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To an unborn daughter

Books | October 2017

Autumn By Karl Ove Knausgaard

In this country, Knausgaard’s novels have been eclipsed by his six-part autobiographical fiction. How, everyone asks, can something be at once so banal and unsettlingly profound? The inclination is to ransack the subject matter. Is the secret to be found among the average encounters, the drinking sprees, the insistence on life’s messy matter? Is it in the shock value of minute description, in the pages on piss or vomit? Are we being un-wadded of our stupidity, as George Eliot put it, by ‘the roar which lies on the other side of silence’? No, or not completely. Knausgaard’s sentences, as long as waves, use the plainest, least literary language. You paddle out unsuspecting. This is easy, you think, striking out. But Knausgaard writes by undertow. Turn round and you are alone, far out in the drowning solitudes. Autumn, though a new departure, is part of the Project. The first of a...

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