Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Vader by Karl Ove Knausgård

Vader (original 2009; edition 2012)

by Karl Ove Knausgård, Marianne Molenaar

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,180606,821 (3.99)135
Authors:Karl Ove Knausgård
Other authors:Marianne Molenaar
Info:Breda De Geus 2012

Work details

My Struggle: Book One: A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgård (2009)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 135 mentions

English (36)  Dutch (12)  Danish (3)  Swedish (3)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
He had been her first born.
Children were not supposed to pre-decease their parents, they weren't supposed to. That was not the idea.
And to me, what had Dad been to me?
Someone I wished dead.
So why all these tears?

This almost indescribably rich and unputdownable memoir begins with a riff on death, as a physiological process, a phenomenon that simultaneously inspires reverence and horror, and a profoundly transformational event for those who are affected by the passing of the deceased person:

For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Sooner or later, one day, this pounding action will cease of its own accord, and the blood will begin to run toward the body’s lowest point, where it will collect in a small pool, visible from outside as a dark, soft patch on ever whitening skin, as the temperature sinks, the limbs stiffen and the intestines drain.

The moment life departs the body, it belongs to death…None of this is alien to us. We are constantly surrounded by objects and phenomena from the realm of the death. Nonetheless, there are few things that arouse in us greater distaste than to see a human being caught up in it, at least if we are to judge by the efforts we make to keep corpses out of sight.

It seemed to me as though a New Orleans brass band should have accompanied and played alongside Knausgaard during his haunting opening trumpet blast. However, unlike a typical Crescent City jazz funeral march, there will be no posthumous celebration of the life of the dearly departed, in this case Karl Ove’s father. Instead, he gives us an exploration of the man and his slow, downward spiral from a respected teacher, husband and father to a shell of a man, ravaged by alcoholism, poor health and self loathing, who suffers a grotesque and premature death in his childhood home at the side of his demented mother.

Karl Ove began this memoir as a young man, as he struggled to write a new novel and was invigorated but challenged by the demands of being a father to a young child, and the husband of a woman who loves him unconditionally but does not fully satisfy his wants and needs. He reflects on and describes, in great detail, his seemingly ordinary childhood as a sensitive and intelligent boy who seeks acceptance from his distant and judgmental father as validation of his own worth. He develops a taste for alcohol as a teenager, has a series of superficial relationships with girls, and stumbles his way toward a career as a writer.

When his brother informs him of his father’s death, the two young men drop everything and go to their grandmother’s house, to prepare for the funeral and provide support to their father’s ailing mother. Although Karl Ove never gained the love and respect he so desperately sought, he is profoundly affected by his father’s death, and he grapples to understand why it has caused him so much anguish.

My Struggle: Book One could rightfully be described as a navel gazing memoir, similar to others that have been recently written. However, it is much more than that: Knausgaard draws the reader into his story, as it reads like a rich novel with superb dialogue and a compelling story line, and I devoured this book far more quickly than I expected to.

Ultimately, no review, at least not this one, can do justice to this book. I urge you to read this book because it’s one of the best memoirs that I’ve ever read. Read it because it is a fascinating look at the life of a young man, and the troubled relationship between a father and a son. Read it because it is as good as any contemporary historical novel. Most importantly, as many others have said, just read it, despite my insufficient comments about it. You’ll be glad that you did. ( )
6 vote kidzdoc | Jan 12, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I won this from LibraryThing but sadly it never arrived. I ended up buying it and loved it from first to last (and through every volume so far published in the US.
It's a wonderful book. I'm not completely sure why I loved it so much. The writing is not always smooth-although since I'm reading in translation, I have no idea how the original sounds. But it's certainly not remarkable for powerful images or even deep philosophy. It is, however, a fascinating accounting almost moment by moment of the writer's past, his childhood, his adolescence, his life. It is brutally honest; Knausgard hardly gives himself a break, but fascinating. I could not put it down. I can't wait to read the next volume. I'm completely addicted to this work. Knausgard appears in interviews to be attractive but self-effacing which is odd when he is using the minutiae of his life as the material for this enormous work. But it's in keeping with how he appears as narrator.

