroes and their contributions but he’s not terribly bright sometimes when it comes to those closest to him – e.g. Bo’s revelation comes as a complete shock to him, and he misunderstands Margrete, his wife (although – possibly – she isn’t the easiest of characters to understand). He accepts his punishment for this, he feels his obtuseness did kill his wife, and therefore he is guilty of murder. Besides he uses the time inside like a monk would, to contemplate and research (it all sounds very nice in fact). But overall the book is dazzling, brilliant and like the juggler (Bo) keeps so many balls in the air you have to admire the skill.

The overall theme – that we are still evolving, maybe most of all in ‘love’: the way love works and our understanding of it, to the extent of evolving a new organ, (here new kinds of lungs) maybe a new sense – is one fairly common from the 60s and 70s (Doris Lessing for example at the end of her Martha Quest series and ‘Briefing for a Descent into Hell’; or the hippy movement). But Kjaerstad excels in bringing it to life on both an epic and a personal scale, both world wide and intimate. The idea is that if layers of meaning and/or imagery (of all kinds) could be apprehended (and comprehended) at the same time this would be the key to the next stage of mankind. Through an ability to watch/listen/read things simultaneously we would reach the point of becoming new kinds of beings. We are too compartmentalised, like the Dewey sytem or the way subjects are divided up in our education system, we need to combine and experiment, to see what will happen, like the teacher who combines two elements in a test tube and then introduces a third (the catalyst) to show how something new will result, so we need to do that in life – combine the unexpected, go beyond the predicatble.

Here so much is brought together – crystals, butterflies, aliens, semen, maps, music, breath, fjords, history, childhood escapades and embarrassments and love and nurture and eccentric aunts and uncles(but then here everyone is eccentric, unique), the Beatles and Bach, archery and TV quiz shows, architecture and deck chairs.

Some great moments, perhaps the best being when his daughter watches all of her father's programmes simulataneously on screens that surround her and feels they connect to one another to make something new and change the viewer, not just momentarlily but for life.

Wergeland also realises that the new internet generation may already be on the path to this new way of thinking/being because of the way the net organises knowledge, constantly linking through to other areas regardless of subject. This has been mooted as a bad thing, giving us a wide but shallow knowledge pool instead of the depth a narrower approach can give us, but Jonas seems to see the good in it, if used properly, as with TV. He (or maybe Kjaerstad) also warns against complacency; is always attempting to chafe and invigorate his countyrman in particular and us in general (eg the admonishments on the use of Stressless chair in front of the telly: a bad use of the medium).

This third book overall is about reconciliation, knowledge and love. Jonas has learned from his mistakes at last, and is entering a new phase. It is like one of Shakespeare's late plays in its scope and generosity.

So thanks Manny et al for putting me onto a book (set of books) I'd have otherwise missed.
6 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Discoverer.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

August 2, 2012 – Started Reading
August 2, 2012 – Shelved
August 2, 2012 – Shelved as: novels
August 15, 2012 – Finished Reading
December 13, 2012 – Shelved as: read-in-2012

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Manny Nice review, and it is indeed extraordinarily difficult to say what the series is about! There are so many mirrors and layers and allusions... I have just discovered, to my great surprise, that the central "Beatles" theme appears, at least at one level, to be an extended reference to Christensen's Beatles, which if I understand correctly was a best-seller in 80s and 90s Norway. I must read Agnar Mykle as well. And there are no doubt hundreds of other things we're missing. He warns you very explicitly.

I wonder if there will ever be an annotated version?


Alan Manny wrote: "Nice review, and it is indeed extraordinarily difficult to say what the series is about! There are so many mirrors and layers and allusions... I have just discovered, to my great surprise, that the..."

I'll look that Christensen book up, one more Beatles book won't hurt!
You're right, so much stuff going on, on so many different levels I feel I only 'get' a fraction.


notgettingenough It's killing me that I put a friend on to these: she read book one, loved it, read book two, hated it and now she flatly refuses to read the last one. I just don't understand how anybody could not finish this series.


Alan notgettingenough wrote: "It's killing me that I put a friend on to these: she read book one, loved it, read book two, hated it and now she flatly refuses to read the last one. I just don't understand how anybody could not ..."

yes the second one's the 'difficult' one. This one sorts everything out though, it's really worth it, go back and persuade her some more..


back to top