This joyful family saga about free will, forgiveness, and interconnection poses a question: are we free to create our own destinies or are we just part of a system beyond our control?

In October 1989, a set of triplets is born, and it is at this moment their father chooses to reveal his affair. Pandemonium ensues. 

Over two decades later, Sebastian is recruited to join a mysterious organisation, where he meets Laura Kadinsky, a patient whose inability to see the world in three dimensions is not the only intriguing thing about her. Meanwhile, Clara has travelled to Easter Island to join a doomsday cult, and the third triplet, Matilda, is in Sweden, trying to escape from the colour blue.  

Then, something happens that forces the triplets to reunite. Their mother calls with worrying news: their father has gone missing and she has something to tell them, a 25-year secret that will change all their lives. 

A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding was longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023, announced on March 14 2023.


The International Booker Prize 2023
Published by
Scribe UK
Publication date

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Amanda Svensson

Amanda Svensson

About the Author

Amanda Svensson was born in 1987, and grew up in Malmö, Sweden. She started writing at a young age, and her first novel - Hey Dolly - was published in 2008.
More about Amanda Svensson
Nichola Smalley

Nichola Smalley

About the Translator

Nichola Smalley is a translator of Swedish and Norwegian literature.
More about Nichola Smalley

Amanda Svensson on A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding

‘Writing is a very organic process for me, a winding road, and it’s often very hard, not to say impossible, for me to remember what got me started once I reach the end. Especially with this book, since there is so much going on in it. But I think A System… started with the thought that I wanted to challenge myself to do something I hadn’t done before, which was to write a big, sprawling and intricately plotted book. Partly because these are the kind of books I enjoy reading, and partly because I wanted to see what would happen if I allowed myself a lot of space to let the story and the writing go where it wanted to go. I have a tendency to fall in love with my supporting characters, and in this book I could really let them do their thing. In terms of the novel’s actual themes, the story – for me at least – has always been about fear versus safety, chaos versus order and control. The world is such a huge, fantastic, wonderful, mad, and terrifying place, and I wanted to explore different ways in which people cope with this – through love, family, science, or simply by allowing oneself to go slightly mad.’

Read the full interview here.

Amanda Svensson

What the judges said

‘Amanda Svensson’s raucous, sprawling debut takes on the enigmas of our origins, riddles of human consciousness and animal cognition, doomsday cults, and the most bedevilling of mysteries – the minds and choices of our closest intimates.’

What the critics said

Suzi Feay, The Guardian

‘Global in scope, Amanda Svensson’s hefty novel boasts even heftier themes. To address the question of whether there is an ultimate pattern to existence, she carefully assembles her materials, sets up stringent lab conditions, and runs a series of rigorous tests. But because she’s a novelist rather than a scientist, her discoveries are carefully planted; and, as you might expect of Ali Smith’s Swedish translator, she is playfully experimental.’

Michael Callahan, New York Times Book Review

‘The siblings’ rotating stories propel Svensson’s chaotic family saga in all sorts of bizarre and involving directions — it’s almost as if you’re being dared to keep up with it all. A camarilla of crackbrained supporting characters only adds to the bedlam, weaving in and out of the triplets’ respective tales.’

Publishers Weekly

‘Even if the lack of resolution is intentional, the length starts to feel wearing. Still, wacky details at Sebastian’s lab—a monkey with a moral compass, a patient who can only see in two dimensions—and the provocative intrigue keep this afloat. It’s fun if exhausting.’

Thane Tierney, BookPage

‘How they aim to mend their estrangement and cope with their possible nonfamilial ties occupies the majority of A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding, which straddles science fiction, whodunit and soapy drama. While all of the main characters are deeply—really deeply—flawed, Svensson has you rooting for them through their highs and lows. “Nothing ever ends, but everything ends,” she writes. “That’s why soap operas are the only true narrative form, and the soap bubble the only true art form.”’

Sara Beth West, Shelf Awareness

‘This sharp and expansive novel takes up love, loss, truth and beauty and will challenge readers to decide if they agree when Matilda asserts: “We’re all living in different worlds. It’s up to each of us to decide what form that world takes.”’

A System So Magnificent it is Blinding

Other nominated books by Nichola Smalley