His life is nothing like mine; he seems very unlike myself, yet the book by focusing so intensely on the writer's experiences made me come more alive to my own. Like I said, I'm running to the next volume. ( )
1 vote EllieNYC | Dec 26, 2015 |
In the final pages of the book, Karl Ove, now in his late twenties, is mowing the overgrown lawn of his grandparents' house, determined to clean and tidy the place inside and out sufficiently to host the wake for his father's funeral there. An ordinary image, but the roar of the motor provides the camouflage Karl Ove needs, as he mows he weeps and sobs without stopping, admitting that he couldn't really say for whom he was crying more, himself or his father. Only a few pages before that, while out on errands, Karl Ove is undone by the beauty of the clouds, musing that if clouds held any meaning, weren't just random patterns, we would stand staring at them all day. The novel takes place between those two extremes, the entirely physical and the entirely cerebral. I have to say I am entirely glad I knew nothing of all the literary hoo-ha surrounding this book. It was handed to me by my brother who said: "Read it!" The novel opens with a meditation on death that hints at nothing of what is to come, only that, yes, obviously death or a death of some sort will figure largely. No I wasn't sure what to think, yet some of the observations--about how in present-day culture we whisk dead bodies out of sight, not just out of sight, but down, into the earth, into basements and sub-basements were intriguing enough that I kept on. And then the story begins. A father and son. An uneasy relationship. Karl Ove, the child, wears his emotions for all to see, cannot dissemble, is vulnerable in ways, that, I think might baffle and frustrate a parent, whose role, among others after all is to protect and teach a child how to protect him or herself. Even if Karl Ove's father is a harsh and troubled person, it is clear too, early on, that Karl Ove is not your sunny savvy child. The narrative jumps between Karl Ove the child, adolescent and young adult to a time in his late thirties when he is married (for the second time) and has children (this narrative bounces around a bit time-wise too, from when there are two children, to when he and his wife are expecting their first child). Knausgaard, the novelist, is in control of this brilliantly crafted and original NOVEL which is not a memoir. Knausgaard can speed up or slow down the narrative in such a way that you find yourself engrossed in the act of washing some dishes or cleaning out a filthy bathroom. I assume that he is giving equal weight to the tasks we perform, the things we do when we are alive, to the grander deeper thoughts and ideas we have from time to time as we go about our days, to the rarer moments where big things are happening, such as your parents' deaths. Why? Life is strange this way, high drama one moment and cleaning out the litterbox the next. It's a very odd aspect of the condition of being alive, the intrusion of conflict and death versus the comfort of the mundane. And much of what we aim for, in our lives, is to keep it as mundane as possible, no surprises, no intrusions of unpleasant difficult things. There is so much more richness here, the agonies of adolescence, the needs of the writing life, the stimulation of being somewhere new and different, the destructiveness of alcoholism, the aging of grandparents, boundaries between people . . . but this is enough to say for now. A great deal is left unresolved and mysterious at the end of Book 1. How does Karl Ove evolve from his first marriage to Tonje to his second marriage? How did his father die? What will he address in the next volume? I have no idea what will or won't be the subject of Book 2 but I will read it and soon! Since this first book was loaned I will have to go out and buy my own copy and all the others presently in translation. ***** ( )
4 vote sibyx | Nov 16, 2015 |
Knausgaard's project is to capture those moments that seem imbued with meaning beyond their contexts, an alignment of thought and happenstance that seems so glancing, so capricious that to explain it to anyone else would be to render it silly, impotent. We all enjoy and suffer from these feelings, the most private and personal experiences of our lives. Their very uncommunicability means they're rarely portrayed in fiction at all, let alone to this persistent level of success.

To get there, Knausgaard doesn't try to stab at the moments directly, instead trying to catalog their surroundings and let the figures emerge from the ground, sort of like the whitespace in the margins of our lives. Other readers and critics have noted his complete, reckless honesty—necessary so that the experience is mediated as little as possible. This is fiction's partnership with empathy, rendered in its truest form. Knausgaard can be a skeptic as a person (and especially as a teenager), but he is never so as a writer. Indeed, he only briefly acknowledges towards the start that this is an explicitly written work; for the rest, it is one long stream of consciousness that seems to pour directly from his head to ours, not even interrupted by chapter or scene breaks.

That's not to say that this is an experimental work; indeed, Knausgaard's writing might be some of the most conventional I've read. Bartlett's translation is superb; while I can't attest to the fidelity, it was wonderful to read and outside of the place names and a few charming idioms, I couldn't have told it was originally written in another language. Even the juvenilia is faithfully rendered in English, with the character at one point getting a "stiffy" from being near a girl.

