Jonas Hassen Khemiri, born 1978, is an award-winning Swedish author. He made a celebrated debut in 2003 with One Eye Red, which sold over 200.000 copies in Sweden and became the best-selling paperback of any category in 2004. The novel received the Borås Tidning award for best literary debut and was later adapted into a movie.
Khemiri's second novel, Montecore, was published to unanimous raving reviews in 2006. In strong international competition it was awarded 2006 year's P O Enquist Prize. It was also nominated for the August literary award and received the Swedish Radio's award for best novel.
A collection of Khemiri's short stories and plays was published in 2009. It included Khemiri's first play Invasion!, which played two seasons of sold out performances at Stockholm City Theatre in 2006 and was awarded with a Village Voice Obie Award for best script in 2011. So far the play has been translated and performed in the US, France, Belgium, Germany (multiple versions), Austria, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Norway and South Korea. Khemiri's second play God Times Five toured Sweden with Riksteatern and was also produced by Stockholm City Theatre. The third play, We Are a Hundred, received a Hedda award for best play in Norway 2010 and the fourth and latest play Apathy for beginners, premiered at Folkteatern in Gothenburg and is touring Sweden in the spring of 2012.
Before becoming an author Khemiri studied Literature and International Economics in Paris and Stockholm. His father is Tunisian and his mother is Swedish.
Translation rights to Khemiri's novels have so far been sold to: Knopf in the US, Piper Verlag in Germany, Le Serpent a Plumes in France, De Geus in the Netherlands, Johnny Kniga in Finland, Gyldendal in Denmark and Norway, Inostrannaya Literatura in Russia and Odiseja in Serbia.
More info:News 2011
INVASION! (the book)
“It seems that everything Khemiri touches turns to gold. And with talent like his, how could it be any other way?”
“Khemiri's collection of stories, essays and plays reveals a marvellous sense of humour. His irony flies off in all directions and subverts our most cherished beliefs. He is a linguistic innovator, and he fashions his ideological critique to support that mission.”
“He no longer has anything to prove. Even the kind of collection that rarely attracts much attention is vital and inventive... You wonder who gave him the right to be so good… If this is meant to be a modest effort, we can only expect great things to come.”
“His prose is both dazzling and importunate with its insidious, ironic trapdoors... He's got to be the most genuine writer of my generation.”
“Invasion!... is a powerful, unnerving attack on drama as an art form and on entrenched middle-class prejudices, all executed with linguistic playfulness. Khemiri has been the best that Sweden has to offer ever since Ett Öga Rött, his debut novel.”
“He is a startling, almost acrobatic word craftsman.... Invasion! gives us a first row seat to what may be Sweden's most powerful, virtuoso language laboratory at the moment.”
“Khemiri's greatest asset is his spirited and inexhaustible reservoir of language.”
“What an accomplishment!... His irony is tempered by conciliatory humanism, his audacity is tamed by obstinate humility, and his humour escapes innocuousness by gazing into the void and the abyss. Khemiri's mastery is particularly evident in his laconic drama and deliberate timing.”
“He portrays both his characters and his settings with intelligence and imagination, ingenious humour and subterranean social criticism.”
“Khemiri's talent, ingenuity and intelligence take over the moment he puts his pen to paper.”
“Very effective, always with perfectly calibrated rage just beneath the surface.”
INVASION! (the play)
“Wonderful, fantastic, magnificent... a manic phantasmagoria... a real find... Please add this play to your repertoire.”
/Süddeutsche Zeitung about the production at Münchner Kammerspiele (Munich Studio Theater)
“Just as linguistically intoxicating, entertaining and sensitive to underlying poignancy and helpless alienation as his novels... a brilliant display of dramatic talent. The actors and audience establish an immediate rapport.”
“Khemiri's intelligently constructed drama makes it clear that he is not only a novelist (Ett Öga Rött and Montecore), but a playwright as well. Invasion! is as difficult to pin down as the name Abulkasem in the play, and we are summoned over and over again to look at people and their lives with fresh eyes.”
"Montecore is a weave of performances, a literary performance where the authenticity catches fire, and the language is like a nimble tiger leaping through the flaming ring. It's beautiful, so beautiful that it's hard to tear your eyes away, but at the same time there is a lot more to this novel than just form./.../ You devour it./.../ There isn't a dull moment, it's bursting with narrative joy."
"Just how he gets a subject like integration to rock I don't know, but he does it."
/Kulturnyheterna SVT (Swedish Public Television)
"It's smart, hip and inventive, but it is, in essence, a heart-wrenching work of incredible craftsmanship. /... / The greeting invariably used by all the fathers in Montecore is, "Hi there, you old shoe." "Hi there," you want to answer and add, "hope we meet again."
"A rich tapestry of warm feelings and inexhaustible energy/.../ Jonas Hassen Khemiri has once again taken a classic story and given it an extra twist so that light and shadow fall differently than we are used to. /.../ In Montecore the self is put at stake in order to paint a revealing picture that deviates from the official image of Sweden as a democratic, egalitarian country."
"I think that the portrayal of the father Abbas is one of the most tender I have ever read."
“You can't get enough of it... There's never a dull moment, he's a storyteller through and through.”
“Khemiri punctures the conceit of language, the Achilles heel of Swedish complacency.”
“Montecore is a deadly serious attack on the malignancy of correctness in our patterns of thought, the way that racists, fundamentalists and humanists dance around the same Maypole of platitudes. ‘Can anyone ever understand a fate other than their own?’ sighs the author’s voice. ‘Doubt has begin to tug at my chest.’ Don't sigh, tell us more.”
/Sveriges Radio (Swedish Public Radio)
“Khemiri's sombre humour is reminiscent of Zadie Smith and Hari Kunzru. But he's got a voice all his own. With one foot in the immigrant community and his head in the clouds, he flaunts his rare storytelling ability. A unique virtuoso.”
“Montecore, Khemiri's second novel, not only lives up to its enormous expectations but surpasses them.”
ETT ÖGA RÖTT (ONE RED EYE)
"Ett öga rött is a joy to read; captivating and in many places sharp and funny." /Svenska Dagbladet
"Ett öga rött is an important debut not just because it fills a void, but because it challenges some of the expectations created by the genre."
"This bildungsroman about a young man in crisis has the makings of classic; belongs on the same shelf as JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Emile Ajar's La Vie devant Soi."
/Upsala Nya Tidning
"I can't remember the last time a novel made me feel so blissful."
“A disconcerting book.... brilliantly crafted, powerful prose.”
/SVT (Swedish Public Television)
“The prospect that Halim is intentionally presenting a self-caricature beckons to us throughout the book, opening the door to issues of authenticity and role-playing that extend far beyond its covers.”
“Stylistic precision and psychological insight, a wicked debut novel.”