What I’ve read : Karl Ove Knausgaard : A death in the family

Nelson, winter 2021, Sylvie GE

A new author, about whom some claim that he is the discovery of the 21st  century: Karl Ove  Knausgaard, from Norway, best known for « My Struggle » (a title inspired by « Mein Kampf », that  seems  unrelated to the German publication (but so far I have only read two of the six volumes under this title)  ). I do not know what aroused my curiosity for this author, who recounted in six volumes his daily  and inner life from all angles, but there we are.  He had previously published other  titles very well received by the critics, crowned with  various awards, but it was « My Struggle » that made him known worldwide. In principle,   what I thought was a kind of autofiction with narcissistic flavors would not appeal to me. And yet. I first read « Spring », which is I believe its penultimate title, when I did not know where to start  (it  seemed more logical to me, but I had  to start with « A death in the family », which recounts, unsurprisingly, the death of his father, but also his adolescence in a very detailed way)  .  In this book, he recounts  insignificant details or important moments, which makes some passages boring  (I don’t always have the patience to read them all). The publisher presents it  as « an emotional journey of absolute fidelity », a very accurate description, in my opinion, of the author’s adolescence with an exceptional memory. He remembers   colors, flavors, moments, noises with an accuracy that leaves me speechless and that I would probably not be able to reproduce. Beyond this literary detail,  and even if some moments are long, I am not sure I can put my finger on the precise reason for  what  touches me so deeply. Perhaps it is his total fidelity to his memories, without any complacency  and hi   honesty. I find  in him no desire to present himself in a favorable light, to autofiction in order to glorify himself or complain, as is often the case in this kind of work. I’ve read a few reviews where it’s mentioned that you hate it or love it, I can imagine both reactions quite easily. As for the author himself, he confessed  that he began to write what would become a monumental work, when he had difficulty writing, that he first did it to grasp the present moment, what was happening in his head, and that he   had no intention of publishing what he wrote, which I find easy to  believe  given what he projects in the eyes of the readers,   a quite ordinary human being  struggling with   a world  he does not always understand. Elsewhere, he confesses that he is  a shameful individual, from whom he tried to free himself by recounting what he considered shameful. It is, I think,  another sign that literature, as well as poetry (which I explore in a very humble way here) is always in movement, always changing, this is such a mysterious and fascinating process at the same time. His family and friends  also appear  in his books and they  do not necessarily appreciate what he has to say about them. It  has led of course  to the questioning  of  his version of the facts  and confirms that any event is experienced in a unique way. He must also live with what he has honestly admitted,  and the possibility that his children will one day read his books (not particularly pleasing). So,  maybe to read or not, it really depends on what you are looking for in a book. As for me, I intend to continue reading  and discover more about him. Will I be able to go to volume 6 or not? To be continued.

4 réflexions sur « What I’ve read : Karl Ove Knausgaard : A death in the family »

  1. This is interesting. I have heard of this author, but thought I didn’t want to read any navel gazing (also, a graduate degree in history put me off a lot of nonfiction). Your review gives a deeper view into the series, though. Thanks!

    1. I think I found it interesting because it made me question my own approach to writing and its purpose. But I myst confess I skip à lot of the details, and then, in the midst of the insignificance, I find something. I am glad, though, I get them from the library

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