Karl Ove Knausgaard (2014) A Death In The Family. My Struggle: Book 1. Translated from the Norwegian by Dan Bartlett.

I was vaguely aware of Karl Ove Knausgaard, having read some reviews of his work. So I knew that the life that he lived was the material he used to build the narrative of his life and tell a story of how he became who he is.  Some of my favourite reading material comes from Harpie. Thanks for the Vodka 2004, for example, tells the reader through a diary format what happens to her day to day. Her life is a shipwreck and as she goes under she tells you what she clings onto. Some of the things that have happened to her, in no particular order, includes rape, working in a sex shop, becoming an author, working as a nurse, marrying into gypsy hell and getting her son stolen, and if it all gets a bit much she tells you how she ended up singing in the Karaoke down her local, with her gay best friend. I know, I know, this review is meant to be about Karl Ove, but My Struggle really was a struggle. It was the worst of all sins for a reader –boring and not particularly well written.




  1. 1.a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

Let me give you a few examples. ‘Then I met her gaze and a chill ran down my spine.’

‘Children were not supposed to predecease their parents.’  This isn’t a cliché, simply Karl Ove generalising about the death of his father. The problem may be one of translation. I can tell you I’ve never predeceased anyone in my life, and I guess I’m about the same age a Karl Ove.

‘Dad had also affected my self-image, of course, but perhaps in a different way [to his elder brother] at any rate I had periods of doubt followed by periods of self-belief, it was all mixed for me, and the doubts that coloured such a large part of my thinking never applied to the larger picture, but always the smaller picture, the one associated with my close surroundings…I never had any doubt that I could attain whatever I wanted, I knew I had it in me, because my yearnings were so strong and they never found any rest. How could they? How else was I going to crush anyone?’

My dad Dessy would have something to say about this. I can hear his voice in my head. Complete fannywash.

I was going to give another few examples, but even I’m bored with this I remember ever fart I held in scenario. Karl Ove does tell the reader that he was going to have a wank in the shower. I guess that makes him a wanker.

What makes it interesting is finding out who dies, because they are all relatively young, middle-class and in good health. When Karl Ove’s dad gets divorced, remarries and drinks himself to death the story does get a bit more interesting. Karl Ove is good describing the cloud patterns and the way the light shines. But Daddy, dearest Daddy, never did find out his son’s first novel was about him. That’s probably why he drunk himself to death. So Karl Ove grows up goes to school. Goes to University. Never does a lick of work and then aged about 27 or 28 starts a family and has a separate office from his partner in which to write. Shit I’m moving to Norway. They sure give their kids some leeway, only by that time Karl Ove isn’t a kid, but a father, burying his father.

The International Bestseller. ‘It unbelieveable. It’s completely blown my mind,’ Zadie Smith is quotes as saying on the cover. Really? So it isn’t fannywash? Well, I guess my yearnings aren’t strong enough and I’ve always got doubts. How else am I going to crush anyone?

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