Keeping Up with Karl Ove Knausgård

The Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgård (born 1968) is a writer worth paying attention to. His six-volume memoir/novel My Struggle has been a sensation in his native country (in a way that no such literary work could be in a country as large and as fractured as the U.S). Right now, only the first two volumes have been translated into English, and “addictive” is the only way to describe the experience of meeting Knausgård’s universe head on.

My Struggle chronicles his childhood in 1970s Norway, his dealings with his alcoholic father, his development as a writer and his conflicts about being a husband and father of three in Sweden. “My Struggle is basically thousands of pages of everyday life,” he says. Yet his meditations on marriage, writing, manhood, Christianity, the artificial and homogeneous nature of modern life, and the impact of middle age are more than ordinary.

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Knausgård recently gave an interview to The Believer, where many of his obsessions were touched upon. He tells the magazine:

“It’s horrible that things are getting more and more similar with commercialization and globalization… and the differences between the sexes. I mean, men and women are different, and you know those are things that are hard to discuss in Sweden and that I’ve written a lot about. That’s one thing. On another level I find the equalizing that exists in Christianity, the equalizing in which you find mercy… ‘As he was buried his name disappeared and he became one of many’. And in that, there was an enormous consolation when my father died.”

“Identity is a key question for me. What’s identity? If you’ve read my books you’ve read about an extremely feminine boy. He’s into clothes, he likes to talk to girls and he’s very sensitive. That’s me when I was younger. Then I understood that no, it won’t work this way. I was bullied because of it. When I turned thirteen it became something dangerous. I felt like I had to get out of it and try a masculine role. Somehow in that I lost balance, I wondered who and what I really was… and later, I became a father, I got a new role, and at the same time I was incredibly afraid of my own feminine side, and everything crashes together, it boils, and becomes something amazingly beneficial to write about, it’s exactly the kind of complexity that I always look for.”

Read the entire Knausgård interview here.

UPDATE (4/2014) The New Republic has an excellent feature on Knausgård that chronicles the regret he now feels as a result of criticism of his autobiographic work by his friends and family.

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