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A Death in the Family

(Min kamp #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  34,693 ratings  ·  3,611 reviews
In this utterly remarkable novel Karl Ove Knausgaard writes with painful honesty about his childhood and teenage years, his infatuation with rock music, his relationship with his loving yet almost invisible mother and his distant and unpredictable father, and his bewilderment and grief on his father's death. When Karl Ove becomes a father himself, he must balance the deman ...more
Paperback, 490 pages
Published March 7th 2013 by Vintage (first published 2009)
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Afonso It is unfair of you to consider not to read the book due to it's title. It has nothing to do with anti-semism, it simply refers to Karl's own personal…moreIt is unfair of you to consider not to read the book due to it's title. It has nothing to do with anti-semism, it simply refers to Karl's own personal fight, hence "min kamp". While I do agree that the choice of title seems to be a way to deliver some degree of shock, I don't believe you can make a complete and instant association with "Mein Kampf", let alone allow a biased, unfundamented opinion based on your ideals of political correctness keep you from reading the book or any other book for that matter.(less)
Jay "Jakie" Mary Ellen! I am 100% with you on your opinion. I would not consider myself an literati by any means, but I do love to read and I cannot understand wh…moreMary Ellen! I am 100% with you on your opinion. I would not consider myself an literati by any means, but I do love to read and I cannot understand why the literary community is making such a fuss over this author. I have just finished Book 1 and despite my disappointment with it will read Book 2.

Recognizing a good "read" and great literature are, of course, two different thought processes. Knausgaard is no Proust for sure and any resemblance is only in the quantity of texts. I found moments of brilliance and insight, but long passages of absolutely boring, tedious narrative. For a young man given so much independence in his life, Karl Ove seems very, very naive and lacking in self-confidence.

I would like to hear from others reading this author's work to instruct me as to what I may be missing or how to delve deeper into what he may be trying to illustrate with this work. Maybe a Knausgaard group here in GoodReads? If Book 2 doesn't get any better, I'm tossing it into my pile of overrated contemporary authors. (For a very similar autobiographical type narrative, except with excellent, impassioned writing and characters look into Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels.)(less)

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Start your review of A Death in the Family (My Struggle Book 1)
May 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to know what all the fuss is about
I sat, leaning slightly forward, and continued to stare at the screen, but I could think of nothing to say. I shifted my weight, trying to find a more comfortable position, and scratched my head, using my left hand; my right shoulder had still not completely recovered from the skiing accident I had suffered earlier that year, when for a few days I had felt near death. Now, it was hard to remember how I had experienced that time. A small shower of dandruff landed on the keyboard, and I wondered i ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
”But Dad was no longer breathing. That was what had happened to him, the connection with the air had been broken, now it pushed against him like any other object, a log, a gasoline can, a sofa. He no longer poached air, because that is what you do when you breathe, you trespass, again and again you trespass on the world.”

 photo karl-ove-knausgaard_zpsgqga7une.jpg

I first met Karl Ove Knausgaard while watching an interview he gave to BBC. He has all this barely tamed hair surrounding a face that conveys peaceful reflection. He has dra
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I lay on the beige textile corner sofa thinking that I should start writing my review for A Death InThe Family, My Struggle Part 1. I sit up, unplug the laptop from the white charger and sit back down. I open the lid, punch in the password and click on the Notes application icon. A new blank page is revealed to me. I then start to look at the empty screen and realize I am hungry. I sit up again and take an orange form the fruit basket who also containes pears, apples, bananas and kiwis. I reach ...more
Glenn Russell
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Karl Ove Knausgaard - Norwegian novelist born in 1968

This first volume of the author's novel captures episodes in his life, usually as a boy growing up but sometimes events in his twenties and thirties and also reflections as he writes in his forties, through a particular lens: the poignant emotions and heart-break of a teenager. While this would probably be a formula for literary disaster if attempted by most writers, in the skillful hands of Mr. Knausgaard it is a formidable achievement.

