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Liefde by Karl Ove Knausgård
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Liefde (original 2009; edition 2012)

by Karl Ove Knausgård, Marianne Molenaar

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5353118,829 (4.21)55
Member:FrankDeClerck
Title:Liefde
Authors:Karl Ove Knausgård
Other authors:Marianne Molenaar
Info:Breda De Geus 2012
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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My Struggle: Book Two: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgård (2009)

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» See also 55 mentions

English (17)  Dutch (7)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
In Book Two of this acclaimed series of autobiographical novels, subtitled "A Man in Love", Knausgaard is living in Bergen, Norway with his wife Tonje and their two young children. Although his family adores him he feels trapped, and after his debut novel "Ute av verden" ("Out of the World") was awarded the 1998 Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature he feels both vindicated as a writer, and pressured by internal and external demands to continue to write, and he resents that his responsibilities as a father and house husband are interfering with his work. He begins to look outside of his marriage for release, and he ultimately separates from Tonje and his children, then moves to an isolated Norwegian village to get away from them, and everyone else he knows. After a few months he moves to Stockholm, Sweden, strikes up friendships with the literary community there, and rekindles friendships with Geir, a fellow Norwegian who is a struggling writer, and, more importantly, Linda, a troubled poet who he met and fell in love with in the past, before he met Tonje.

As in Book One, in which Knausgaard writes about his teenage and young adult years and his difficult relationship with his father, whose chronic alcoholism led to his premature and sordid death, Book Two features superb reflections on family relationships, responsibility to one's family and one's self, and Knausgaard's struggles with his fears, insecurities, and personal demons. The characters' conversations and everyday occurrences are almost always interesting, and made this reader feel as if he was sitting next to Knausgaard and whomever he is talking to, and although I didn't find this book nearly as compelling as Book One it kept my interest from the first page to the last.

Knausgaard, to his credit, portrays himself as a flawed man, whose occasional selfishness and thoughtlessness make him a somewhat unsympathetic figure, but also make him more human. However, as he has said previously, he seems to have struck a "Faustian bargain" (his words) in his naked portrayal of his family, lovers and friends, who are not allowed to defend themselves or explain their actions and thoughts. I was also somewhat disturbed by the apparent lack of regard for Tonje and their children, who are almost entirely cut out of this book after he leaves them. Hopefully Knausgaard will return to the breakup and his self imposed isolation in one of the subsequent books in the series, as this part of his story feels incomplete.

"My Struggle: Book Two" is another superb accomplishment and a book I found hard to put down, similar to Book One, and I look forward to reading Book Three next month. ( )
1 vote kidzdoc | Jul 2, 2016 |
I so enjoyed the first book that I was eager to begin this, but it disappointed me. The detail of lifestyles, resentments, and frustrations it lists, serially, become tedious, quite apart from the repellant character the author lays bare in this period of his life. This is indeed what ambition looks like in academic worlds: vain, unscrupulous, self-righteous, and above all, petty. The gender politics are fascinating, but the key term here would have to be cynicism. In fact, to be honest, I didn't finish it, but went straight from about half-way through, when it is evident we will only get more of the same, and the same, and the same, to Book 3. ( )
  Mijk | Apr 22, 2016 |
It's difficult for a follow-up to a book as widely acclaimed as the first book of the My Struggle series to reach the same heights of innovation. Nevertheless, Book 2 is still quite the work to behold, even as the directness and immediacy of Knausgaard's writing style becomes a bit less novel. Introspective where Book 1 was forceful, Book 2 is at times a brilliant work, if not quite the first's equal. I stand by most of the sentiments of my review of Book 1, and thus I won't delve into too much detail here, but this is a series well worth reading. ( )
  wpotash | Apr 20, 2016 |
If Book One examines adolescence and the transformation of a child into an independent thinking person, and the influence of a father for good and ill, Book Two, A Man in Love, focusses with equal intensity on the women in Karl Ove's life, on developing and maintaining relationships (wife, children, parents) including the deep friendship with Geir, a Norwegian man who becomes his closest friend in Sweden. Much as I loved Book One for its revelatory aspects of adolescent boyhood, in Book Two I could identify with Karl Ove often, just as a person, neither male nor female; he writes about the difficulties in adjusting to having children and writing, tries to capture the tension between meeting the needs not only of others but of his private and public selves. How can a deeply introverted person reconcile the conflicting desires of connection and solitude and make space for both? Much of what he writes about here is less gender-related. Just because one is introverted and driven to create, doesn't mean one is without an equally strong desire to be part of a social unit of family and friends. This second book, because so much in it parallels or echoes aspects of my own life, (even to including a crazy scary neighbor. Ours used to sometimes sit on his roof drinking peppermint schnapps and howling just because), confirmed for me the depth of Karl Ove's honesty and attempt o capture and make some sense of the confusions and contradictions of daily life. I also hugely enjoyed the ruminations on "normalcy" and conformity (I've thought--ok ranted-- about this, but never so coherently!) and the very entertaining comic relief of Geir's riffs on the "differences between Norwegians and Swedes" which surfaces now and then. There are couple of a breathtaking sections on poetry, on how it either "opens" out for you or it does not and that only another poet could tell the difference between a poem written by a real poet and a wannabe. There are several passages where Karl Ove describes what he is seeing and talks about himself as a visual person and his relationship to art, especially painting, mentioned in the previous book, but enriched here. There is description of a walk, of the white snow, contrasting with the black of trees and rocks, that, in its exactitude gave me the shivers. Lovely. The book is so rich that I can't do more than scratch the surface for you. You will either love it or find it tedious no matter what I say! ***** ( )
3 vote sibyx | Apr 11, 2016 |
I owe my husband an apology. For the past week I've been having an affair; a turbulent, crazy love affair with a complicated, intelligent, philosophising Norwegian. The affair has left space for neither domestic chores nor conversation. It has been all consuming.

