My Struggle (Knausgård novels)

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My Struggle
Mein Kamp (My Struggle) by Knausgård.jpg
Author Karl Ove Knausgård
Original title Min kamp
Country Norway
Language Norwegian
Published 2009–2011
No. of books 6

My Struggle (Norwegian: Min kamp) is an autobiographical series of six novels written in the late 2000s by Karl Ove Knausgård. The books cover his private life and thoughts, and unleashed a media frenzy upon its release, with journalists attempting to track down the mentioned members of his family. The series has sold half a million copies in Norway alone and has been published in 22 languages.

Overview[edit]

The author, Knausgård

My Struggle is a six-book autobiographical series by Karl Ove Knausgård outlining the "banalities and humiliations of his life", his private pleasures, and his dark thoughts; the first of the series was published in 2009.[1] It has sold nearly 500,000 copies in Norway, or one copy for every nine Norwegian adults, and is published in 22 languages.[1] The series is 3,600 pages long, and was finished when Knausgård was in his forties. The English translation of the fifth book in the series arrived in the United States in April 2016.

Though categorized as fiction, the books situate Knausgård as the protagonist and his actual relatives as the cast, with his relatives' names mostly unchanged. The books have led some of those relatives to make public statements against their inclusion in Knausgård's novels.[1]

History[edit]

As he struggled to write a novel about his relationship with his father, Knausgård set upon a new project in early 2008: to write less stylistically and deliberately and instead, to "write plainly about his life".[1] He wrote mainly to break his block with the other novel and thought that there would not be an audience for the work. Knausgård would call his friend and fellow writer Geir Angell Øygarden daily and read the work aloud. Angell Øygarden felt that Knausgård needed encouragement to continue, and Knausgård felt that Angell Øygarden was essential to the project. Angell Øygarden eventually listened to 5,000 pages of the novel and proposed the series title, which he felt was perfect. The novel's Norwegian title, Min Kamp, is very similar to Hitler's Mein Kampf. The book's editor, Geir Gulliksen, originally forbade Knausgård from using the title, but later changed his mind. Knausgård's British publisher at the time was not interested in the book,[1] and Knausgård did not protest the German translation publisher's decision to change the title in that region.[2]

The difficult thing for me is that I want basically to be a good man. That’s what I want to be. In this project, I wasn’t. It is unmoral, in a way.

Knausgård, to The New Republic, April 2014[1]

In writing the first book, Knausgård reflected that he did not consider the consequences of writing so candidly about his close relations until he paused on the passage about his grandmother. He circulated the first book to about ten of the largest figures in the book before its release and offered to change their names. His brother and mother did not object, but Knausgård's father's family attempted legal intervention and wanted to block publication, calling the novel, "a book full of insinuations, untruths, false personal characteristics and disclosures".[1] Knausgård was scared, but fixed some errors, changed some names, removed a single person, and published the book without acquiescing to all requests. He later acknowledged that he had a choice and chose to publish "no matter what", and referred to this admission of guilt as "cowardly".[1] Knausgård's wife relapsed into depression upon reading his first book.[3] He added that he would not be able to publish the book again now, but was previously able due to his desperation.[1]

Knausgård had finished two volumes when the first book was released. He had been planning to finish the six volumes within the year, preferring to work under harsh deadlines to combat his writer's block. The book's release began a media frenzy as reporters tracked down the novel's characters, which was simple because his family were the only Knausgårds in Norway. Knausgård went into hiding and shut out the media exposure to write daily. Working almost all day aside from chauffeuring his kids, he could write 20 pages in a day. The 50-page section on his first days with his wife was written in a 24-hour spurt.[1]

Knausgård felt that the third through fifth volumes suffered for the influence of the ongoing controversy that followed the original publication. He wrote the 550-page fifth book in eight weeks. The sixth book has a 400-page essay on Hitler's early life and autobiography. He wanted "unsparing honesty" in the last book "to save the project", and so discarded 400 pages, delayed the book, and wrote about the fallout from the publication of the previous five volumes, including a breakdown suffered by his wife[1] during which she was hospitalized.[3] Knausgård described his portrayal of his wife as "the most painful thing" he has done.[1] His wife, although hurt by portions of the series, did not ask for it to be rewritten and has publicly taken his side.[1]

Though he wrote at the end of his series that he is finished with writing, he plans to write a new and fantastical novel not about his life, and influenced by Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino.[1]

Themes[edit]

Though the book's protagonist is conflicted between his commonplace needs and his longing to make monumental art, the novels show that the main functions of his life are not the latter art work but the former family life. The series is centered around family and relationships, not the writer's relationship with his work.[1]

Titles[edit]

The books have different titles depending on country and translation. In the native Norwegian they are simply known as Min kamp 1, Min kamp 2, etc..

