This collection of short stories cleverly and comically uses the mundane format of the job interview to expose the failings and oversights of twenty-first-century humans. With wonderfully acerbic, facetious prose, Sundberg explores the subtleties of contemporary society, making We’ll Call You so true to life, that one cannot help but feel seen.
With each story, Sundberg introduces a different interview situation that picks apart a specific human pitfall. He addresses even the smallest human faults, ones that are so seemingly insignificant we usually brush over them or laugh them off: our contradictory nature, our desperate need to fit into certain moulds, our obliviousness, our self-centredness – you name the flaw, Sundberg has written an abominable and painfully accurate character to represent it.
We’ll Call You is not only an exploration of callous characters, however. We also meet some rather down-trodden people, those who realise they have lost sight of their dreams and ambitions, those submitting to the system, or those selling themselves short in order to fit into some ideal that they have built for themselves. The dry humour that courses through the collection is thus offset by more sobering depictions of self-deception, apathy, and despair.
Sundberg also takes these reflections one step further, unpacking the more harmful characteristics of humankind, and creating sadly realistic characters who are damagingly oblivious to the world and the people around them. He also writes certain characters with a glaringly obvious irony that points to serious, and unfortunately all-too-relevant topics, such as racism.
Sundberg clearly has a knack for writing characters, and Lewis clearly has a knack for expertly translating them. The fantastic descriptions of personalities in We’ll Call You make the reader feel as if they are there, at each excruciating interview, subjected to every uncomfortably awkward moment.
Sundberg’s brilliantly sarcastic and humorous style could not have been easy for Lewis to render into English, yet he does so seamlessly, making this text and all the accusations it throws at contemporary society easily appreciated by an anglophone audience.
It’s not often that a book can make one laugh and grimace at the same time, but We’ll Call You certainly does. While the collection was an absolute joy to read, it is hard to escape the fact that beyond the brilliantly humorous and cleverly ironic tone is a bitter and truthful reflection of our times.
Reviewed by Alice Banks
WE’LL CALL YOU
Written by Jacob Sundberg
Translated by Duncan J. Lewis
Published by Nordisk Books (2020)
Alice Banks is a copy editor and literary translator from French and Spanish based in Ciudad Real, Spain. After graduating with a French degree from Bangor University, Alice went on to study for an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia. She currently volunteers for both The European Literature Network and Asymptote Journal.
Read Alice Banks’ #RivetingReview of THE MADNESS by Narcís Oller