Tomas Espedal Meets

Tomas Espedal Meets

Karl Ove Knausgård

For the first time ever the two giants in Scandinavian literature, Norwegian writers Tomas Espedal and Karl Ove Knausgård, meet on stage – about writing their autobiographical novels where you "have to proceed even though you feel the danger."

Karl Ove Knausgård starts out reading from ‘Om våren’ (On Spring), which is the third volume in his series of books written to his new-born daughter following the four seasons in a year. Just like ‘My Struggle’ the series mixes everyday observations with essayistic prose. The author "wanted to break free of the novel and the narrative," he explains. Knausgård calls the essayistic style his "weakness," because "the strength of a narrative is manifestations, all the things the reader adds."

Tomas Espedal reads from ‘Året’ (The Year), inspired by Petrarch's sonnet cycle of 366 poems, one for each day of the year, written for his beloved Laura. After spending two years researching, Espedal's publisher told him that he couldn’t write a book about the four seasons because Knausgård was doing a similar project. "Your book will be totally overlooked in Norwegian literature," the editor said. However, Espedal’s response when reading Knausgård's first book was: "Damn, he describes it like that? I can do it better!"

Tomas Espedal and Karl Ove Knausgård have been friends for many years and have followed each others’ paths through literature. Espedal remembers that Knausgård’s first novels "set the bar higher for the rest of us, so we had to make an effort." And the admiration is mutual: Knausgård compares his colleague to Proust in terms of his "pursuit of beauty." Knausgård finds that that you have to write certain books: "You don't choose that path; you have to go down it. There's no other way."

When the subject comes to using their own personal experiences and transforming it to literature, Espedal states: "It annoys the hell out of me, this damned, fucked-up debate about autofiction … It took the critics years to understand how to read your 'My Struggle' books. You wait years for them to read it right and when they finally understand that this is an old literary project that stem from old confessional literature. They say ‘Oh, we had enough of this – no more!’ But the project is far from complete, it holds endless possibilities."

Both writers find using the 'I' shameful in a Norwegian context. Knausgård says that while he wrote 'My Struggle' he felt: "Can I do this? Is it dangerous?" Espedal recognizes this feeling but says that you “have to proceed even though you feel the danger."

Karl Ove Knausgård (b. 1968) has received several literary prizes for 'My Struggle', six novels spanning over 3,000 pages where the author describes his own life, not least portraying his father who died of alcohol, mixed with essayistic prose.

Tomas Espedal (b. 1961) has written numerous novels, most recently "Against Art (The Notebooks)" 2009, "Against Nature" 2011. His works explore the relationship between the novel and other genres such as essays, letters, diaries, autobiographies and travelogue. Three times has his work been nominated for the Nordic Council Prize, Scandinavia's most prominent literature prize.

Tomas Espedal and Karl Ove Knausgård were interviewed on stage at the Louisiana Literature festival 21 August 2016, by Kim Skotte, journalist at the daily newspaper Politiken.

Cameras: Anders Lindved & Rasmus Quistgård
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Christian Lund

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • 8 Artists

    On Painting

    ”A painting must always move beyond its subject,” says British painter Michael Simpson, who sees the practice of painting as ”giving form to an idea.” Hear how he, David Hockney and 6 other painters work with the classical art form.

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Chigozie Obioma

    Everything We Do is Preordained

    Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ “an Igbo version of a tragedy.” Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of “the paradox that is Nigeria.”

  • Ed Ruscha

    Words Have No Size

    The road to being an artist was “like blind leading the blind” says Ed Ruscha, who grew to be one of the most recognised American artists of the 20th century. Hear the story of West Coast Jazz, his break with abstract art and L.A. in the 1960s.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.

  • Dorte Mandrup

    Where Place Meets Sculpture

    Rising from the landscape in a place rich with materiality and history sits architect Dorte Mandrup’s new Wadden Sea Centre. Meet the renowned architect and see a building were “everything comes together.”

  • 5 Artists

    on Making Sculptures

    “All sculpture that I’m interested in knows that death is the inevitable conclusion.” Award-winning artist Antony Gormley sees art as the expression and generation of hope. Hear how he and five other artists work with sculpture.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    Literature Should be Ruthless

    Karl Ove Knausgård has enchanted the literary world with ‘My Struggle’, a novel of more than 3000 pages about his own life. Watch the star author discuss literature, writing and how his autobiographical style is closely connected to fiction.