A Time for Everything, by Karl O. Knausgaard
(The book has been published in Great Britain with the title A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven.) This is a special, large scale novel of epic proportions, a type or genre that has almost disappeared; a novel about angels, which revisits old stories in the Bible – discusses Cain and Abel, Job and Noah, the death of Christ – and then returns to the present and describes a boy's troubled relationship to his father. Knausgaard’s novel is one that you will either love or find boring. It was nominated for the 2004 Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, the 2004 Norwegian Critics’ Prize, and longlisted for the 2010 IMPAC Award. A very special book by an author who is currently receiving much attention and is among the top sellers in Scandinavia.
Karl O. Knausgaard (Knausgård) was born in Norway in 1968. He was raised on Tromøya in Arendal and in Kristiansand, and studied arts and literature at the University of Bergen. He currently lives in Malmö, Sweden with his wife and their three children. He made his debut with Out of This World. This is his second novel and the first to be translated into English.
A Time for Everything starts in the 1560s. Antinous Bellori, a boy of 11, is exploring the woods above his home in the north Italian mountains when night falls. He comes across, unexpectedly, of course, a couple of angels high in the North Italian mountains, fishing with torch and spear.
This event is decisive in Bellori's life, just as encounters with angels have been for others throughout history. Beginning in the Garden of Eden and soaring right through to the present day, we revisit key moments when men have come face to face with these intermediaries of the divine: Cain and Abel cultivating their differences murderously; Lot's shame in Sodom; Noah's isolation before the Flood; Ezekiel tied to his bed, prophesying fiercely; and the death of Christ. Alighting upon these dramatic scenes - from the Bible and beyond - Knausgaard's imagination takes flight: the result is a dazzling display of storytelling at its majestic, spellbinding best.
Re-telling two Old Testament stories takes up half the book. It is a beautifully explored view of the life of people from the period of Genesis going about their average daily life - but with guns, with stoves, takes the reader further into exploration and finally, up-to-date with a troubling account of a boy's relationship with his father and the world in which we live.
A Time for Everything is wonderful, very thought-provoking, and very readable.
Praise for A Time for Everything / A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven:
"A strange and distinctive and completely intriguing novel. I hope it finds a good readership." (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, UK)
"This theological fantasy is a heavenly delight [...] Not just strange, this is a quite extraordinary novel, and completely original." (Jonathan Gibbs, The Independent, UK)
"This demanding narrative on the nature of angels may become a cult book ... Knausgaard is at his best with finely observed natural description; he is also skilful with atmosphere." (The Guardian, UK)
"A vast, intriguing novel … The power it carries is perplexing … I recommend this brave and at times bizarrely beautiful book" (Niall Griffiths, Daily Telegraph, UK)
"With A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven, Knausgård has… definitely written his way into the major league of contemporary authors. His prose is determined and precise, with an alluring linguistic lustre and an overwhelming poetic concentration.” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany)
"Knausgård’s second novel has the wingspan of an archangel and unites the psychology of the Old Testament with modern deconstruction... His empathy with Cain’s love and fight against rejection is masterly psychological prose" (Politiken, Denmark)
"An original, magnificent and powerful novel ... A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven takes the reader to places she has never visited before ... Is one of those novels that you will find yourself wanting to talk about over and over again" (Aftenposten)
My Struggle: Book One, by Karl Ove Knausgaard
It’s not clear whether the monumental six volume work My Struggle, written by Karl Ove Knausgaard (in Norwegian: Knausgård) – which consists of no less than 3,500 pages – is a novel or a memoir. And it really doesn’t matter all that much: Sufficient to say is that in a very surprising way it is both! It reads like a wonderful novel, and it is such an exploring, brutal, and penetrating memoir that is completely transcends the genre. Some people have suggested that it is a kind of literary reality show; it my opinion it is much, much more.
My Struggle has been is huge best-seller in Norway and the Scandinavian countries. It has also been a tremendously controversial series. There has literally been written kilometers of newspaper columns of reviews, opinions, and discussions about it, due to its brutal honesty and the way it lays bare the lives not only of Knausgaard himself, but also his wife, family, friends and colleagues. In this volume, for instance, he describes his grandmother’s incontinence and his father’s alcoholism. Readers in Scandinavia love him or hate him – many have been outraged - but almost everybody has an opinion. And it has been an enormously popular series. When the sixth and final volume was delayed, it created a media storm in Norway.
I belong to the camp that sees little or no sensationalism in Knausgård’s writing. Knausgård is a marvelous, sharp, and very critical on-looker who examines events and people without magnification, without blinds, and without editorializing. "Art does not know a beyond, science does not know a beyond, religion does not know a beyond, not anymore. Our world is enclosed around itself." He sees and experiences, and he seeks to really understand what it is that he is seeing and experiencing, and how his own experiences are aligned or not aligned with what others experience as the same time. That’s what he sets out to achieve, and that’s what he tries to do; and he refuses to make things pretties and better, at the same time as he refuses to transform what he sees and lives by objectifying it.
In My Struggle: Book One, the story is about the author’s youth, his relationship to his father and family, and especially the death of his father. It is a breath-taking read – a strange, challenging, and very evocative journey. Karl Ove Knausgaard takes us into his world, his life really, in a manner that somehow feels to sharp and exacting that it almost forces you to reflect on aspects of your own life and relationships. It is as if he is able to penetrate something that is both personal and specific to him and his situation and at the same time generic and applicable to my and – I am sure – your youths as well. While reading, I was constantly surprised by how fascinated I was!
Pages fly while reading Knausgaard! Not only is the chronologically evolving tale and examination of his life intriguing and magnificent, but at the same time that and other tales are overlaid by the author’s continual struggle to be a writer in the present. "Modernist literature with all its vast apparatus was an instrument, a form of perception, and once absorbed, the insights it brought could be rejected without its essence being lost, even the form endured, and it could then be applied to your own life, your own fascinations, which could then suddenly appear in a completely new and significant light."
My Struggle: Book One is utterly fascinating. It is excellently written, outstandingly translated by Don Bartlett, and deserves a very wide audience. Knausgård has a fabulous ability to observe, examine and articulate in a stunningly self-aware manner. In my opinion this is a masterpiece!
Praise for My Struggle: Book One and K. O. Knausgaard:
Knausgård belongs to an identifiably Norwegian tradition – Ibsen, Hamsun, Edvard Munch, Tarjei Vesaas, Per Petterson – in his ability to achieve the frank unfettered concentration on naked personal experience that is responsible for the magnificent second section … The rapprochement of the two brothers [is] intensely moving … the author’s literary integrity, his admirably unflagging belief that every human experience, his own not excluded, deserves an artist’s devotion … British readers, like the Norwegians, will be captured by Karl Ove’s narrative intensity” —Times Literary Supplement, UK
“Shocking reading … one of the most ambitious, vulnerable projects in Norwegian literature … the most original and promising Norwegian author of his generation … in his almost seamless blend of expository passages about life and art, flashbacks and scenes from an upbringing and preparations for a funeral, My Struggle can be read as a novel about a writer sitting in judgement on himself and his relationship to those closest to him … a boost for the Norwegian novel as a form of expression. So long, so painful, and so good.” — Adresseavisen, Norway