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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.


Speakers

Chair

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.
Featuring

Karl Ove Knausgaard

Award-winning author


One of the most widely acclaimed novelists working today. His autobiographical novel series My Struggle is an international phenomenon that has been published in over 30 languages, selling in excess of 600,000 copies in his native Norway alone. His first novel, Out of This World (1998), was the first debut novel ever to win The Norwegian Critics’ Prize. His second novel, A Time for Everything (2004), was published in English in 2009 and longlisted for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2015, he was awarded Germany’s prestigious Welt-Literaturpreis.