A quick review of A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgård


Has anyone in the know yet revealed that Knausgaard is concealing an eidetic memory? Some people with photographic memories remember the number plate of every car they've ever driven behind. They remember rembering as clearly as the memory. How else can he write with such nuance, not just about the details but about the sort of adolescent feelings that I've long forgotten? Or maybe he's made some kind of pact with the devil that lets him synthesise his own history into fiction that seems utterly real.

His honesty is so unusual. Writers cloak honesty in fiction, but this is genuinely his story and it's as revealing as the torture and misogeny in Game of Thrones are of Martin's personality. Have you seen that creepy smirk?

Joking, I love GoT

This is the Faustian bargain Knausgaard has admitted to: he's sold his privacy and that of his family's for incredible fiction. Fine, but that doesn't begine to explain why it's so good.

However, despite some obvious genuis I still don't quite know what to make of it. What about the poor pacing? What about the sometimes (or perhaps often) mediocre descriptions? Is he just an average writer who has through some flash of insight stumbled on a distinctive and fascinating style? But perhaps it's me: perhaps I'm unreasonably expecting a new fiction/autobiography hybrid to align with the forms and tropes I already know.

Despite reservations, after the almost buddhist ending, which I absolutely loved, I just see an unflinching view of humanity: one so modern, one of divorce bad parenting, and adolescence and youth and parentood. It's genuinely new and good, and that makes it fascinating.