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THE EXCEPTION by Christian Jungersen


by Christian Jungersen & translated by Anna Paterson

Pub Date: July 10th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-385-51629-7
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday

Danish author Jungersen’s second novel, a bestseller in Europe and his first to be translated into English, suggests a connection between office politics and genocide; the book won Denmark’s Golden Laurels prize.

In the office of the nonprofit Danish Center for Information on Genocide (DCIG), five people work in too-close proximity to one another. Iben is an intellectual who writes tracts on the psychology of evil. A few months earlier she had been briefly held as a hostage in Kenya, so she has witnessed hatred first hand. Her best friend Malene had helped her get her job at DCIG, but what began as a source of gratitude is gradually becoming a source of resentment. Paul is the effective leader of the organization on a macroscopic level, but he’s an ineffectual arbiter of office politics. When Iben receives a life-threatening e-mail, her first thought is that it came from Mirko Zigic, a Serbian war criminal on whom Iben has written an exposé, but other possibilities emerge. Could it have been Anne-Lise, the librarian ostracized by others in the office and perhaps trying to get revenge? Or Malene, who accuses others of having a split personality but who might be suffering from the pathology herself? When Malene’s boyfriend Rasmus is killed after trying to track down the source of the e-mail, everyone becomes a suspect, including the elusive Zigic. Jungersen makes the point that hatred and dehumanization start at a humble and comprehensible level, ironically in an office devoted to the chronicling of genocidal atrocities. Even timid Anne-Lise ultimately realizes that “we all have it in us to be murderers and executioners and war criminals.”

Jungersen raises moral questions tactfully, without trivializing the issues.