My Long Chat With Karl Ove Knausgaard

Christian Lorentzen in New York Magazine:

ScreenHunter_1505 Nov. 22 18.05Like most Norwegian schoolchildren of his generation, Karl Ove Knausgaard started learning English at the age of 10. The curriculum didn’t extend to the study of literature, so he had to come to British and American authors on his own. Though he says the opposite, his English is excellent, but there were two words I used that he didn’t know: placid (crucial because he grew up in a placid country, but in a home that was anything but); and refinement (crucial because his prose is marked by its high variance of refinement, veering between the cooked and the raw). I met Knausgaard on a recent afternoon outside the offices of the New YorkTimes, which had just published his review of Michel Houellebecq’sSubmission. (Our meeting occurred before the attacks in Paris.)

We walked east a few blocks and up to 44th Street for a drink at the Blue Bar of the Algonquin Hotel. I was disappointed to learn that massive international literary celebrity is such that you can pass through Times Square without being stopped by a fan. Knausgaard stands about six-foot-six, and his hair and beard at age 46 are a touch grayer than they appear on the cover of book two of his My Struggle series — the fourth of six volumes that appeared in English translation last spring. Two nights before he had been fêted at a gala at the New York Public Library, and he would be again that night at MoMA. At the Algonquin, Knausgaard had a black coffee and a Diet Coke, and I had a bloody Mary. I’ve been told that I’m a laconic interlocutor and in this Knausgaard was more than my match; on the recording of our conversation, the long pauses are filled with Sinatra songs playing from the bar’s speakers.

More here.