I've gone this far without mentioning the P word, but that's because I've never actually read any Proust—a crime, I know. Famous for this sort of all-encompassing personal writing, rich with memory and meaning, he's the closest analogue touted by critics. Instead, the closest writer I know of would be Chris Ware, who also does a wonderful job of both capturing ordinary life and the mix of emotions and resonances right below the surface. Of course, both are also deeply concerned with death, especially Knausgaard.

That said, the first half of the book is rather warm and wistful, an account of the author's childhood and teenage years. He's incredibly perceptive about the way events at that age are charged with meaning, as if your entire life will be determined by how your date goes on Friday night, or whether you pass the math test on Tuesday. And yet, there are some relationships with adult complexity, even as a child. His uneven relationship with his father, for example, who can be kind and cruel in equal measure. Knausgaard captures well the detente between two individuals who don't understand each other, and must live in a weary co-existence.

The second half of the book takes place much later, when his father passes away from heart troubles (and no small amount of alcoholism). For the last decade or so, the father had cooped himself up with his own mother (author's grandmother) in a squalid, Hoarders-ish house, which the sons must now thoroughly clean—a physicalized version of them coping with his death, and purging themselves of his legacy. This would seem a bit too on-the-nose if it weren't for Knausgaard's devastating honesty, and utter lack of anything approximating snark. This cleansing (and digressions) is rendered over 100 pages, the sort of micro-detail that would seem grating in any other book, but is necessary to his project and enjoyable in any case. (Given that appeals to me, I guess I should get around to reading Moby Dick one of these days.)

In all, though, the novel works on the reader in the same way as Knausgaard describes the effects on himself. As the events charge events with meaning by recalling personal details, so too do you recall the resonances in your own life. For myself, it was the portrait of his grandmother as someone whose mind and body had withered away, stubbornly refusing to perish, but a shadow of their former selves. In the case of my grandmother, it means living in an Alzheimer's ward, designed almost as if Bentham's panopticon (but without the unknowable vision), each of the apartments radiating out from a central space so the attendants can at a glance tell where any of the inhabitants are, with a locked door sealing off the entire space. Of course, the code is easy to remember and in any case written on the door frame, but the patients are beyond the perception and memory needed to piece those facts together.

For Knausgaard, though, coming to terms with his grandmother's decay is tied up with his own father presiding over her decline, refusing the home-help or letting her leave for a retirement community—even breaking his leg at one point in a drunken stupor and not letting her call the ambulance, instead lying on the floor and pissing and shitting and taking his meals in that one spot, surrounded by his detritus until his brother discovers him days later and finally calls for help. It's this portrait of moral, cognitive, physical decay that the author truly hates, hates in the way that we hate those who resemble those parts in ourself that we fear, want to stamp out by stamping out that one person, trying to blot that out entirely from the world. As a way out of that cycle, Knausgaard disassembles himself, comes to terms with his failings and tries to figure out their true origins, finding himself in the ways others must find him, a mix of inborn personality and personal history, yet documented in a personal and internal way that would be impossible to find in any objective examination, instead in the melange of memories and dreams and regrets. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
Well, as usual I didn't know a thing about the book going in. Still, it was easy to quickly make a connection between this book of semi-fiction (autobiographical fiction? fictionalized memoir? barely-fiction? more-fiction-than-you-might-think?) and Proust's In Search of Lost Time, and not just because Knausgaard's effort is apparently stretched out over six volumes as well. There's the same sort of details of place and action that make it like watching the scene unfold, the same digressions and jumps in time and circumstance, only to come back to the original story pages later (or not at all). We spend the first half of the book following along with scenes from Karl Ove's childhood, mostly in adolescence, and the second half with the adult Karl Ove in the aftermath of his father's death. But the adult creeps into the childhood narrative as well - we're never left to completely immerse ourselves in that period of his life because grown-up Karl Ove is there as well, a writer who has left Norway and lives in Sweden, is on his second marriage, has small children, and inserts his musings on both his young self and his current life. And then in the second part, we are completely present with the adult as he finds out his father has died and goes with his brother to arrange the funeral and find out what he can do for his grandmother.

This part was harrowing for me personally - the descriptions are so detailed of what it's like to be in the house of an alcoholic who has drunk himself to death that if you've had that experience (or just the experience of being in the house of a family member who has long given in to their alcoholism), you may feel claustrophobic and not be able to help reliving it. And that's not a negative comment in any way; I can't say I "enjoyed" this feeling of recognition, but I was a bit in awe of it.