And now it's over.

I feel bereft and emotionally drained.

This is what 672 pages of Karl Ove Knausgaard does to you.

Picking up from Book 1, Book 2 is about Karl Ove's life in Sweden in his mid-30s. Looking for something "more' from life, he has left his first wife Tonje and moved on a whim to Stockholm, where before too long he falls in love with Linda, a girl he'd met previously on a writing course. In the extreme honest form that is Knausgaard, we live the highs and (mostly) lows of his emotions, his internal struggle between family and personal freedom, and the conflict between what he feels life should be and what it is in reality. We are pulled into the absolute minutiae of his daily life, from changing his daughter's nappy to having a smoke outside in the yard, yet it is utterly compelling fly-on-the-wall stuff.

This is the book equivalent of intelligent reality TV (if such a thing existed) - we are 24/7 inside Knausgaard's life, and more importantly inside his head. He describes in detail thoughts most people would never admit to - the abject boredom of looking after young kids, of trying to make polite conversation with friends of your partner that you're not that interested in, of achieving your dreams but finding yourself no closer to personal happiness. This is a man whose glass is most definitely half empty, so the optimists amongst book readers out there may not enjoy his consistent angst, but for me it was every bit amazing as book 1, possibly even better.

There was a lot of examination of the differences between Swedes and Norwegians in this book which fascinated me. He describes Swedes as a nation obsessed with following rules, who are less relaxed and open than his Norwegian family and friends. I found this particularly interesting, as it made sense of the major culture shock myself and work colleagues noticed when our company was sold to an international Swedish company. The 'following the rules' part really rang true - in that business no one would make the smallest decision until half a dozen other departments were consulted, and making a change was viewed with deep scepticism.

Understanding daily living in Stockholm was incredibly interesting. He talks about flat rentals being agreements for life - fail to be a good neighbour and you will feel the full force of the rental authority's might). Washing machines seem to be a luxury item, with most apartment dwellers doing their washing at set times in a communal basement. These little details fascinated me - how could washing machines be a luxury item in modern day Sweden? I gather it's more a question of that's just how the laundry system goes, rather than people being able to afford their own washing machine. The rules of Swedish life, again.

I've been thinking about this series of books since finishing Book 2 this morning. How does this compare with literary fiction? Can you even call it fiction? It's more an incredibly long, philosophical essay. He's not tied down to the traditional writing problems of finding a voice for his characters, of plot, of literary style. Or is he? Is what makes these books so fabulous their utter honesty, the way you can properly live inside the protagonist's head in a way so detailed it's incomparable with other books, or is it that you get to experience Scandinavian life almost first-hand, or is it that it's simply amazing writing? Is that he's a fascinating character, a free spirit with a bit of a bad boy image? For me I think it's all of those and more.

5 stars - I'm a 'woman in love'. ( )
3 vote AlisonY | Jan 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Knausgaard has a tremendous essayistic talent, and Book 2, like Book 1, is rich in reflections on everything from the sociology of death to the psychopathology of everyday life. As with all great writers, the ideas or theories are woven into the story, dramatized, and this is as true of the question of what gives meaning as of any other question in the book. Reflecting on the history of conceptions of life and death, Knausgaard asks: “What was man on this earth other than an insect among other insects, a life-form among other life-forms, which might just as well take the form of algae in a lake or fungi on the forest floor, roe in a fish’s stomach, rats in a nest or a cluster of mussels on a reef?” This lowering or leveling of human life is not simply a logical deduction, a search for rational balance, but an intensely emotional expression of fear, uncertainty and longing.
 
...crucially, "Everyday life, with its duties and routines, was something I endured, not a thing I enjoyed, nor something that was meaningful or made me happy … I always longed to be away from it, and always had done. So the life I led was not my own. I tried to make it mine, this was my struggle, because of course I wanted it, but I failed, the longing for something else undermined all my efforts."

It is this caveat that defines Knausgaard's artistic achievement, for without it, his world would merely subside back into narrative; the malaise would have been a question of practicalities, the need for a different story. Instead, he shows us, by the route of life, that there is no story, and in so doing he finds, at last, authenticity. For that alone, this deserves to be called perhaps the most significant literary enterprise of our times.
added by peterbrown | editThe Guardian, Rachel Cusk (Apr 12, 2013)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Knausgård, Karl Oveprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bartlett, DonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huttunen, KatriinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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