Three reasons why you should read this man’s book: It’s the literary sensation of the year, reinventing the autobiographical novel; half his family no longer speaks to him because of it; one reader hated it so much he started a fire in a bookshop in protest. Hermione Eyre travels to Sweden to meet Karl Ove Knausgaard, the reclusive author behind this summer’s must-read.
Ystad, on the south coast of Sweden. Seagulls call; wheatfields stretch inland. Whizzing past on the train, I am on my way to interview the latest Scandinavian sensation, the cult literary hero and international bestseller Karl Ove Knausgaard. My Struggle, his compulsive, self-eviscerating six-volume autobiographical novel, which Zadie Smith famously needs ‘like crack’, was a publishing phenomenon in Norway, unfolding ‘live’, almost in real-time; the English-speaking world is just catching up with the translation of volume three, Boyhood Island. It’s essential summer reading, worth starting with volume one, A Death in the Family, a car-crash confessional told with Proustian poise.