‘The last line of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s new book ‘The Morning Star’ would have made me throw it across the room, had I not been reading on my tablet’

WhatsOn Sep 28, 2021 by Robert J. Wiersema Toronto Star

With his new novel “The Morning Star,” Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard takes a marked shift away from the autofiction that made him a literary superstar and propelled the six volumes of his autobiographical novel “My Struggle” onto bestseller lists around the world. The new novel is limited to two days in late summer, incorporates speculative and horror elements, and is written from a number of points of view.

This is still very much a Knausgaard novel, though, which is welcome news for his fans — less so for his detractors.

The events of “The Morning Star” orbit around the sudden appearance of the titular celestial body: “it looked like a star, only its light was so much brighter,” as one character describes it. Coincident with the appearance of this heavenly body, things seem disturbed on Earth: swarms of ladybirds and houseflies appear, clots of crabs mass far from the sea, nets fill with fish on an epic scale.

Little of this, however, seems to make much of a difference. The narrators — including a middle-aged teacher spending the last few days of summer at the cottage with his family; a female priest and biblical translator whose marriage is faltering; a nurse who has returned to Bergen to care for her mother; and a journalist who has been demoted to the arts desk — are relatively unfazed by the astronomical anomaly, too wrapped up in their own lives and issues to do much more than notice. This is, naturally enough, where Knausgaard excels, exploring those internal conflicts and questions at an almost granular level.

There is a perfect Knausgaardian moment, late in the book, in which one of the characters treats himself to lunch and a beer on a patio overlooking the ocean after dropping his wife off for a psych hold at the hospital, explaining internally, “I did care about her, it wasn’t that. Just not all the time, that’s all.”

Things get stranger, however, with — among other things — the possible appearance of ghosts, mysterious creatures in the forest, strange rituals and fires, the grisly murder of members of a death-metal band and a man returning from the dead. This is the standard stuff of horror novels, but it plays largely in the background, serving as trigger points for considerations of faith (and the lack thereof), life after death, the nature of death itself and the rarity of miracles in the contemporary, secular world.

There is little in the way of narrative momentum or obvious suspense, but one realizes how effectively Knausgaard has been building tension beneath the surface as, after more than 650 pages, the book closes before any overarching narrative really begins. The last line of the book — which would have made me throw it across the room, had I not been reading on my tablet — is “… it has begun.”

Is the book the beginning of another massive project, or is it so unconcerned about the surface glamour of plot and narrative structure that it just ends, every question left unanswered?

It’s a testament to the strange, almost perverse strength of Knausgaard as a writer that the book works either way.

Robert J. Wiersema is the author, most recently, of “Seven Crow Stories”

‘The last line of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s new book ‘The Morning Star’ would have made me throw it across the room, had I not been reading on my tablet’

WhatsOn Sep 28, 2021 by Robert J. Wiersema Toronto Star

With his new novel “The Morning Star,” Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard takes a marked shift away from the autofiction that made him a literary superstar and propelled the six volumes of his autobiographical novel “My Struggle” onto bestseller lists around the world. The new novel is limited to two days in late summer, incorporates speculative and horror elements, and is written from a number of points of view.

This is still very much a Knausgaard novel, though, which is welcome news for his fans — less so for his detractors.

The events of “The Morning Star” orbit around the sudden appearance of the titular celestial body: “it looked like a star, only its light was so much brighter,” as one character describes it. Coincident with the appearance of this heavenly body, things seem disturbed on Earth: swarms of ladybirds and houseflies appear, clots of crabs mass far from the sea, nets fill with fish on an epic scale.

Little of this, however, seems to make much of a difference. The narrators — including a middle-aged teacher spending the last few days of summer at the cottage with his family; a female priest and biblical translator whose marriage is faltering; a nurse who has returned to Bergen to care for her mother; and a journalist who has been demoted to the arts desk — are relatively unfazed by the astronomical anomaly, too wrapped up in their own lives and issues to do much more than notice. This is, naturally enough, where Knausgaard excels, exploring those internal conflicts and questions at an almost granular level.

