Feature

Author of the week: Karl Ove Knausgaard

The first volume of the former Norwegian novelist's six-book, 3,600-page memoir was recently published in the U.S.

Karl Ove Knausgaard had no intention of becoming the bad boy of European letters, said Larry Rohter in The New York Times. The former Norwegian novelist, 43, was simply trying to write honestly about his life when he started My Struggle, a six-book, 3,600-page memoir whose first volume was recently published in the U.S. In the books, which have sold well across much of Europe, Knausgaard speaks candidly about—among other things—his parents’ divorce, his father’s late-life alcoholism, and his wife’s bipolar condition. In doing so, he sparked a media firestorm in Norway, where such tell-all writing simply isn’t done. “When the first two books came out,” says Knausgaard, “all hell broke loose.”

Of course, Knausgaard’s no-holds-barred style may strike U.S. readers as nothing new for the memoir genre. If anything, Americans are more likely to take issue with Knausgaard’s title, a deliberate reference to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. “I was very angry and frustrated when I wrote this book,” he says, and meant for the Hitler reference to be ironic, even though he considers both works to be about “the construction of self.” Knausgaard has also referred to his own memoir as “an act of literary suicide,” a work that has exhausted the creative well that had made him an award-winning novelist. Even his mother has urged him to put down his pen. “If I had known what was coming, I would never have been able to do what I did, because it’s been like hell, really hell,” he says. ”But I’m still very glad I did it.”

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