The Jerusalem Prize

2017 - Karl Ove Knausgaard

Born: 6 December, 1968, Oslo, Norway

Authors Quote: "For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops".

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Karl Ove Knausgaard

About Karl Ove Knausgaard
Karl Ove Knausgård (born 6 December 1968) is a Norwegian author, known for six autobiographical novels, titled My Struggle (Min Kamp).

Knausgård made his publishing debut in 1998 with the novel Out of the World, for which he was awarded the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature. This was the first time in the award's history that a debut novel had won.

His second novel, A Time for Everything (2004), partly retells certain parts of the Bible as well as the history of angels on earth. The book won a number of awards, and was nominated for the Nordic Council's Literature Prize. It was also nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. It has been called a "strange, uneven, and marvelous book" by The New York Review of Books.

While Knausgård´s two first books were well received, it was with the six-volume Min Kamp series of autobiographical novels that made Knausgård become a household name in Norway. Published from 2009 to 2011 and totaling over 3,500 pages, the books were hugely successful and also caused much controversy. The controversy was caused partly because the Norwegian title of the book, Min Kamp, is the same as the Norwegian title of Hitler's Mein Kampf, and partly because some have suggested Knausgård goes too far in exposing the private lives of his friends and family - including his father, ex-wife, uncle, and grandmother. The books have nevertheless received almost universally favorable reviews, in particular, the first two volumes. Even before the final book's publication, they were one of the greatest publishing phenomena in Norway ever. In a country of five million people, the Min Kamp series has sold over 450,000 copies.

In a radio interview with his estranged ex-wife, Tonje Aursland, who plays a part in several of the Min Kamp books, Knausgård admitted that he sometimes feels that he has made a "Faustian bargain" — that he has achieved huge success by sacrificing his relationships with friends and members of his family. In October 2010, Aursland presented her perspective on involuntarily becoming a subject of her ex-husband's autobiography in a radio documentary broadcast on NRK. Knausgård´s uncle, who is represented as Gunnar in the Min Kamp books, has been highly critical of the whole project in the Norwegian press.

The Min Kamp series is currently being translated into numerous languages. The earliest books have already been published to great critical acclaim in Denmark, Sweden, and several other countries. The first five have (as of 2016) been translated into English by Don Bartlett for publication by Archipelago Books (US) and Harvill Secker (UK), and have been retitled in Britain as A Death in the Family, A Man in Love, Boyhood Island, Dancing in the Dark, Some Rain Must Fall, and The End. In a long and largely positive review of the first Min Kamp books, James Wood of The New Yorker wrote that "There is something ceaselessly compelling about Knausgård’s book: even when I was bored, I was interested." In a review of Book 2: A Man in Love in The New York Times, Leland de la Durantaye called the My Struggle series "breathtakingly good" and compared it to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In a review of Book 3: Boyhood Island in the Times Literary Supplement, Thomas Meaney reflected on the differences between Proust and Knausgård, and wrote about the philosophy behind the Min Kamp books. Joshua Rothman notes in his article in The New Yorker that “In previous volumes, we’ve watched a younger Karl Ove struggle to absorb his father’s dark energies. In the new volume, his dad is no longer abusive.” However, in an interview with Andrew O’Hagan, Knausgaard has said that writing My Struggle has not helped him in conquering his fear of his father. website noted that, even though Knausgård was called the "Norwegian Proust", the first volume sold very few copies in France, probably because the strong French tradition of auto fiction makes the book look less original than it appears in the US.


My Struggle (Book 1) - Karl Ove Knausgaard

By Frank Phillips

Knausgård's first volume in his 6 volume My Struggle has finally been published in English. This is one of the most successful books ever published in Norway and deserves a wider audience. Book One introduces us to Knausgård's life with his recollections of his earliest memories through his teenage years. The second half, focused on arranging his father's funeral while finishing his first novel, deals with his complicated relationship and feelings about his very strange and pathetic father.

The series itself is a strange venture. On one level it is simply a memoir by a 40 year old writer who has achieved great acclaim in Norway (but is almost unknown outside the Scandinavian countries). On a more lurid level, it is a "reality show" in book form, its essence being a brutally honest intrusion into the author's life, and more notably, the lives of everyone around him. But the value and genius of this book is that Knausgård has an extraordinary ability to articulate the feelings and perceptions of ordinary people as they live their ordinary lives, make choices, and deal with the consequences of those choices. His self-awareness is refreshing and hilarious. Poetry in prose.

The book was released this morning. I intended to read a few pages this morning, but was unable to put it down. It is that good.

I read a lot of Norwegian literature in translation and Don Bartlett, the translator, is one of the best. He has always impressed me with his focus on retaining the feel of the original language and did a great job with My Struggle.


My Struggle (Book 1) - Karl Ove Knausgaard

By Taylor McNeil

Novels are often autobiographical, and memoirs usually have as much fiction as fact. So what is Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle? It's clearly his personal story, told in a hyper-realistic manner. When I saw him in conversation with James Wood in September 2012 at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, he said yes, of course this is a novel, not a memoir: he uses the techniques of a novelist. But it's something simpler than that: it's an extremely effective piece of storytelling, the elemental kind that is how we make sense of our lives.

Why should readers care about the story of Karl Ove's life? It's not that it's in any way remarkable, though it certainly has its personal dramas. No, it's the almost guileless realism that drew me in--all the small details that make up our everyday lives that rarely get acknowledged in books, but which completely resonates at some deep inner level. And while there are passages where the writing is plain--no other word for it--often Knausgaard is employing the careful wordcraft of a skilled writer more concerned with telling his story than showing off his chops. In doing so, he gets to the heart of being in all its everyday ordinariness.

Knausgaard spares no one in his family in this portrayal, least of all himself. We see family scenes from his childhood, a long section from his teenage years that's blissfully free of moralizing or wallowing in self pity: it's simply life itself.

But ultimately the book is about death, and what that means for the living. My Struggle opens with a meditation on life's end, and the heart of the book recounts Karl Ove's week after learning of his father's death, most of it spent at his grandmother's fetid home in Kristiansand, a town on the southern coast of Norway. It was here that his father spent the last years of his life, slowly drinking himself to death. Karl Ove and his brother Yngve slowly clean out the stinking house, tossing reeking clothes and furniture, scrubbing for hours on end, and trying to understand their grandmother, who found their dead father, her dead son.

It doesn't sound like promising material, and should by rights be downright depressing, but it's not. Every detail is described with care; the story is more like a painting of an old Dutch master, rich in intricate and mundane detail, sparing nothing, engrossing us, leaving us wanting more.

Why does this book work so well? Why did I look forward to reading another 20 pages every evening? I think somehow Knausgaard has managed to make his struggle universal through all the small details that accumulate into the larger whole. That includes his own follies and failures, his self doubt and fears, and yet also a confidence that he will make it through to the next day, the ultimate struggle for all of us.

Each little moment he describes is a moment of awareness of the present. Perhaps that's why it captivated me: all too often, we go through our days unaware of the moments that make up our lives, lost in thought, focused on the future or the past. Knausgaard describes a relentless present, something that we mostly forget in our own daily struggles.

This definitely isn't a book for everyone; if you want plot development and action, look elsewhere. But for me it was rich, rewarding, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving.