The only U.S. cities Karl Ove Knausgaard is visiting are New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
  • Courtesy of Archipelago Books
  • The only U.S. cities Karl Ove Knausgaard is visiting are New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
The Norwegian literary sensation that just about everyone has called the second coming of Proust will be at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight. In case you've been under a literary rock for the last year, he is the author of a six-volume autobiographical novel called My Struggle. "It's unbelievable. I just read 200 pages of it and I need the next volume like crack. It's completely blown my mind," Zadie Smith said on Twitter last summer. "Everywhere I’ve gone this past year the talk, amongst bookish people, has been of this Norwegian," she added in a New York Review of Books piece six months later. The New Yorker's James Wood calls it a "long, intense, and vital book." The Paris Review says: "On the line here are both a man’s soul and his ass. The work has pissed off his fellow Norwegians, including the one he married." The Daily Beast says that Knausgaard's mother begged him to stop writing it and that his uncle no longer speaks to him because of it.

The third volume came out in the U.S. last week. None of the slackers at The Stranger have even finished the first volume. I got 57 pages into it, thought it was very good, hit a boring patch, and put it down to go read A Room with a View. So I can't tell you much about it, except that it begins with a bunch of stuff about dead bodies that I underlined as I read—and that it has some very long paragraphs:

The moment life departs the body, it belongs to death. At one with lamps, suitcases, carpets, door handles, windows… We are constantly surrounded by objects and phenomena from the realm of death. Nonetheless, there are few things that arose in us greater distaste than to see a human being caught up in it, at least if we are to judge by the efforts we make to keep corpses out of sight. In larger hospitals they are not only hidden away in discrete, inaccessible rooms, even the pathways there are concealed, with their own elevators and basement corridors, and should you stumble upon one of them, the dead bodies being wheeled by are always covered… The teacher who has a heart attack in the school playground does not have to be driven away immediately; no damage is done by leaving him where he is until the caretaker has time to attend to him, even though that might not be until sometime in the late afternoon or evening. What difference would it make if a bird were to alight on him and take a peck? Would what awaits him in the grave be any better just because it is hidden? As long as the dead are not in the way there is no need for any rush, they cannot die a second time… The homeless who freeze to death on benches and in doorways, the suicidal who jump off high buildings and bridges, elderly woman who fall down staircases…, the small girl who ends up under the wheel of a bus, why all this haste to remove them from the public eye? Decency? What could be more decent than to allow the girl's mother and father to see her an hour or two later, lying in the snow at the site of the accident, in full view, her crushed head and the rest of her body, her blood-spattered hair and the spotless padded jacket? Visible to the whole world, no secrets, the way she was. But even this one hour in the snow is unthinkable. A town that does not keep its dead out of sight, that leaves people where they died, on highways and byways, in parks and parking lots, is not a town but a hell. The fact that this hell reflects our life experience in a more realistic and essentially truer way is of no consequence. We know this is how it is, but we do not want to face it. Hence the collective act of repression symbolized by the concealment of our dead.

Knausgaard's reading from the third volume of My Struggle begins at Elliott Bay Book Company at 7 pm.