Karl Ove Knausgård

Karl Ove Knausgård Norwegian writer whose six-volume autobiographical novel, Min kamp (2009–11; My Struggle, 2012–18), proved to be a runaway best seller in Norway and also captivated a large and growing number of English-language readers.

Knausgaard was the second child of an English teacher and a nurse, and he grew up on the island of Tromøy and in Kristiansand, both in southern Norway. When he was a teenager, his parents divorced, and his father, an alcoholic, moved in with his own mother and ultimately drank himself to death. His father was, as Knausgaard revealed in the first volume of his autobiography, a brutal and demanding man who humiliated and belittled his son, and their relationship essentially formed the author’s sense of himself. Knausgaard graduated from the University of Bergen.

Few would have predicted Knausgaard’s fame, but his first novel, Ute av verden (1998; “Out of the World”), was masterfully written and became the first debut novel to win the Norwegian Critics’ Prize. The novel, structured in three parts, told the story of a 30-something teacher who falls in love with one of his 13-year-old students. Knausgaard’s second book, Tid for alt (2004; U.K. title, A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven, also published as A Time for Everything), was considerably stranger and more complex.

He further determined not only to tell the story of his own life—without hiding behind a character’s persona—but also to examine it in excruciating detail in an attempt “to find meaning in an ordinary life.” All this he began to do, using the real names of the people in his life and writing his thoughts uncensored, alternating between essayistic meditations and examinations of the minutiae of child rearing and other domestic activities.