Knausgård struggles with his fame

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Author Karl Ove Knausgård has been a media darling in Norway since his series of novels hit the market last year. Rarely have any books received such adulation from commentators and critics, but now their collective and provocative title — Min Kamp (My struggle) — may be taking on new meaning for the author himself.

Karl Ove Knausgård PHOTO: Aschehoug Agency/Kristian Ridder-Nielsen

Some might say he can at least laugh all the way to the bank as he deals with the so-called struggle of his life. The first four books in Knausgård’s six-volume series, according to his publisher, have topped Norway’s best-seller lists. Around 100,000 copies of the first three books have been printed, no small number in a small country like Norway, even though Norwegians are known as avid readers. The first volumes have been sold to publishers in France, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. British firm Harvill Secker also will reportedly be publishing to the first two books in English.

Knausgård also won Norway’s prestigious Brage Prize for the first volume and newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported he has earned more than NOK 3 million on the books so far.

Normally grumpy critics have been raving about them, calling them unusually well-written, while the Norway’s Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt called the books “the greatest account of our generation.”

His publisher says the books are about “his struggle to master life and himself and his own literary ambitions.” Knausgård writes about his own life, in excruciating detail, also exposing details and observations about others in his life who haven’t been too pleased by the sudden publicity.

Now Knausgard is hard at work on the fifth volume, due out in May, while the sixth and final volume will debut in the fall. He reportedly started struggling with his new fame and fortune earlier this year, retreating to his home in southern Sweden and refusing most interview requests.

Newspaper VG reported that he disconnected his Internet line at home, changed his e-mail and mobile telephone number and wants to live quietly with his Swedish wife and their three children. He told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in a rare interview in January that he simply can’t continue to be distracted from his writing.

Knausgård, age 41, grew up in Arendal on Norway’s southern coast. He studied literature in Bergen, worked as a teacher in northern Norway and moved to Stockholm in the 1990s. One wouldn’t think the story of his life could fill six volumes, or attract so much interest, and that’s what prompted the head of Norway’s powerful sales agency Bookklubben to call him a “phenomenon.”

Lately the very title of the series has sparked some criticism for being too provocative, because it’s the same used by Adolph Hitler. His publisher, Oktober forlag, defends the title, saying it should be interpreted as “ironic” or “self-deprecating.”

“We have received some negative reaction, but not much,” Geir Berdahl of Oktober told newspaper Aftenposten. “We have also been told that the title is very good.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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