A death in the family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A death in the family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Norwegian fiction

Translator – Don Bartlett

Karl Ove Knausgaard is a Norwegian writer .He qualified in arts and literature from Bergen university and he became a writer his first novel Out of this world won a big award in Norway he was first to win it with a debut novel .His second novel was also well review and got some prizes and on some shortlists but then he change his style with this book the first in a six part biography in fiction called Min Kampf this being the same title as Hitlers bio my struggle in english which is the title the american publisher has kept for their edition .The books all together add up to over three thousand pages .They were a huge hit in Norway when they came out . Leading too much debate and chat about his book and how it touched there lives ,in the end one in five people in Norway brought a copy .He started the book when he was hitting forty as he was struggling with his writing and at the same age his dad had started going into the bottle for solace at the same age ,he said in a guardian interview he want to put something about his father on paper .

Well I suppose those of you that haven’t read this are thought like I did is this a modern version of Proust (I have only ever read the first part of Proust ) is the a Madeleine moment is it a soul search yes and yes and maybe even more so .He maybe owes more to his fellow Scandinavian the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard with Knausgaard centring on himself and his loves and hates . Updike another writer that had been influence by Kierkegaard said in his desert island interview something along the lines that early in his writing life he decide to writer about the scenes and places he knew also the people he saw every day Where as Updike always change name ,I feel Knausgaard to the brave decision to keep the actual names of every one involved .So this is fiction the people in the book exist ,so we meet his family the book opens with a death and this may well be the Madeleine moment for that is what sparks the narrative in the rest of this vol 1 ,then young Karl grows up a mother that is always elsewhere and what may be described as a classic distant father ( i was touched by this my own dad not distant but like my self a quiet man most of the time ) .We see the teen Karl as his parents split up and he grows into a rock fan Know part of me knows I would like Karl his taste in music are very similar to mine at that age The cure ,Joy division .Then his dating and early years of marriage .A ;lot of this book is told like episodes and rather like the structure of Joyce’s Ulysses ,but this book hasn’t the jarring effect that Joyce’s book has ,you seem to know when he has jumped .His father is the main character in this book I feel a quiet man who falls into the bottle after the parents marriage falls apart He comes across as one of those men you’re not over sure to act around because you never know how he will react ,also he has something I ve read about the tendency to suicide that is higher in Scandinavia than here in the uk.We see his father effect on his life and maybe as the book closes he is wanting to be different as he faces fatherhood .

For several years I had tried to write about my father, but had got nowhere, probably because the subject was too close to my life, and thus not so easy to force into another form, which of course is a prerequisite for literature. That is its sole law: everything has to submit to form…Strong themes and styles have to be broken down before literature can come into being. It is this breaking down that is called ‘writing’. Writing is more about destroying than creating.

Now He has fallen out with his family due to this endless interviews , documentaries about it in Norway his ex-wife initially keen then did a radio programme on the books effect on her own life .But maybe he has done what he want to do and that is write something new and fresh ,this book is maybe like those unusual works of art by Gunter Von Hagen ,he took dead bodies and stripped them down to the blood systems ,lungs .Knausgaard looks to be doing the same taken his own life apart and splitting it into parts to be worked over to see how he got where he was and maybe what there is for us to all learn from it ..Bartlett had kept the feel of Knausgaard from the interviews I ve read and heard by him .

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Scott W.
    Jun 13, 2012 @ 21:16:54

    Stu – Since reading Knausgaard’s A Time for Everything last year and being completely knocked out by it, I’d been ravenously awaiting this first volume of My Struggle and swallowed it whole once it arrived. I’m disappointed that the title for the British edition has co-opted that of James Agee’s famous novel in what must surely be an attempt to keep the Hitlerian allusion out of bookshop windows. You’re right – this is a very different style from that previous book, and a very different enterprise. Its reputation (at least as it was received in Norway – like a bomb) precedes it, and while it’s unlikely to have the same impact on the rest of the world, it’s still a monumental, tremendously engaging work (judging just by the first volume) and a particularly acute self-portrait of a writer. Though I read it two months ago, it has such a lasting, penetrating realism that I sometimes recall some precise detail from it that at first I mistake for one of my own memories. I can hardly wait the year it will take for the second volume to appear in English.


  2. farmlanebooks
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 10:47:47

    I love your comparison to Gunter Von Hagen! His personal life sounds like it will be very like a corpse after everything he has written. I can’t say I’m really looking forward to reading the next book, but I am curious about how detailed it will be – especially with regards to his failed relationships. I’m just glad I don’t know him!


    • winstonsdad
      Jun 23, 2012 @ 17:55:54

      It seemed good comparison it looks like he has take. His own life apart so see each
      Book going be a bit of it this was his dad and him facing fatherhood


  3. Parrish
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 19:02:10

    have heard about this writer & it had some appeal, but taking your corpse analogy, it reminds me more of an autopsy than the art pretensions of Von Hagen.


    • winstonsdad
      Jun 23, 2012 @ 17:57:25

      Maybe but meant more the way vin Hagen had shown but of the body like blood system and muscles similar way to Karl had taken his own life apart to write about it


  4. Anbolyn Potter (@anbolynp)
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 04:04:40

    I’m endlessly fascinated by life histories, especially ones that try to dissect the influences that contributed to defining the writer. It’s very interesting that this book was such a hit in Norway considering that the writer is not a movie star or ‘celebrity’. This definitely sounds like something I would enjoy reading.


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June 2012


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