The first volume in English has been published under various titles such as My Struggle: Book One or A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1. The second volume has been published as My Struggle: Book Two: A Man in Love or A Man In Love: My Struggle Book 2. The third volume has been published as Boyhood Island: My Struggle Book 3. The fourth volume has been published as Dancing in the dark: My Struggle Book 4. The fifth volume has been published as Some rain must fall: My Struggle Book 5.

The title of the series, of both the English translation and the original Norwegian, is a translation of “Mein Kampf” and is thus a clear reference to Hitler. In an essay for the New Yorker’s website, Evan Hughes explains how Knausgård, in interviews, “has argued that a frightening characteristic that connects Mein Kampf to the writings of Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the 2011 Utøya massacre, is that in the mind behind both texts there seems to be an ‘I’ and a ‘we’ but no ‘you,’ reflecting a dangerous blindness that allowed an otherwise impossible evil.”[2] The sixth book of the series includes a meditation on the Breivik attacks.

The title of the first volume of the German translation is Sterben, which means “to die" or "dying”, the second volume Lieben, meaning "to love" and so on. At the insistence of the publisher, the work was not published as Mein Kampf in Germany. Knausgård says that he understood and did not protest this decision.[2]

Reception[edit]

The New Republic's Evan Hughes wrote that Knausgård's followers feel like he writes about them, that the book is "like opening someone else's diary and finding your own secrets".[1] Hughes called Zadie Smith and Jonathan Lethem admirers of Knausgård's.[1] Novelist Jeffrey Eugenides said that Knausgård "broke the sound barrier of the autobiographical novel".[1]

Knausgård has been criticized over the way he exposes other people in the book.[citation needed] A girlfriend he had for four years, anonymized under the name «Gunvor» in the fifth volume, said to the newspaper Bergens Tidende: “It was as if he said: Now I'm going to punch you in the face. I know it's going to hurt, and I will drive you to the hospital afterwards. But I'm going to do it anyway.”[4]

Theatrical adaptation[edit]

A theatrical adaptation of My Struggle into a Norwegian language play entitled "Min Kamp" was premiered in Kristiansand on 2 September 2016 [5] and performed at the Oslo Nye Centralteatret from 11 October 2016 running until 29 October 2016.[6] The play successively toured various Norwegian theatres before returning to Oslo in December.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Hughes, Evan (April 7, 2014). "Karl Ove Knausgaard Interview: A Literary Star Struggles with Regret". The New Republic. Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Why Name Your Book After Hitler’s?". The New Yorker. 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Hoby, Hermione (March 1, 2014). "Karl Ove Knausgaard: Norway's Proust and a life laid painfully bare". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ Mjør, Kjersti; Krane Hansen, Cathrine (October 3, 2010). "Kvinneleg oppgjer med Knausgårds metode". Bergens Tidende (in Norwegian). Retrieved June 6, 2014. I vår fekk «Gunvor» tilsendt manus til femte bind i «Min Kamp» på e-post. Det var som å få eit slag i ansiktet. - Det var som om han sa: «No skal eg dra til deg. Eg veit at det kjem til å gjere vondt, og eg skal køyre deg på legevakta etterpå. Men eg gjer det likevel». 
  5. ^ "Ingjerd Egeberg og Agnes Kittelsen er Karl Ove Knausgård Lager teater av "Min kamp"". dagbladet.no. Retrieved 2016-11-14.  (in Norwegian)
  6. ^ "Oslo Nye - Min Kamp". oslonye.com. Retrieved 2016-07-12.  (in Norwegian)
  7. ^ "Oslo Nye - Min Kamp". oslonye.com. Retrieved 2016-11-14.  (in Norwegian)
  8. ^ "Literature Prizewinners 1962 - 2013". norden.org. 
  9. ^ "The Believer Book Award 2013 finalists". The Believer. March–April 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  10. ^ Boyd Tonkin (March 2, 2013). "Boyd Tonkin: From Syria to Colombia, and Albanian to Afrikaans, enjoy a global feast". The Independent. Archived from the original on October 6, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  11. ^ Chad W. Post (April 14, 2014). "2014 Best Translated Book Awards: Fiction Finalists". Three Percent. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  12. ^ Alison Flood (8 April 2014). "Knausgaard heads Independent foreign fiction prize shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 - longlist announced". BookTrust. 12 March 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
Additional sources