How a shy plumber might feel (Knausgaard and Sanghera)

energy plumbing heating Boilers R Us Beckenham 917.JPG

The first quote is from Karl Ove Knausgaard, The end, describing the press interviews he did in Oslo on the day his book A death in the family came out. I read this yesterday evening on the bus from work into Amsterdam. I passed it vaguely over until this morning, heading into Amsterdam again this time by train, I came across the second remark in Sathnam Sanghera’s column in the Times. Are writing and plumbing often compared?


The interview with Søndagsavisen passed off pretty well. Afterwards Siss Vik met me in reception and we went up to her office and did the interview for Ordfront. For the first time that day I spoke about literature. What I said was vague and not very good, but it was about literature and that in itself felt cathartic. I imagined it was a bit like how a shy plumber might feel after having to speak all day to the media about himself and his feelings, his family and friends, when at long last, late in the afternoon, he was able to talk about pipes and washers.


At two separate parties this week I was greeted by strangers with the same apology: “Sorry, I’ve not read your book.” And of all the strange things people say to writers, alongside “Should I have read you?” and “Have you been published?”, this is the strangest. It’s OK, there are a lot of books in the world! My own family don’t read my books! I’m not going to test you! You wouldn’t apologise to a plumber for not having appreciated their work!


(I took the picture in Beckenham, south London, in 2017)

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "Energy Storage" at European Commission, Joint Research Centre

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