leedock’s CBR-III Review #23-“Nothing”, – Janne Teller

Move over “Lord of the Flies”.  Scandinavian children apparently don’t need to be stranded on a deserted island to go all native, dark and existential. Their suburban back yards will do just fine.

When a classmate suddenly announces that everything is meaningless, climbs up into a tree and refuses to leave, the remaining 7th graders in his class begin a mission to prove that there is meaning in life. Each one in turn selects what is the most meaningful sacrifice that their classmate can offer and they begin building a pile inside an abandoned sawmill near their homes. What begins as a quest to build a sacrificial pile of each child’s most precious and meaningful possessions escalates from a prized pair of wedge sandals to things much darker and more personal. Each child ups the ante both out of vengeance for their own sacrifices and out of desperation to prove their classmate wrong.

Taller’s book is a quick but disturbing read. When you think things could not become any more desperate, they do and in unthinkable ways. The reaction of the adults in their lives, when the “heap of meaning is discovered”, is equally chilling. “Nothing” is a treatise about meaning and it’s “price” both philosophical and material.

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