How do
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first impression of Karl Ove Knausgaard came from a black and white photograph published with a review of his book "A Time For Everything" in The New York Review of Books.

He is seen smoking against the rugged Norwegian landscape, hair disheveled, wearing an old, battered tee-shirt, lost in thought. Completely and unabashedly himself, yet ill at ease. Entirely present, feet deeply rooted in the present moment, yet his mind is clearly in flight, flickering at the surface of his gaze.

The strikin
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Life's a pitch, as the old woman said. She couldn't pronounce her b’s.”

I’m not sure I can say much of anything about this work that hasn’t already been said. I still have several volumes to finish. The next one is nearly 600 pages, so in a way, I’m just getting started on this enterprise.

Perhaps the best I can do is to offer a few of my observations. All I keep thinking is that this is the best boring book I’ve ever read. I can’t believe how utterly boring it is and that I cared. Every detail
Apr 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The only thing I have learned from life is to endure it, never to question it, and to burn up the longing generated by this in writing.”

I could easily rate My Struggle both 3 and 5 stars, it is hard to put my thoughts into words for this one. I have complete Knausgaard on my shelves, as I've received them as a gift, and My struggle is a favorite book of someone I love dearly. Having a complicated relationship with popular contemporary writers, I was afraid to read it, as I was almost certain I
Book 1: A Death in the Family

"And death, which I have always regarded as the greatest dimension of life, dark, compelling, was no more than a pipe that springs a leak, a branch that cracks in the wind, a jacket that slips off a clothes hanger and falls to the floor."


First, let me say something about this novel (and I'm assuming the next five novels) that is both simple and genius. This is a weird book. It captures the reader because it falls into a funky zone between memoir and fiction. He is te
Adam Dalva
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jawdroppingly good. Somehow both a memoir and a page-turner. As smart as it gets, beautiful, and unusually simple for something this deep. A couple of knockout sequences (New Year's Eve party and especially cleaning his Grandma's house). I read it in a day, lagging only when he approached art history.

I am continually amazed, years later, after re-reading, by how many people have ideas about what this is, without having even tried it. I still remember, 6 years ago, the sun in Long Island as I re
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
that statistic about how often the average man thinks of sex? well, double it, change 'sex' to 'death' and you have a hint as to what's going on in my head. the thought that (spoiler) you, me, and everyone we know, ever will know, and/or ever will know of, will end up an inanimate object seems preposterously unfair and, conversely, is what drives me to live-it-the-hell-up in my pitifully brief time on this less-than-a-speck-of-dust in our expanding universe.

obsessed with death, a collector of d
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a sense of bewilderment at the utter banality that is the immediate surface of this project of Knausgaard’s that at first had me thinking “I’m not going to be able to see this book through” and questioning not only whether it was worth my time but actually was it worth his, all this writing? It was a genuine bewilderment because I was taken aback, flustered, and not a little annoyed that he seemed so casual in his approach, so utterly unconcerned with any kind of decoration, any kind of S ...more
Jim Elkins
Reasons for Knausgaard's Reception (Notes on the Reviews)

This essay has three postscripts. What follows is a negative account of vol. 1, which I read when it was first out in English; now "My Struggle" is famous, and subsequent volumes have attracted some reflective reviews. Thoughts on those at the end. At the moment, there are three postscripts: I intend to add two more, about Fred Jameson's review and Toril Moi's essay. What is in need of explanation at this point (that is, after every other
Paul Bryant
Jun 07, 2021 marked it as probably-never  ·  review of another edition
I just came across a quote from Celeste Ng which pretty much sums this thing up for me. She admitted she couldn't finish it and added :

What really frustrates me about it is that, for centuries, extremely average straight white men get volumes to tell every detail of their lives, while stories by anyone else have to fight to be published at all.
Michael Finocchiaro
I was initially sceptical about this Proustian roman fleuve, but I actually really enjoyed it! I find his writing is closer to that of Elena Ferrante than Marcel Proust.