It's not for everyone, I can tell that. Much like Proust, Knausgaard describes *everything*. For example, making dinner: "Yngve folded up the two grocery bags and put them in the bottom drawer. The margarine was sizzling in the pan. The jet from the tap was broken by the potatoes I was holding beneath it, and the water that ran down the sides of the sink was not powerful enough to remove all the soil from the tubers and so formed a layer of mud around the plughole until the potatoes were clean and I removed them from the jet, which then swept everything with it in a second, to reveal once again the spotless, gleaming metal base." Okay, so that's actually just the preparing to make dinner - you get the idea.

Anyway, I loved it, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest. I can already tell that Karl Ove is not going to be the kind of guy I would want to hang out with, not least because he is the type of guy to name his book(s) My Struggle, or Min Kamp in Norwegian - which is Mein Kampf in German (and not the title the German translation has used). But hey, I don't have to want to physically hang out with the guy to want to hang out in his head for the duration of these books. ( )
1 vote ursula | Sep 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Knausgård går lige i mellemgulvet...Karl Ove Knausgårds ambitiøse romaprjekt MIN KAMP er en sejr for romankunsten.
added by 2810michael | editInformation
Min kamp. Første bok
Knausgård, Karl Ove
| ISBN 9788249506866

Karl Ove Knausgårds tredje roman innebærer en enorm litterær satsning, og er en stor bok i mer enn én forstand: Min kamp blir utgitt som seks romaner. Første, andre og tredje bok er utkommet, og fjerde, femte og sjette bok utkommer våren 2010.

Romanen åpner med en svimlende beskrivelse av døden. Derfra fortelles det om forfatteren Karl Ove Knausgårds kamp for å mestre livet og seg selv og sine egne ambisjoner på skrivingens vegne, i møte med de menneskene han har rundt seg. Min kamp. Første bok utforsker det å vokse opp og være overgitt en verden som ser ut til å være komplett, avsluttet, lukket. Romanen beskriver det unge blikkets varhet og usikkerhet, der det registrerer andre menneskers tilstedeværelse og vurderinger med en åpenhet som er voldsom og nesten selvutslettende i sin konsekvens.

I en borende prosa som oppsøker det sårbare, det pinlige og det eksistensielt betydningsbærende, blir dette en dypt personlig roman, selvutprøvende og kontroversiell. Et eksistensielt omdreiningspunkt er farens død, et annet er kanskje hovedpersonens debut som forfatter.

I 2009 ble Min kamp. Første bok kåret til en av de ti beste romanene siste tiår av VG. For denne boken mottok Karl Ove Knausgård Brageprisen, og han ble nominert til Nordisk Råds litteraturpris.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Knausgård, Karl Oveprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bartlett, DonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berf, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huttunen, KatriinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
For hjertet er livet enkelt: det slår så lenge det kan. Så stopper det.
Å skrive er å trekke det som finnes ut av skyggene av det vi vet. Det er det skriving handler om. Ikke hva som skjer der, ikke hva slags handlinger som utspiller seg der, men der i seg selv. Der, det er skrivingens sted og mål.
He had been her first born.
Children were not supposed to pre-decease their parents, they weren't supposed to. That was not the idea.
And to me, what had Dad been to me?
Someone I wished dead.
So why all these tears?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the first of six books comprising the author's "My Struggle" ("Min Kamp" in Norwegian) cycle.

In the US the title was literally translated as "My Struggle Book One", whereas in the UK and Canada it has been issued under the title "A Death in the Family".
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

The provocative, audacious, brilliant six-volume autobiographical novel that has unquestionably been the main event of contemporary European literature. It has earned favorable comparisons to its obvious literary forebears "A la recherche du temps perdu" and "Mein Kampf" but has been celebrated as the rare magnum opus that is intensely, addictively readable.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
216 wanted
8 pay4 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.99)
1 2
1.5 1
2 16
2.5 4
3 36
3.5 28
4 100
4.5 35
5 76


3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Archipelago Books

2 editions of this book were published by Archipelago Books.

Editions: 1935744186, 1935744526

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn

My Struggle: Book One by Karl-Ove Knausgaard was made available through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Sign up to possibly get pre-publication copies of books.

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,917,534 books! | Top bar: Always visible