reading #KarlOveKnausgaard

Knausgaard will be talking in Brussels next month so I read A death in the family (2009, tr. 2012), the first in the My Struggle series.

So when my father raised the sledgehammer above his head and let it fall on the rock that spring evening in the mid-1970s he was doing so in a world he knew and was familiar with. It was not until I myself reached the same age that I understood there was indeed a price to pay for this. As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning.


The night Vanja was born she lay looking at us for several hours… She looked like something from the forest lying there on Linda’s stomach, staring at us… There has never been so much future in my life as at that time, never so much joy. Now she is four, and everything is different. 


public writing DON'T DROP RUBBISH Vitebsk 815.JPG(Vitebsk, August 2015 – Don’t make rubbish where you live) 

The house was a 70s build, the plot unworked, full of stones, uncovered rock, with a broken swing, a pile of wood under a tarpaulin, a wrecked car and some tyres. I didn’t understand why they [William’s family] lived like that. Didn’t they want to live like normal people? Or couldn’t they? Didn’t it matter to them? Or did they in fact think that they were living like normal people? The father was kind and gentle, the mother always angry, the three children always dressed in clothes that were either too big or too small.


I was four years old and nothing was incomprehensible, everything was connected with everything else.


 I had this from my mother, right from the time I went to school I used to carry on long conversations with her about people we had met or known, what they had said, why they might have said it, where they came from, who their parents were, what kind of house they lived in, all woven into questions to do with politics, ethics, morality, psychology and philosophy, and this conversation, which continued to this day, had given my gaze a direction. I always saw what happened between people and tried to explain it, and for a long time I also believed I was good at reading others, but I was not, wherever I turned I only saw myself, but perhaps that was not what our conversations were about primarily, there was something else, they were about mum and me, that was how we became close to each other, in language and reflection, that was where we were connected, and that was also where I sought a connection with Tonje [his then wife].

What do I think about the book? Remarks stay with you, you expect them to be explained later. E.g. that in Malmo he doesn’t know anyone and that’s fine by him. The stuff about death at the beginning. Themes repeat. Understanding people. Living in a chaos house. Language and reality. I didn’t think “that’s great writing” and eg the description of spring was the opposite. But I want to get down to Waterstones and get the next one.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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