Book world's main man hits town

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Dionne Chris­tian My Strug­gle, Kampf. Mein Out of the World Sea­sons Quar­tet,

They call Karl Ove Knaus­gaard a “rock star” of writ­ers, and stand­ing in the foyer at the Sky City Grand Ho­tel — all 1.93m of him, lion-like with a mane of tou­sled grey hair, match­ing beard and pierc­ing blue eyes — he looks like one.

His books have sold in num­bers more com­monly racked up by rock al­bums, too, so it was big news when the Auck­land Writ­ers Fes­ti­val said he would be one of the 230 au­thors — lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional — at this week’s event.

Now Knaus­gaard’s ar­rived, run a work­shop and is pre­par­ing to dis­cuss his writ­ing life with what will surely be an in­ti­mate crowd of hun­dreds — af­ter all, the Aotea Cen­tre’s ASB The­atre seats about 2139.

It’s far from the first time he has bared his soul; in­deed, Knaus­gaard’s made his rep­u­ta­tion based on six au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal nov­els, which were pub­lished from 2009-11 to­talling 3600 pages.

They be­came a lit­er­ary sen­sa­tion in his na­tive Nor­way, where it was es­ti­mated one copy was sold for ev­ery nine adults, and not just be­cause the ti­tle was the same as Adolf Hitler’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy,

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That they were so bru­tally per­sonal fu­elled a frenzy of news­pa­per ar­ti­cles, TV in­ter­views and on­line com­ment es­pe­cially when mem­bers of Knaus­gaard’s own ex­tended fam­ily came out swing­ing, claim­ing events in the books were not as they re­mem­bered.

As the writer him­self re­alises, that’s the na­ture of mem­ory for you but he says he pities fam­i­lies who have some­one, like him, who is sim­ply driven to write.

“One thing I know is that it’s prob­a­bly a curse for a fam­ily to have a writer in its midst.”

Read­ers couldn’t get enough of the pri­vate thoughts of a man strug­gling to bal­ance am­bi­tion — he wanted to write great lit­er­a­ture — with the mun­dan­ity of ev­ery­day life.

He says he switched from try­ing to be a great writer to one sim­ply try­ing to get time to write. In his 20s when he wrote (his first novel, pub­lished in 1998), he thought he had to iso­late him­self.

“I don’t know where that idea came from, maybe the ro­man­tic idea of the artist, but when we had chil­dren, that changed com­pletely and my writ­ing be­came much more grounded and the thing was that I re­alised that I can’t write the great novel, that was im­pos­si­ble and I had to just write with­out am­bi­tion.

“That was such a lib­er­at­ing thing for my writ­ing and for my life. You know, when you have to pick up chil­dren from nurs­ery at 4pm and you have maybe four hours, well, in those four hours you write. I stopped think­ing about qual­ity and be­ing good, and I just wrote.”

He points out that those women who are writ­ers and mothers do it all the time with­out com­ment.

Then the books went global, trans­lated into 22 lan­guages and pro­pel­ling the fa­ther-of­four to global lit­er­ary star­dom.

In 2011, he said he wouldn’t write again but has since writ­ten the four books com­pris­ing es­says about con­cepts and ob­jects, and now plans some­thing dif­fer­ent. Pure fic­tion, he says.

The Auck­land Writ­ers Fes­ti­val is now on, fin­ish­ing Sun­day.

Photo / Greg Bowker

Karl Ove Knaus­gaard is ap­pear­ing at the Auck­land Writ­ers Fes­ti­val.

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