On the Value of Literature


“Reading is an intimate matter, something we do on our own, and it is remarkable in that by allowing our gaze to pass along the page we thereby evoke within us the voice of another, a voice to which we submit, in such a way that we ourselves vanish—to a greater or lesser degree, obviously, but with the best books, we vanish entirely.”—Karl Ove Knausgaard

Why books, sentences, words? A new long-form essay on literature's purpose by the acclaimed Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard (My Struggle), offered in the issue as a removable pamphlet, provides a fascinating answer. Translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken.

RELATED EVENT: A Conversation with Karl Ove Knausgaard” at BookCourt


Born and raised in Norway, Karl Ove Knausgaard is a writer, editor, and essayist best known for his critically acclaimed six-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle [Min Kamp], published in Norway between 2009 and 2011. It has been translated into 22 languages. Knausgaard’s other books include A Time for Everything (Archipelago, 2004) and The Morning Star (Penguin Press, 2021). From 1999 to 2002, Knausgaard coedited Vagant, a Norwegian literary magazine. In 2013, he published The Soul’s America: Writings 1996–2013, a collection of essays. In 2020, Knausgaard published the novel Morgenstjernen to critical acclaim in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. In the subsequent years, he published two sequels. He has also written for The New Yorker and The New York Times

Martin Aitken is a literary translator living in Denmark. His translations include novels by Kim Leine, Helle Helle, and Peter Høeg. In 2012, he won the American-Scandinavian Foundation's Nadia Christensen Translation Prize, and in 2019, he received the PEN Translation Prize for his translation of Hanne Ørstavik's Love.