Book world's main man hits town
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,
HTo watch the video inteview go to nzherald.co.nz
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.
Karl Ove Knausgaard is appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival.