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Liefde by Karl Ove Knausgård

Liefde (original 2009; edition 2012)

by Karl Ove Knausgård, Marianne Molenaar

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4832521,297 (4.22)40
Authors:Karl Ove Knausgård
Other authors:Marianne Molenaar
Info:Breda De Geus 2012
Collections:Your library

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My Struggle: Book Two: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgård (2009)



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English (13)  Dutch (6)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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'. ( )
2 vote AlisonY | Jan 10, 2016 |
One of the few new fiction novels that I could get thru. The day to day descriptions of the characters life were engrossing, and the detours into discourses about philosophy or writing or art where always entertaining. ( )
  J_J_K | Jan 1, 2016 |
The second volume of this work continues with the strong points of the first: honest, objective and indirect yet intense and detailed, it is effective in painting a picture of both society and the individuals within it, not least the narrator. My enjoyment was marred slightly by periods of introspection including some longish passages on the narrator's view of his art. Overall however, it remains a fascinating and insightful work. 15 September 2015 ( )
  alanca | Sep 17, 2015 |
We are almost finished with Volume Two of Knausgaard’s six-volume memoir before we learn what Knausgaard is about with this huge, unwieldy thing he calls a novel. "Over recent year I had increasingly lost faith in literature…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 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?" Does that not mean that art is subjective, and in the eyes of the beholder only? He is still asking questions rather than answering them in this staggeringly discursive but surprisingly readable set of books about his life: "I wanted to get as close to life as possible." We sit, like Geir, his best friend and sounding board, hearing his explanations, and bringing our own understanding to his novel/memoir/quest. The writer Karl Ove places some observations about Karl Ove the narrator in the mouth of Geir:"You’re an arch-protestant…If you have some success, generally something others would have died for, you just cross it off in the ledger. You’re not happy about anything. When you’re at one with yourself, which you are almost all of the time, you’re much more disciplined than me…Your ideal is the innocent, innocence…what you lust for is innocence and this is an impossible equation. Lust and innocence can never be compatible."
Since reading Min Kamp Volume One, I watched a number of interviews of Knausgaard. Knausgaard tells us in Volume Two he cannot stop himself from accepting invitations to speak about himself and his book, despite his terror and despite the oftentimes mediocre write-ups. His sense of worthlessness and feelings of intimidation (he says these feelings are rooted in Norwegian culture and his own upbringing) are clear from what he says, writes, and does because, he says, he has revealed the darkest, most shameful things about himself and his family and friends. One might understand, therefore, his reluctance to be in public answering questions about his motivations were it not for the vast number of critics coming down on the side of celebration and awe upon the publication of the linked books. This praise he “crosses off” the income side of the ledger, leaving him desperate and despondent. Well, okay, if that’s how you want to play it. I can heap criticism on his head, too. A little bit of whip-play, eh?

We must ask ourselves why we care. How much of this is fiction and does it matter? Are we as close to life as possible—a little reality show for the bookish set, the novel-minded?

The author Karl Ove tells us this book is about love, and readers might agree. Love in its imperfections, in the imperfections of the lovers, in the circumstances, in the choices one makes, and in the choices one doesn’t. Love between parents and children and children and parents and between the parents and between friends; Love that is not blind, but alternately tender and vengeful, accepting and unyielding. There is a love of writing here, too, of the lost-in-the-dream flow of writing, of the can’t-wait-to-get-back-to-it addictiveness of creating something unique. Which is how we know it probably is fiction. Karl Ove is creating, not just recording. He “finally gets to tell the story” and it is his story. Not objective, but subjective. Fictive, at least in part. We learn the tiniest detail of his child’s outdoor clothing and how to cook a meal of potatoes, steak and broccoli, but we will never hear the voice of his father except through Karl Ove the narrator. What difference does it make? None. Memoirs and fiction often trade places.

Regarding the larger question of whether or not it is literature, I sidestep: that will answer itself over time. The books have their amusements and instruction, for we read so deeply about others’ decisions, successes and downfalls, hidden secrets and cracks in the façade, as well as about Scandinavia, lest anyone think I forgot the cultural context. But were I pressed, I would guess I am reading something resembling an old-fashioned “confession” perhaps like St Augustine’s Confessions written when he was in his early 40s, considered by some to be the first autobiography in the western world, and in which Augustine regrets his sinful life. Confessions ran to thirteen volumes and was meant to be read aloud. In at least one interview, Karl Ove tells us he read his book aloud to an unnamed friend.

St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, whom Karl Ove references, had a long standing disagreement about how best to understand the divine. Confused, sinful, ascetic (rejecting the world) Karl Ove (Augustine?) talks repeatedly and deeply with organized, controlled, disciplined Geir (Aquinas?) who embraces the world, even to the point of travelling to witness the war in Iraq. We listen; we wonder.

