I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Way It Is

The Way It Is

Jon Smith
Autumn, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, transl Ingvild Burkey, Harvill Secker, 224 pp, £16.99, ISBN: 978-1910701638 Karl Ove Knausgaard is a writer who cannot feel a restriction without wanting to kick against it. At writing school in his native Norway, he was urged to pare back his texts. His response was to add in more. After writing an unsparing account of his father’s death from alcoholism, he sent copies to family members for approval. When they objected, he decided to publish anyway. Told by his agent that he should not follow a friend’s joking suggestion and name the ensuing series of autobiographical novels after Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Knausgaard insisted on it. He became an international literary sensation on the back of the first five volumes, so he used the sixth and final one to throw away his plot ideas for future novels to ensure he would never use them, and ended by saying he would “really enjoy the thought that I am no longer a writer”. It should come as little surprise, then, that this man of contradiction has continued to write. The idea that he would stop seemed fanciful: he has said he finds writing as much of an escape now as reading was when he was a boy growing up with a bullying, volatile father. The books known in Norwegian as Min Kamp began almost as a kind of therapy. The first volume – published as A Death in the Family in the English translation, with the Hitlerian series title My Struggle tactfully relegated to smaller type – is set largely amid the turmoil that followed his father’s death. It was written in something approaching a trance; his agent described it as a “manic confession”. Knausgaard continued to turn a merciless eye on his own life and his closest family: his tempestuous relationship with his (now ex-) wife, the Swedish author Linda Boström Knausgaard, is the focus in A Man in Love; his childhood in his father’s shadow in Boyhood Island; his wild teenage drinking days and comical desperation to get laid during a summer stint as a teacher in Dancing in the Dark; and his stumbling, rebellious period at writing school and slowly dawning maturity in Some Rain Must Fall. The sixth has yet to be published in English, with regular translator Don Bartlett’s as yet untitled version due out next year. My Struggle, in its obsessively detailed, evocative recreation of the past, has led to Knausgaard being dubbed…

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