I think there are two Proustian aspects to KOK: the autobiographical angle (the distance from Marcel of the book to Marcel the author is not very great even if often genders are transposed for societal reasons and situations shaked and baked to his narrative) is rather obvious. The other aspect is the roman fleuve and free assoc

Now that all the hype over Karl Ove Knausgård cycle is over I thought it’s time to finally meet the guy. Almost everything about My struggle was already said, both bad and good stuff. The author was accused of every thing imaginable, of being ungrateful sonofbitch that fouls own nest, that he was hypocrite and megalomaniac, that he hurt own family in hope of making money, that he did it to win plaudits, that he can’t write and the book is rubbish and pure graphomania and much more like that. On
Nick Wellings
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
For some reason, My Struggle (AKA, in the UK - 'A Death in the Family') made it into James Wood's Books of the Year 2012. Woods is, like Kakutani, a doyen of critics, and his word always carries a weight of sensitivity and intelligence gained from years of reading and teaching about literature. With Woods' nodding imprimatur bestowed upon it one would imagine the literary cachet of Knausgard's book is beyond reproach.

But having read my Struggle (and boy, what a struggle) I fear for Mr. Wood's cr
Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Slow moving and full of detail, My Struggle: A Death in the Family reflects on the author’s fraught relationship to fatherhood. The work doubles as the first volume in Knausgaard’s epic six-part portrait of himself, and a self-contained memoir about his fraught relationship to his father, who died at an early age due to alcoholism. The series centers on the lifelong conflict Knausgaard has felt between his desire for greatness and the obligations of family, and is written in plain but hyper-spec ...more
When I started reading this I had a feeling similar to when I read Elena Ferrante for the first time—the feeling that I was reading a book that would be read, possibly even studied, for years to come. I can't put my finger on what exactly it is about this one though that made me feel that way. With Ferrante it was the historical context, observant writing, and vivid characters. With Knausgård it might just be the ambition behind this series: a six-part autobiography.

Nevertheless, though his writ
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had felt for many, many years that the form of the novel, as I used it, created a distance from life. When I started to write about myself, that distance disappeared. If you write about your life, as it is to yourself, every mundane detail is somehow of interest—it doesn’t have to be motivated by plot or character. That was my only reason for writing about myself. It wasn’t because I found myself interesting, it wasn’t because I had experienced something I thought was important and worth shari
Jim Coughenour
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, bleakfiction
For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops.

I'm not sure what to say about this book except that once I started reading I kept going for the next two days. A couple nights ago the current issue of The New Yorker popped up on my iPad; I idly scrolled to the review of this book by James Wood. I read only a few sentences then called Books Inc. They had a copy. I walked over and picked it up even though it was almost 10 pm – and started reading.

James Wood calls My St
The indicator on the bottom of my Kindle shows 8% at location 808 in the book. There is certainly some country in the world where the number eight promises great misfortune. Not here. I look from my Kindle and see the bowl of fruit on the table in front of me. An apple and a pear, each one quartered, eight pieces total. Next to the bowl the tobacco pouch – Schwarzer Krauser, funny name for a Tobacco – and a lighter. Fruits and Tobacco. The Yin and the Yang for my body. Although my nose is about ...more
Lee Klein
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Within a week of each other my mother and a grad school friend recommended this to me, both calling it "up my alley," maybe because it's a literary autobiography unafraid of piling on detail and ripping off pages of dense, insightful exposition. I hadn't seen the James Wood review in The New Yorker (didn't skim it until after I wrote a draft of this review), but I've long been a lover of the look and feel of Archipelago's books and I'm an Anselm Keifer fan (there's a Keifer on the cover). Fictio ...more
I hadn’t really thought to read this despite it being “the” book of 2012, but I read the article he wrote for the March 1, 2015 NYT Sunday magazine, Part I(!) It was the funniest thing I’d ever read. Here is an author whose linked novel/memoirs has taken the literary world by storm and he is showing his utter unpreparedness for that world and the interactions it requires. I wanted to see if that tongue-in-cheek droll self-awareness was his constant subject.

