Fabian Kastner (born 1977) is a Swedish writer and literary critic, living in Berlin.

Kastner caused a commotion in 2006 with his debut novel Oneirine, which turned out to be a literary experiment too far for the majority of critics: the book consisted exclusively of unattributed, pasted-together quotes from one thousand works of world literature. By doing so, Kastner wanted to discuss the issue of whether originality is possible in literature. The book was later turned into a library artwork at Bonniers Konsthall, a venue for Swedish and international contemporary art in the centre of Stockholm.

In The Layman (2013), Kastner took as his starting point a theological essay on madness, “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness” by Daniel Paul Schreber, from 1903, creating from it a hallucinatory literary fantasy. Schreber was a German lawyer who spent long periods of his life in various mental hospitals, and Kastner allows the reader to enter into his paranoid universe, a claustrophobic space in which concepts such as madness and sanity are twisted, turn after turn.

In 2017, Kastner returned to the gallery space of Bonniers Konsthall to write a book from start to finish in twenty-four hours. The resulting novella, Archive of the Average Swede, was published in English as the fourth title in Cabinet’s experimental “24-Hour Book” series.

(From Wikipedia)

Fabian Kastner at Bonniers Konsthall 2017
Photo: Theodor Ringborg
Archive of the Average Swede
Cabinet Books 2017

The fourth title in Cabinet’s ”24-Hour Book” series considers a project initiated by Sweden’s National Archive in the early 1980s designed to fully record the life of a typical citizen. The archive’s subject was a randomly selected government worker, at the time an employee of Stockholm’s municipal bus service, who agreed to begin donating his personal papers to the collection. The man, however, turned out to be a very different figure than what the archive had hoped for. Adrift in a society undergoing fundamental transformations, the ”average Swede” slowly descended over the years into bitter derangement, overwhelming the institution with masses of indiscriminate materials that the archivists were desperately trying to refuse.

Archive of the Average Swede was published in 2017 by Cabinet Books. Also published in Swedish by Faethon as Medelsvenskens arkiv (2017).

The Layman: A demented comedy
Albert Bonniers Förlag 2013

A man suffering from insomnia finds himself locked up in a mental hospital. He is not crazy. But he is watched round the clock by nurses and mysterious Dr. Rotter, who conspire against his mental health. In letters written to “gentlemen directors”, presumably the hospital board or maybe some higher powers, the man pledges for his release. Exercising logic and rationality, he tries to prove his sanity by explaining the world. Modern science, theology, cosmology and anthropology are woven together into a universe in which the narrator is the absolute centre. As it turns out, God has been entangled in his nerves and is now trying to break free, aided by little people and intricate machines, the sun and the stars. In God’s absence, the universe has turned into a dark and chaotic place. Astral wars between demigods and demiurgs, doctors and devils, rage on the starry sky. The world is going under in cataclysms, the earth piling up with corpses. Only the narrator can save human kind, by turning into a woman and becoming ”God’s dirty whore”. By enduring a grand, cosmical rape he will give birth to a new human race.

The Layman was published in Swedish 2013 by Albert Bonniers Förlag, one of the oldest and most respected publishing houses in Sweden. The novel was met with critical acclaim and featured on several “best books of the year” lists.

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A sad yet beautiful tribute to the remarkable human ability to create coherence and stories. And the ability to endure.
Dagens Nyheter
The novel is so outstanding and perfect in form I have to pinch my arm: can this be true? ... The Layman is simply scarily good.
Sydsvenska Dagbladet
A pitch-dark inside portrayal of madness that makes Strindberg's “Inferno” look like a parlour game.
Norrköpings Tidningar
A winding journey into the most advanced amorphous of hallucinatory worlds.
Aftonbladet
Makes “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” look like a health spa.
Svenska Dagbladet
An unceasingly well-written, learned and madly twisted novel.
Fokus
Onieirine: A novel in a thousand pieces
Albert Bonniers Förlag 2006

From the very first line, a curiously resonant “It is not wholly inconceivable that at some point in our lives we may get to spend some time at the Hotel Abulafia”, we are introduced to the notion that the individual may not be quite as particular or indeed unique as we might like to think. Perhaps human life is little more than a palimpsest over other lives past and present? Hotel Abufalia is a “magnet for lost souls…” Yet, as the narrator puts it, there is nothing objective about his experience of being alive: “All the time I feel I have someone else’s existence, I have someone else’s feelings and their thoughts. And I sense I have been someone else… as if my personality had slowly become an imaginary meeting point for the impersonal, a refuse tip for anonymous bric-a-brac.”

The narrator dreams continuously of Oneirine – his true love – and the whole meaning of his life seems encapsulated in her even though at times it is unclear whether he has even met her. If so, was it in this life or another?

The much debated collage novel Oneirine was published in Swedish 2006 by Albert Bonniers Förlag. It was met with both outrage and enthusiasm, and was shortlisted for Borås Tidning’s first novel prize.

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In the discussions about literature Oneirine sometimes reaches such heights that I find myself smiling sillily, filled by that inner "aha!" that the reading of really intelligent and enjoyable literature can give you.
Svenska Dagbladet
A zestful literary collage that, in dialogue with the 20th century art of the novel, rebuilds the dead end street of language so that it opens to eternity.
Borås Tidning
Irrespective of any plagiarism, this is a wholly original effort from a writer with a sure sense of style and indebtedness to a European literary heritage.
Swedish Book Review
As a reader, you get puzzled, but also fascinated. What kind of novel is this?
Aftonbladet
Undoubtedly, it is cleverly done. It's hard not to be enchanted by Kastner's beautiful prose and wealth of finesse.
Kristianstadbladet
When the plagiarism debate ceased, the book remained as an unreserved love letter to the history of literature.
Upsala Nya Tidning

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