“Nothing” by Janne Teller

Pierre Anthon announced, on his first day as a seventh-grader, that there was no meaning to life. After professing his truth, he abandoned the classroom and found refuge on a plum tree. As his classmates walked by on their way to school, Pierre Anthon reminded them of the lack of meaning in their stride, setting them on a frenzy to prove him wrong.

“I’m sitting here in nothing. And better to be sitting in nothing than in something that isn’t anything.”

Nothing by Janne Teller had me immediately thinking of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The mood seems quite similar, but I believe Nothing takes a step further into the abyss. To be quite honest, I am still trying to figure out what exactly that entails.

I should start by mentioning the writing style as it’s probably the most tangible thing about this book. There is something incredibly peculiar about it. It feels raw, like over-scrubbed skin, making every single ghost of an emotion grow into something immeasurable. There are also the overpowering silences. Having read the whole book out loud, it is impossible to label them chance or even coincidence. I believe this book was skillfully designed to create a sort of emotional echo that feels claustrophobic at times.

That said, I have been meditating about the ending for hours. At first I was disappointed, having expected something groundbreaking to happen, an extraordinary lesson to arise from a middle that had me shuddering. Then I started thinking, and by that I mean definitely overthinking the whole thing. As readers we witnessed these events, we read through them holding onto an ending yet to come, an ending that we expected to deliver hope, meaning. However, just like the children, we encountered none after having deposited everything. Disturbing beyond words, yes, but perhaps not beyond reason.

“There was definitely something that mattered in spite of everything, even if that something was something you had to lose.”

I can’t help but think that Pierre Anthon is partially right. We do tend to forget our role as creators of meaning, setting its weight on time instead, time that has no shoulders to carry it on and no hands to deliver it with. Thought-provoking, is it not?

All in all, the only thing I am sure of regarding this book is that it is certainly going to haunt me for a long time.


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