When Karl Ove Knausgaard joins us in New York this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the Norwegian-American Literary Festival, he’ll do so not just as the author of My Struggle but as the publisher of Pelikanen (Pelican), the house he founded in 2010. Knausgaard runs the press on what he calls “an idealistic basis”—it’s a nonprofit—with his brother Yngve, Asbjørn Jensen, and a few friends.
For the last few years, The Paris Review has cohosted The Norwegian-American Literary Festival, gathering a small group of American and Norwegian writers and critics for a series of informal lectures, interviews, discussions, and music. We’re proud to announce this year’s festival itinerary: coming to New York for three nights this month, May 19, 20, and 21. All the events below are free and open to the public. We hope to see you there! And yes—that guy in the picture (Torgny Amdam of the Fun Stuff, featuring James Wood on drums) will be performing, too. Read More
Last night, as part of the Norwegian-American Literary Festival, four Norwegian writers—Gunnhild Øyehaug, Lars Petter Sveen, Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold, and Carl Frode Tiller—spoke at New York’s 192 Books. James Wood, who moderated, asked them to address the question of perceived Norwegian literary tropes like solitude and loneliness. Sveen pointed out another: the shared cultural knowledge of fairy tales.
Of course, you’ll find solitude and loneliness there, too. Norwegian fairy tales are, even by the genre’s grim standards, dark, thematically and often literally, too (e.g. “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”). For an American audience, accustomed to tall tales that focus on the heroic, and devils who rarely do anything worse than argue with sharp-witted Yankee lawyers, Norway’s fairy tales are downright scary.
“The Lindworm”—also translated, when it is, as “The Lindworm Prince”—is a story with variations across Scandinavia. The version anthologized in the seminal Asbjornsen and Moe collection goes thus: Read More
I also bought a teach-yourself drums book, carved two sticks, placed some books around me in a circle on the floor, the one on the left was the hi-hat, the one next to it the snare drum, and the three books above the tomtoms. —My Struggle, Book 3
Reporting on a Karl Ove Knausgaard reading last summer, The Baffler wrote that “two young men kept comparing the event to a rock concert and complaining that they should have brought 40s … Knausgaard has become a rock star.” The writer himself has told of a German journalist “who compared me to a rock band. He said, the books don’t really have any focus, it’s just loose, it’s like just having some songs about drinking and they don’t have anything else … he saw pictures of me, he said, ‘You pose like a rock star.’ ”
But all this is soon to leave the realm of mere comparison. On Wednesday and Friday, as part of the Norwegian-American Literary Festival, Knausgaard will play the drums with his reunited college band, Lemen, thus sundering the flimsy membrane that separates him from full-on rock stardom. For this is what rock musicians have done throughout history: sundered membranes. Read More
Next week, we’re delighted to cohost the latest Norwegian-American Literary Festival, a series of readings, conversations, and musical performances coming to New York for three nights. As the events approach, we’ll be telling you more about what’s in store.
On Thursday, May 21, at Chelsea’s 192 Books, James Wood will appear in discussion with four of Norway’s most promising young writers—we’re eager to introduce them to a new audience.
Gunnhild Øyehaug has published poetry, essays, and novels, but she’s perhaps best known for her short collection Knots; “Every story [is] a formal surprise, smart and droll,” Lydia Davis wrote of her stories in the Times Literary Supplement. Her novel Wait, Blink was made into the acclaimed film Women in Oversized Men’s Shirts. She has also worked as a coeditor of the literary journals Vagant and Kraftsentrum. Øyehaug lives in Bergen, where she teaches creative writing.
Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold, from Oslo, is the author of four novels and a collection of poetry; her work have been published in more than twenty languages. An English translation of her novel Monsterhuman will appear from Dalkey Archive Press. Bold, witty, and deeply existential, Monsterhuman is a bildungsroman that turns the story of a young woman’s chronic fatigue syndrome into an intellectual journey, at once grave and comic.
Lars Petter Sveen’s third book, the novel Children of God, made him a household name in Norway. Due in English from Graywolf Press, Children of God is set in the Bethlehem of Biblical times, where multiple narrators who have crossed paths with Jesus tell their stories. Sveen counts Cormac McCarthy among his influences, and his often violent stories present themselves as alternative gospels.
Carl Frode Tiller has written three novels and three plays; he lives in Trondheim and plays in the rock band Kong Ler. His three-volume novel Encirclement tells the story of David, who suffers from memory loss—but also of the nine people who write letters to him trying to remind him who he was, simultaneously questioning and celebrating the act of storytelling.
Again, these writers will appear in conversation with James Wood at 192 Books next Thursday, May 21. The event begins at seven P.M.; it’s free and open to the public. See you there!