Three Books That Changed Karl Ove Knausgaard's Life
The celebrated Norwegian author speaks about the influential attributes of these reads.
BY Ash Carter and Adrieene Westenfeld | Nov 8, 2017 | Books
Woe be unto the relatives of this celebrated Norwegian author: every slight, sneeze and awkward silence in his presence has been fair game for his prodigious autobiographical novels. Now finished with My Struggle, the exhaustive, exhilarating, six-volume, 3,500page tome covering his life to date, Knausgaard, 48, seems to have tired of writing about himself. Autumn (Penguin Press, SGD37*), the first in a four-part series named after and taking place over the four seasons, is an extended letter to his newborn daughter. She has no idea what’s in store for her. In the meantime, her vigilant father tells us about some of his biggest literary influences.
A Wizard of Earthsea
By Ursula K Le Guin
When I was around 10, my mother discovered my collection of comic books. They were very sexist and violent, stuff like Modesty Blaise, and she forbade me to read them. But she said, “You can read as many books as you like,” and about a year later, she gave me A Wizard of Earthsea. It’s about a boy in a remote village somewhere. They find out he’s very gifted, so he comes to this school for wizards. You can see why that would be of interest to a young boy in Norway in the ’70s. It has a story similar to that of Harry Potter, but it was published in 1968.
By James Joyce
I was 20 when I first read it and I didn’t understand more than 20 percent of it, but I have read it several times since. I can’t say the book influenced my life; it’s too cerebral. But it did influence my writing and my thinking about the world. Bloom is among the best characters in literature. His ordinariness is so human. And there’s no plot. I very much dislike plots. Writing is a matter of trying somehow to reach the real life, how it tastes and feels. And there’s no story in real life. More than anything, stories stand in the way.
Remembrance of Things Past
By Marcel Proust
This was translated into Norwegian for the first time when I was 24. I was living by myself in a one-room apartment, and I didn’t have a job or any money. I would take a volume down to this coffee shop by the seaside, where I’d buy one coffee and sit outside all day. I read every volume that summer. And every day, I walked into a landscape I didn’t know but I could relate to at the same time; I was full of nostalgia for my own childhood even then. Two years later, I started writing my first novel. I realise now how much I took from Proust, like it had been completely integrated in me. Although mine was a poor book compared to his.
This article was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, November 2017.