Such Good Work (Simon & Schuster)
The novel follows Jonas Anderson, a teacher whose arrival in Sweden at the height of the refugee crisis provokes a deep reckoning in his life. Not unlike Exit West but with the mordant hilarity of The Idiot, Such Good Work is grounded in the humor of everyday human nature, but its themes of addiction, immigration, and activism are essential and timely.
The year is 2015. Jonas might be an excellent teacher if he weren’t addicted to drugs. Instead, at age twenty-eight, he’s been fired from yet another creative writing position after assigning homework like, visit a stranger’s funeral and write about it. Jonas needs to do something drastic and, as a dual American-Swedish citizen, he knows Sweden is an easy place to be a graduate student—and a difficult place to be a drug addict.
He goes to Malmö, a city trying to cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees. Driven by an existential need to “do good,” Jonas volunteers with an organization that teaches Swedish to the desperate and idling young refugees. But a friendship with one young refugee, Aziz, will force Jonas to question whether “doing good” can actually help another person.
A resplendent work of autofiction, Such Good Work uses dark humor and pathos to consider the complexity of being a good person in our modern world, as well as the effects of nationalism and identity politics in a time when conversations around migrant policies are vital and omnipresent.
Praise for Such Good Work
“I honestly can't think of a novel I would more want to be reading in the very particular now of our world. Lichtman’s narrator is an everyman (albeit a singular one) who just wants to be good—that slipperiest of ambitions—and yet his efforts pretty much always go wrong. But also they don't. Wisely comic and tremendously moving, Such Good Work thinks in detail about immigration, addiction, privilege, power and loneliness; but it does so by mining the seemingly inconsequential for its true profundity. Lichtman never falls for the siren song of self-seriousness, and that is part of what makes his novel feel so accurate, and so important. In being open to complexity, and sensitive to absurdity, Such Good Work gets at the wholeness and difficulty and beauty of lives both ordinary and extraordinary.”—RIVKA GALCHEN, critically-acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances
“Johannes Lichtman has given us a powerful, unsparingly honest portrayal of a soul in torment, trying to find his way to a decent life. How to love, how to work—how to live, however modestly, with meaning and purpose inside a self that for too long has used booze and drugs to avoid the hard work of being human. Building a genuine self, that's an inside job, and in Such Good Work Lichtman delivers a deeply affecting novel of one young man's struggle to be whole.”—BEN FOUNTAIN, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Johannes Lichtman was born in Stockholm and raised in California. He holds an MFA in fiction from UNC Wilmington and an MA in literature, culture, and media from Lund University. His work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Los Angeles Review of Books, Oxford American, The Sun, Sydsvenskan, and elsewhere. He lives in Portland and Ukraine. Such Good Work is his first novel.