In this thought-provoking existential comedy, a lowly video store clerk receives an astronomical bill for simply living his life.
The absurdities of life coupled with the strangely surreal are hallmarks of Swedish actor and playwright Jonas Karlsson's work (The Room). His second novel, The Invoice, again turns on a Kafkaesque premise: a nameless, 39-year-old part-time video store clerk and film aficionado--a loner with only a handful of friends, whose most notable indulgence in life is having a pizza and taking in a movie in his one-room Stockholm apartment--receives a bill for 5.7 million kronor (roughly $875,000) in the mail. Thinking the bill--imprinted with a nondescript logo--is a mistake or a scam, the narrator disregards it. The next month, he receives another bill in the same amount, but with a surcharge of 150 kronor tacked on as a late payment. When the narrator calls to inquire, he makes matters worse as it is soon discovered that he owes even more than originally calculated. "What am I supposed to be paying for?" the narrator asks. "Everything," says the representative. "Being alive costs."
Through a cryptic, engrossing storyline that snowballs with staggering, thought-provoking complications, Karlsson reveals more about his underachieving hero. It seems contradictory that the hefty "happiness tax" in the whole country should be imposed upon someone living such a simple life. Fair or not, this leaves the narrator to scramble for deductions in the form of disclosures about free-floating anxiety, missing his parents and the loss of a secret love. The satirical, philosophical nature of this story delves into the meaning and purpose of life, how we measure joy and what truly constitutes a sense of accomplishment.
Hogarth, $24.00 Hardcover, 9781101905142, 208 pages
Publication Date: July 12, 2016