There is a perfect Knausgaardian moment, late in the book, in which one of the characters treats himself to lunch and a beer on a patio overlooking the ocean after dropping his wife off for a psych hold at the hospital, explaining internally, “I did care about her, it wasn’t that. Just not all the time, that’s all.”

Things get stranger, however, with — among other things — the possible appearance of ghosts, mysterious creatures in the forest, strange rituals and fires, the grisly murder of members of a death-metal band and a man returning from the dead. This is the standard stuff of horror novels, but it plays largely in the background, serving as trigger points for considerations of faith (and the lack thereof), life after death, the nature of death itself and the rarity of miracles in the contemporary, secular world.

There is little in the way of narrative momentum or obvious suspense, but one realizes how effectively Knausgaard has been building tension beneath the surface as, after more than 650 pages, the book closes before any overarching narrative really begins. The last line of the book — which would have made me throw it across the room, had I not been reading on my tablet — is “… it has begun.”

Is the book the beginning of another massive project, or is it so unconcerned about the surface glamour of plot and narrative structure that it just ends, every question left unanswered?

It’s a testament to the strange, almost perverse strength of Knausgaard as a writer that the book works either way.

Robert J. Wiersema is the author, most recently, of “Seven Crow Stories”

‘The last line of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s new book ‘The Morning Star’ would have made me throw it across the room, had I not been reading on my tablet’

WhatsOn Sep 28, 2021 by Robert J. Wiersema Toronto Star

With his new novel “The Morning Star,” Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard takes a marked shift away from the autofiction that made him a literary superstar and propelled the six volumes of his autobiographical novel “My Struggle” onto bestseller lists around the world. The new novel is limited to two days in late summer, incorporates speculative and horror elements, and is written from a number of points of view.

This is still very much a Knausgaard novel, though, which is welcome news for his fans — less so for his detractors.

The events of “The Morning Star” orbit around the sudden appearance of the titular celestial body: “it looked like a star, only its light was so much brighter,” as one character describes it. Coincident with the appearance of this heavenly body, things seem disturbed on Earth: swarms of ladybirds and houseflies appear, clots of crabs mass far from the sea, nets fill with fish on an epic scale.

Little of this, however, seems to make much of a difference. The narrators — including a middle-aged teacher spending the last few days of summer at the cottage with his family; a female priest and biblical translator whose marriage is faltering; a nurse who has returned to Bergen to care for her mother; and a journalist who has been demoted to the arts desk — are relatively unfazed by the astronomical anomaly, too wrapped up in their own lives and issues to do much more than notice. This is, naturally enough, where Knausgaard excels, exploring those internal conflicts and questions at an almost granular level.

There is a perfect Knausgaardian moment, late in the book, in which one of the characters treats himself to lunch and a beer on a patio overlooking the ocean after dropping his wife off for a psych hold at the hospital, explaining internally, “I did care about her, it wasn’t that. Just not all the time, that’s all.”

Things get stranger, however, with — among other things — the possible appearance of ghosts, mysterious creatures in the forest, strange rituals and fires, the grisly murder of members of a death-metal band and a man returning from the dead. This is the standard stuff of horror novels, but it plays largely in the background, serving as trigger points for considerations of faith (and the lack thereof), life after death, the nature of death itself and the rarity of miracles in the contemporary, secular world.

There is little in the way of narrative momentum or obvious suspense, but one realizes how effectively Knausgaard has been building tension beneath the surface as, after more than 650 pages, the book closes before any overarching narrative really begins. The last line of the book — which would have made me throw it across the room, had I not been reading on my tablet — is “… it has begun.”

Is the book the beginning of another massive project, or is it so unconcerned about the surface glamour of plot and narrative structure that it just ends, every question left unanswered?

It’s a testament to the strange, almost perverse strength of Knausgaard as a writer that the book works either way.

Robert J. Wiersema is the author, most recently, of “Seven Crow Stories”