Karl Ove Knausgaard. Honestly, I’d never heard of him. Until, last year, I started reading about this guy. People were saying that he has been writing the literary accomplishment of the decade/century, apparently. Quite a claim, and somewhat hard to believe. Who wants to read the autobiography of someone you have never heard of? I had my doubts, believe me.
I decided to give it a go, with the first volume of five, “A Death in the Family”. Now I’m not going to keep you waiting. Straight away, I will tell you that I loved this book, as well as every other in the series. The best thing I can say about these books is that I am getting excited again just thinking about my first experience with them.
But, thinking back to that first volume, I really wasn’t sure. As I was reading, and becoming absorbed in the story and in his life, I couldn’t help but feel unsure. Unsure about whether this thing was really that good, it was just too simple. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t, it became philosophical and tragic. There was something about it, I just couldn’t put it down.
And so it continued with the next volumes. Each one captures a different time in his life, but they are not sequential. Events overlap, characters appear, disappear and later re-emerge.
This was definitely one of the greatest reading experiences of my life, but also one of the most uncomfortable. But doesn’t great art always make us feel a little discomfort? I have some similarities to this man, and at times I was close to tears, as it was sometimes a little too close to home. There is something about his style which makes you feel as if you are there, feeling with him and for him.
His struggle is personal, but he reveals himself to his readers. His wounds are bared and open for examination. Family, relationships and his art. All these things are examined, to the bare bones.
And finally, the greatest compliment I can give this series is the sadness I felt when I finished the fifth book. The realisation that, for now, there isn’t another volume to immerse myself in. Hopefully, in the future, there will be more. For now we have to wait and be patient. But not for too long, please.
Text © Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash