• Natalie Nider

Nothing by Janne Teller - Book Review

It's existentialism, it's nihilism, and it is controversially profound.

Nothing is a novel about a question that has motivated plenty of philosophers: is there or isn't there any meaning? Is there meaning to anything in this life or does it all mean nothing?

When Pierre-Anthon realizes there is no meaning to life, the seventh-grader leaves his classroom, climbs a tree, and stays there. His classmates cannot make him come down, not even by pelting him with rocks. So to prove to Pierre-Anthon that life has meaning, the children decide to give up things of importance. The pile starts with the superficial—a fishing rod, a new pair of shoes. But as the sacrifices become more extreme, the students grow increasingly desperate to get Pierre-Anthon down, to justify their belief in meaning. Sure to prompt intense thought and discussion, Nothing—already a treasured work overseas—is not to be missed.

Book Description, Goodreads

Nothing by Janne Teller is one of those books that you read and it leaves you haunted. From the first page to the last Teller weaves a story about one of the biggest questions: does anything have any meaning or does it all mean nothing?

Teller's novel is essentially the debate between existentialism and nihilism executed through fiction. Dark, thought-provoking, and wildly underrated, this book fits the mold of what the transgressive fiction genre aims to be.

From the moment we are born, we begin to die.

A reader can't help but pick apart this novel and inevitably find an opinion on their own. Janne Teller does a magnificent job of creating a story out of a universal question and then compelling the reader into finding the answer for themselves ... because this novel does not pretend to have the answer.

Throughout the course of the book the characters one by one must sacrifice something to the heap of meaning. At first these sacrifices are trivial but they become increasingly twisted with each one ... and after the last sacrifice the story takes a turn for the worst.

How come everyone's making like everything that isn't important is very important, all the while they're so busy pretending what's really important isn't important at all?

This novel is a rare one. It accomplishes immersing the reader into its' phenomenal storytelling about a difficult question in a simple way.

Nothing by Janne Teller checks off all of the boxes: a page turner, it crawls under your skin, it's the right amount of fucked up, and it does more than just entertain us ... it gives the reader something to think about.

We cried because we had lost something and gained something else. And because it hurt both losing and gaining. And because we knew what we had lost but weren't as yet able to put into words what it was we had gained.


Janne Teller is a Danish novelist of Austrian-German background. Her literature, that also includes essays and short stories, has received numerous literary awards and grants, and is today translated into a total of 30 languages.

Always confronting the larger philosophical questions of life and modern civilization, her books often spark controversial debate.

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