Karl Ove Knausgård

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Karl Ove Knausgård
Karl Ove Knausgård.jpg
Karl Ove Knausgård 2011
Born (1968-12-06) 6 December 1968 (age 48)
Oslo, Norway
Occupation Author, novelist
Nationality Norwegian
Alma mater University of Bergen
Genre Fiction, memoir

Karl Ove Knausgård (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈkɑːɭ ˈuːvə ˈknæʉsˌgɔːɾ]; born 6 December 1968) is a Norwegian author, known for six autobiographical novels, titled My Struggle (Min Kamp).[1]

Literary career[edit]

Debut and follow-up[edit]

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.[2]

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.[3]

The Min Kamp books[edit]

While Knausgård´s two first books were well received, it was with the six-volume Min Kamp series of autobiographical novels, published from 2009 to 2011 and totaling over 3,500 pages, that Knausgård became a household name in Norway. The books were hugely successful and also caused much controversy.[2][4] 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, especially the first two volumes, and, 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.[5]

In a radio interview with his estranged ex-wife, Tonje Aursland, who plays a central 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.[6] 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.[7]

The Min Kamp series is currently being translated into numerous languages. The earliest books have already been published to great critical acclaim in Denmark,[8] Sweden,[5] 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, and Some Rain Must Fall. 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.[4]" 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.[9] 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.[10] Frenchculture.org 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 autofiction makes the book look less original than it appears in the US.[11]

Liesl Schillinger further explains the uniqueness in Knausgård's writing for even his own culture, stating in her Wall Street Journal profile piece:

“No other Norwegian writer had dared such full disclosure. France has a tradition of autobiographical fiction, and memoir is common in the United States but not in Scandinavia.“[12]

Lorin Stein observes:

“Norwegians say that the confessional instinct is so culturally alien to them that it was, in a funny way, useful to him.” As Knausgaard sees it, “There was a threshold for writing about real people, and it was shockingly open. That was very important to me, it gave me courage.”[12]

Work following Min Kamp[edit]

Knausgård served as a consultant to the new Norwegian translation of the Bible.[13] In 2013, he published a collection of essays, Sjelens Amerika: tekster 1996–2013 ("The Soul's [or Mind's] America: Writings 1996–2013"), and as of September 2013 he is adapting his novel Out of the World into a screenplay.[14]

Editing career[edit]

Between 1999 and 2002 Knausgård was co-editor of Vagant, a Norwegian literary magazine founded in 1988. He was part of the first editorial team of Vagant in Bergen; until 1999 the magazine had been based in Oslo. Knausgård contributed essays about the writings of Don DeLillo and The Divine Comedy by Dante. He also conducted in-depth interviews with the Norwegian writers Rune Christiansen and Thure Erik Lund for the magazine. Just after he left Vagant and Bergen, his former co-editor Preben Jordal wrote a very negative review of Knausgård's second novel in the magazine, with the title «Mellom Bibel og babbel» ("Between the Bible and babble") — an episode discussed in the second volume of Min Kamp.

Publishing career[edit]

In 2010, he founded a small but eclectic publishing house, Pelikanen (Pelican), with his brother Yngve Knausgård and Asbjørn Jensen.[15] Pelikanen has so far published Denis Johnson, Peter Handke, Christian Kracht, Ben Marcus, Curzio Malaparte and Stig Larsson in Norwegian translations.

Personal life[edit]

Born in Oslo, Knausgård was raised on Tromøya in Arendal and in Kristiansand, and studied arts and literature at the University of Bergen.

Knausgård lives in Österlen, Sweden, with his wife, the writer Linda Boström Knausgård, and their four children.[16]


Awards and nominations[edit]




  1. ^ "Karl O. Knausgaard". Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Hermione Hoby, "Karl Ove Knausgaard: Norway's Proust and a life laid painfully bare," The Guardian, March 1, 2014.
  3. ^ Ingrid D. Rowland, "The Primordial Struggle," The New York Review of Books, October 14, 2010.
  4. ^ a b James Wood, "Total Recall". The New Yorker, 13 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Høye salgstall for Karl Ove Knausgård i Sverige / Pressemeldinger / Presse / Hovedsiden – Forlaget Oktober" (in Norwegian). Oktober.no. 2012-01-29. Retrieved 2012-06-15. 
  6. ^ Gundersen, Trygve Riiser (October 3, 2010). "Knausgård burde være glad". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ Eivind Kristensen, "«Onkel Gunnar» tar knallhardt oppgjør med Knausgård" (in Norwegian), Aftenposten, 17 November 2011.
  8. ^ "Får toppkarakterer i Danmark – Litteratur – NRK Nyheter". Nrk.no. Retrieved 2012-06-15. 
  9. ^ Leland de la Durantaye (21 June 2013): Inside Story The New York Times, retrieved 25 June 2013
  10. ^ Thomas Meaney (21 March 2014): "A Vital Hatred", The Times Literary Supplement; retrieved 25 April 2014.
  11. ^ "Why Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian Proust, is (not yet) such a big deal in France". frenchculture.org. 
  12. ^ a b Schillinger, Liesl (November 4, 2015). "Why Karl Ove Knausgaard Can't Stop Writing; WSJ. Magazine's 2015 Literary Innovator risked everything by writing 'My Struggle,' a 3,600-page account of his life". The Wall Street Journal. 
  13. ^ "Bibel 2011". www.nlm.no. 
  14. ^ Nina Berglund (04 September 2013): "Knausgaard cancels all appearances", Views and News from Norway; retrieved 7 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Om oss – Pelikanen forlang". Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Hennes kamp är explosiv". Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c "Knausgård, Karl Ove / Oktober / Authors". Aschehoug Agency. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  18. ^ "A Time for Everything". Archipelago Books. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Farsethås, Ane (December 15, 2015). "After My Struggle: An Interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard". theparisreview.org. The Paris Review. Retrieved December 14, 2016. 
  20. ^ ""Welt"-Literaturpreis 2015 an Karl Ove Knausgård". Die Welt (in German). 18 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 

External links[edit]