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Karl Ove Knausgaard: The Alchemist of the Ordinary

Hear how this remarkable writer is able to convince the reader that the mundane episodes of his own life are both utterly compelling and of universal significance.

Novelists worship him. Critics fall over themselves to explain his genius. His celebrity fans say his books are like drugs. ‘I just read 200 pages and I need the next volume like crack. It’s completely blown my mind,’ Zadie Smith tweeted. What they’re all raving about is Karl Ove Knausgaard’s bestselling series of six autobiographical novels, My Struggle. The books recount in microscopic detail every aspect of Knausgaard’s own life: his bullying alcoholic father, his marriages, the raising of his children. As James Wood, the literary critic at the New Yorker, has said: ‘Many writers strive to give you the illusion of reality. Knausgaard seems to want to give his readers the reality of reality. And he achieves this. You read Knausgaard as if in real time.’ What is it that makes Knausgaard’s highly confessional books so addictive? What does it say about our voyeuristic urges that the minutiae of his life are so gripping?

In October 2015, Karl Ove Knausgaard came to the Intelligence Squared stage for an exclusive UK appearance to discuss how — by a remarkable process of literary alchemy — he has made the mundane episodes of his own life both utterly compelling and of universal significance for so many readers.



Robert Collins

Senior Producer, Intelligence Squared

Former Deputy Literary Editor of The Sunday Times, where he founded and hosted the Sunday Times Literary Salon. He has chaired discussions with countless authors, including Jonathan Franzen, Edward St Aubyn, Thomas Keneally and Ian McEwan. As a critic and interviewer, he has written about books and the arts for the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the FT, the Observer and the Spectator. He was named PPC Journalist of the Year in 2014.

Karl Ove Knausgaard

Norwegian author best known for his six-volume series of autobiographical novels 'My Struggle'

Norwegian author. In 1998 he won the Norwegian Critics Prize For Literature with his debut novel, Out Of The World. He gained worldwide fame with his six-volume series of autobiographical novels entitled My Struggle (or Min Kamp in Norwegian), which dissected his life and relationships in often merciless detail. The Wall Street Journal described him as ‘one of the 21st-century’s greatest literary sensations’. His work has been published in 35 languages.