Friday, 18 July 2014

BOYHOOD ISLAND by Karl Ove Knausgaard

This is book 3 in a 6 part series. It is however not about dragons, or boy wizards, or whatever; but instead the autobiography of one Norwegian man. One might wonder how one can fill 3000 pages with a life not full of fire-breathing fictional characters, but somehow Knausgaard manages it. I read his A MAN IN LOVE earlier this year, which covers his second marriage, and the birth of his children. This next novel goes back in time, to cover his childhood ages six to twelve.

I loved A MAN IN LOVE, which was a very comforting account of wrong turns and missed opportunities. I'm not quite so fond of BOYHOOD ISLAND, perhaps because one childhood is much like another. Thus there is much in the way of learning to swim, pee-ing out doors, finding pornographic magazines, and etc. There is however much about it that is vintage Karl Ove, which I really enjoyed. (So intimate are these books, its hard to think of him by his surname.) For example: Oh, isnt that why shadows get longer in the evening? They are reaching out for the night, this tidal water of darkness that washes over the earth to fulfil for a few hours the shadows' innermost yearnings. Or, the following, which I've been thinking a lot about as I am on a family holiday, so there is much in the way of photography: "It is the era that we take photos of, not the people in it, they can't be captured. Not even the people in my immediate circle can."

In A MAN IN LOVE we learn that Karl Ove had a troubled relationship with his father. He does seem a very stern disciplinarian, with very harsh punishments for lost socks. We must recall though that this is all told from the child's perspective, so I'm not sure how trustworthy it all is. Karl Ove seems to have been something of a wimp. He is scared of normal things, eg., headless men, mummies, but also an array of other things: e.g., "I was so afraid of the hot water in the bathroom." I"m not sure he's a totally reliable narrator.

Lastly, I did enjoy once again being immersed in the almost creepy safety of Scandinavia. Speaking of a photo, he says his father is "sitting on a mountainside drinking coffee from the same red Thermos top, as he forgot to pack any cups" What! I thought the lid of the Thermos was supposed to be a cup? I thought that was the point?

I can't wait for Book 4. Maybe we'll get some dragons.

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