All this is to say nothing of Hitler, who is mentioned twice I think in this book, and once in Volume One. Perhaps in Volume Three we will have three references? Of that, stay tuned.
( )
  bowedbookshelf | Mar 25, 2015 |

As I was nearing the end of Volume II I actually felt a bit silly and embarrassed as I looked forward to reading my customary turtle-paced six pages each morning. I used the book as part of my daily meditation as I knew there was no way I could read it like I do novels in which I am interested in and cannot help myself in finishing more than too fast. And as hard as it was for me to trudge through the almost endless Knausgård rhetoric involving changing dirty diapers and idle conversation with people of no interest to him or to me it struck me constantly how there are very few writers I respect and admire that I would give the same reverence to as I seem to give this guy Knausgård. I am simply indifferent these days to child-rearing, and this is one of the major points of focus in his life as a writer. But in all his endless chatter regarding his self-inflicted mundane life, and my growing disinterest in basically everything he does but write, he seems to not care one bit what I might think of him and what he says. Knausgård himself claims he would never understand why anyone would read him either. And somehow I feel sorry for him even as he wheels his double-wide baby carriage full of cash to deposit into his local bank.

Karl Ove Knausgård has been compared to Marcel Proust, and unfairly so it seems. It is likely because Knausgård’s completed series spans six large books. I never felt I had enough time left in my life to properly give Proust a fair reading at the expense of so many other novels I felt I still had to read. Though I have tried a bit in the past to read Proust I gave up the struggle rather quickly. I did recognize his greatness just from the little bit I read. And I happened to own quite a lovely set of his books I sold for a rather large sum a few years ago, not to mention my visiting his grave in Père Lachaise.

Quite often the agenda-based literary types complain about Knausgård’s maleness, race, and sexual orientation being one and the same with all the other media-driven marketing stars of time past. I basically do not have any need either for elitist white man's drivel, or parenthood, daycare, or love relationships, mothers and fathers and the sins inflicted on their children, drinking, beating off, or whatever it is these complainers are talking about. I read for the words, the language, and even though Knausgård is reported to not like the English translation of his books is even more reason for me to read them. He is also a contrarian and I believe the world needs more of them in it. As for the powers-that-be and their marketing genius focussed on the white heterosexual I say, "have at it." Hardly anybody reads anymore anyway. At least not anything literary. I never have liked people with agendas, or organizations that think they know better, or works of art that complain about things as they are. I prefer, through the language, to get my socks knocked off every chance I get. Knausgård does NOT do that for me, but there is something about him that has several really smart people trying to figure out what that is, and certainly not because he is popular today with a few wannabes. Something occurs in his text that changes things, that alters something in our bodies, and there is a redemptive quality after finishing these rather long books. And don't ask me why because I don't know what it is.

I rarely, if ever, buy a book due to its marketing. The few times I have I was extremely disappointed and swore I would never do it again. I read a lot and learn of other writers I might be interested through this process of discovery. I am involved quite intimately with like-minded readers who offer me so many book recommendations that there is no way I can possibly get to them all. I am so far removed from the marketing aspect that I feel I am on the fringe. Add that in the summer I spend four months in Michigan in a cabin with no TV and I am basically advertisement-free. And when I am home in Kentucky I watch internet TV services such as Netflix and amazon prime and again have no marketing thrown at me at all. It is only during the Super Bowl, The Kentucky Derby, and the nightly news that I am bombarded by ads for Viagra, Depends, and other unsavory delectables. And I do not watch Oprah or read her shitty magazine. So marketing does not work for me, or on me. And the readers who depend on these advertisers and blurbs to tell them what to read deserve what they get.

There is nothing in Vol II of My Struggle that feels important enough for me to comment on. It is enough for me that I finished another book in this series. I have not learned much from Knausgård either. I don’t like the music he listens to or even many of the books he reads. And it is perhaps because of our age difference that he matters so little to me as a contemporary. But what I do like is his style, his indifference to what any of us might think of him, and his determination to see this project through. He is going to continue telling us his life story and we might all as well get used to it. He is a relatively big star in regards to the few people who might be reading him. He is a dark and dangerous man, and has looks that compare with an actor named Bridges. Knausgård is as stunned as some of we are at his current success. I find myself simply happy for him and despise all the jealous griping. And Knausgård is not a creep, which is saying more for him than other media darlings who seem to get far more marketing attention than he. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (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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Knausgård, Karl Oveprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bartlett, DonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huttunen, KatriinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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