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Vader by Karl Ove Knausgård

Vader (original 2009; edition 2012)

by Karl Ove Knausgård, Marianne Molenaar

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1,387675,481 (3.98)169
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)

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» See also 169 mentions

English (42)  Dutch (12)  Swedish (4)  German (3)  Danish (3)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  All (68)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)

Oh, Karl Ove, you capture the heart-break of the lovesick, hypersensitive teenager that speaks to our own lost teenage years. And thanks for Book 2, writing of your life during your 20s and 30s, married, raising children, dealing with the whole urban banana. A reader might think very self-centered of a writer to pen 6 thick volumes of his life, but you, Karl Ove, are able to tap into the culture's pulse and our collective modern human experience - reading your books is almost like reading our own autobiography.

Here is a section of My Struggle, Book 2 I found particularly insightful, where Karl Ove reflects on his dealings with the people in his life: he tells us when he is with other men and women, he feels empathetic and bound to them; but when he is by himself, his feelings for them dissolve. “Everyday life, with its duties and routines, was something I endured, not a thing I enjoyed, not something that was meaningful or that made me happy. . . . I always longed to be away from it. So the life I led was not my own. I tried to make it mine, that was my struggle, because of course I wanted it, but I failed, the longing for something else undermined all my efforts. What was the problem? Was it the shrill, sickly tone I heard everywhere that I couldn’t stand, the one that arose from all the pseudopeople and pseudoplaces, pseudoevents, and psudoconflicts our lives passed through, that which we saw but did not participate in, and the distance that modern life in this way had opened up to our own, actually inalienable here and now? If so, if it was more reality, more involvement I longed for, surely it should be that which I was surrounded by that I should be embracing?”

This is but a sliver of Karl Ove’s musing at the time on the dynamics of living an everyday city life as husband, father, friend, acquaintance; he continues for several pages, expanding on such topics as our standardized, homogenized shrinking world until he is obliged to participate in his daughter’s Rhythm Time class, a occasion he finds to be one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences of his life -- he feels a powerful, passionate, sexual attraction to the graceful, gorgeous Rhythm Time teacher but also feels completely humiliated sitting on the floor, shaking a rattle and singing children's songs. It’s this linking the details of his own experience and conflicted feelings with a broader philosophizing on society and culture, art and literature, I find so compelling.

And a reflection from further on in the novel, “For who brooded over the meaninglessness of life anymore? Teenagers? They were the only ones who were preoccupied with existential issues, and as a result there was something puerile and immature about them, and hence it was doubly impossible for adults with their sense of propriety intact to deal with them. However, this is not so strange, for we never feel more strongly and passionately about life than in our teenage years, when we step into the world for the first time, as it were, and all our feelings are new feelings. So there they are, with their big ideas on small orbits, looking this way and that for an opportunity to launch them, as the pressure builds. And who is it they light upon sooner or later but Uncle Dostoyevsky? Dostoyevsky has become a teenager’s writer, the issue of nihilism a teenager issue.”

Ironically, the many pages of this book are filled to the brim with brooding on existential issues, forever questioning the meaning and meaninglessness of life, as if the author’s feelings are perpetually new feelings, as if every morning he steps into the world for the first time with all the awkwardness, discomfort, unease and even clumsiness of a teenager unhesitatingly opening his heart to the frequent hard edges and occasional tenderness of those around him.

The narrator reminds me of those characters from the novels of Dostoyevsky who, swept up in the intensity of the moment, in a gush of emotional frenzy, say ‘to hell with the future’ and stack all their chips on one spin of the roulette wheel or burn their life savings in a fire. For example, here is Karl Ove back in his room, totally drunk, after hearing a woman he loves tell him sorry, she’s not interested. “I went into the bathroom, grabbed the glass on the sink and hurled it at the wall with all the strength I could muster. I waited to hear if there was any reaction. Then I took the biggest shard I could find and started cutting my face. I did it methodically, making the cuts as deep as I could, and covered my whole face. The chin, cheeks, forehead, nose, underneath the chin. At regular intervals I wiped away the blood with a towel. Kept cutting. Wiped the blood away. But the time I was satisfied with my handiwork there was hardly room for one more cut, and I went to bed.”

Observing Karl Ove as he makes his North American book tour this spring, there isn’t any evidence of a face cut to shreds. One beauty of a novel is the author has the latitude, even in an autobiographical novel like this one (many of his extended family refuse to have anything to do with him), to create imaginatively. And this play of creative imagination makes all the difference. Although the author draws explicitly from his own life—the first-person narrator is named Karl Ove Knausgaard, and he uses the real names of his wife, children, parents, and friends, I am reading these books as a novel, since I sense a good portion is embellished or simply made-up.

Made-up or real, in the end, this is a novel of emotional extremes. Linda, the love of his Karl Ove’s life, breaths hot-blooded fire: melodramatic, mercurial, quick-tempered and occasionally violent and destructive. Yet these two lovers remain together and have three children. And with every additional child their household fire rages with more ferocity. How on earth do they do it? 600 pages of Book 2 tells the tale.

One last note on a key piece of Book 2: Karl Ove’s ongoing conversation with his philosophical and literary friend, Geir, and his ongoing conversation with his philosophic inner self. For instance, Karl Ove alone, “Fictional writing has no value, documentary narrative has no value. The only genres I saw value in, which still conferred meaning, were diaries and essays, the types of literature that did not deal with narrative, that were not about anything, but just consisted of a voice, the voice of your own personality, a life, a face, a gaze you could meet. What is a work of art if not the gaze of another person? Not directed above us, not beneath us, but at the same height as our own gaze. Art cannot be experienced collectively, nothing can, art is something you are alone with. You meet its gaze alone.”

( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
When the writing is good, it soars; I could have done with an abridged version. Kept on thinking Proust but visualizing Lilyhammer. ( )
  benjaminsiegel | Jul 30, 2016 |
Yes, I know the cover the book spells it Knausgaard, but the proper Norwegian is Knausgård; and no, I don’t know why the publisher felt a need to “Anglicise” it, as it’s not exactly hard to write. But anyway. This is the first book in a six-volume autobiography – as I write this five volumes are currently available in English – although for some reason the series has been published as fiction. Knausgård, it seems, prefers the term “novel” because he wrote the books as if they were fiction, although they were based closely on his own life. Certainly it’s true the level of detail for something set thirty years ago suggests fiction more than reminiscence. A Death in the Family covers Knausgård’s teen years in Tromøya in southern Norway, his friends, the girls he fancies, his introduction to alcohol, and his difficult relationship with his parents. In the second half of the novel, Knausgård tries to come to terms with the death of his father, and the state his grandparents have fallen into since their son’s death. I’ll admit I found the level of detail fascinating, even though the story itself is mostly banal. And the weird distancing effect between adult Knausgård presenting his memories and the lack of self-awareness by the teen narrator made for an interesting juxtaposition. I think I’ll give the second one, A Man in Love, a go… ( )
  iansales | Jul 27, 2016 |
This book, and the autobiographical series of which it forms the first part, has been talked about a lot and praised by many critics whose judgment I would normally trust, but I must admit to having felt a certain apprehension at tackling it. Knausgaard invests apparently banal everyday events with charged significance, and the overall impression is very powerful, almost oppressively so.
The first half of the book focuses mainly on a few days when he was sixteen, centred on a new year party, and is full of the usual tropes of adolescence. The second part is an account of the days following his alcoholic father's death. This is graphic and haunting. All very memorable, but I'm not entirely convinced I want to read more. ( )
1 vote bodachliath | Jun 8, 2016 |
A curious project - I enjoyed reading this a lot, but I'm not sure I'll seek out the rest of the Struggle. Almost nothing happens, but it's all described so vividly - at times it reads like self-parody - that even the most minor of anecdotes takes on Biblical significance. Not for everyone, but well worth a try. ( )
  alexrichman | Jun 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
“My Struggle” is not really a novel but the first book of a six-volume autobiography that is now notorious in Knausgaard’s native country. The Hitlerian title (“Min Kamp,” in Norwegian) refers not only to the usual stations of the bildungsroman but also to two fierce battles. One is with the author’s father, a morose and distant schoolteacher who left the family when Knausgaard was a teen-ager, and then drank himself to death. The more pervasive struggle is with death itself, in which writing is both weapon and battlefield.
. . .
There is a flatness and a prolixity to the prose; the long sentences have about them an almost careless avant-gardism, with their conversational additions and splayed run-ons. The writer seems not to be selecting or shaping anything, or even pausing to draw breath. Cliché is not spurned—time is falling through Knausgaard’s hands “like sand”; elsewhere in the book, the author tells us that falling in love was like being struck by lightning, that he was head over heels in love, that he was as hungry as a wolf. There is, perhaps, something a little gauche in his confessional volubility. But there is also a simplicity, an openness, and an innocence in his relation to life, and thus in his relation to the reader. Where many contemporary writers would reflexively turn to irony, Knausgaard is intense and utterly honest, unafraid to voice universal anxieties, unafraid to appear naïve or awkward. Although his sentences are long and loose, they are not cutely or aimlessly digressive: truth is repeatedly being struck at, not chatted up.
added by aileverte | editThe New Yorker, James Wood (Aug 13, 2012)
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.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Knausgård, Karl Oveprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bartlett, DonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berf, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huttunen, KatriinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paula StevensTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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?
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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".
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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)

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Archipelago Books

2 editions of this book were published by Archipelago Books.

Editions: 1935744186, 1935744526

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