As it turns out, his six-volume memoir
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: Lee
Past the delicatessen I stopped at the shop window surrounded by the mob. Shouldering and pushing I made my way near the front. Standing near someone wearing too much perfume and someone not enough I located myself close by to see the desk, red writing blotter, the mirror attached across from him and the stack of books on the far side by the crook of his elbow. A store employee arrived with a clean glass ashtray. A cigarette dangled from the writers stained lips, yellowed teeth. Fingertips also ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Original review seems to have vanished...

"My Struggle" is Karl Ove Knausgard's first book in the ambitious six part series, and one I had been hearing so much about in recent months that I finally decided to give it a try. As the title might suggest, this is not a comedy, so if you are struggling through a gray, bleak winter, stay well away!

Knausgaard is kind of like sharp cheese. At first you think you hate it, but then it's actually not bad at all. The first half of the book, he came across as
Kevin Kelsey
Posted at Heradas Review

Memoirs are fascinating to me, because we know how truly fallible memory is. It is demonstrably unreliable. It’s completely insane that eyewitnesses and line-ups are such a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. But the cool thing about memoirs is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s a legitimate telling of events or not. I think that David Shields said it best in his book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto: “Memoir is a genre in need of an informed readership. It’s a
May 14, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Difficult - no, impossible - when beginning a book like this to ignore the adulation the book has received and not accumulate some sense of expectation; to anticipate a worthwhile return for your reading time when the author has been described as the Proust of our age and critics breathlessly annunciate their drug-like dependence on the authors prose and implore us to join them in appreciating "a memoir that burns with the heat of life", one which is "close to a work of genius" . Given all that, ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Karl Ove Knausgård - A Death in the Family (My Struggle #1)

The only reason I could actually put it down and didn't finish it earlier was because my free time was limited over the last few days. A fact which raises a certain little question: who the fuck are you, Karl Ove Knausgård, and how on earth did you make me give a damn about the tiny little details that your past consists of?

Knausgård can write. He would captivate you even if he wrote about washing the dishes or picking the right fish at
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is purportedly fiction, as evidenced by the fact that it won several european prizes for fiction. however, it seems like pretty much straight autobiography to me.

i mean the main character has the author's name, he was born in norway and moved to sweden, as did the author. he has a wife and three children, as does the author. at one point in the book, he describes the picture on the cover of his first novel, which was designed by his brother, so i checked and sure enough it really is th
I spent a lot of time, especially at the beginning of this, wondering about why I personally swear to hate memoir, but then go ahead and fall in love with these autobiographical novels. I worry there's something vaguely misogynistic about this, since I tend (rightly or wrongly) to think of memoirists as mostly female and navel-gazey novelists as mostly male... And isn't the difference mostly just one of packaging? Maybe, maybe not. I think I take the point of a memoir to be a memoirist's persona ...more
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21st Century Lite...: Min Kamp 1 - General Discussion (May 2016) 35 96 Sep 16, 2016 08:02AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combined series entry 5 27 Jul 14, 2016 10:00AM  
21st Century Lite...: Min Kamp 1 - Part 2 and Book as a Whole (May 2016) 26 39 Jun 02, 2016 02:03PM  
21st Century Lite...: Min Kamp 1 - Part 1 (May 2016) 16 23 May 23, 2016 12:22PM  
Open Reading Group -- My Struggle 15 89 Dec 12, 2015 06:23AM  
On Paths Unknown: Selfie Lit 11 35 Oct 20, 2015 10:04AM  

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Nominated to the 2004 Nordic Council’s Literature Prize & awarded the 2004 Norwegian Critics’ Prize.

Karl Ove Knausgård (b. 1968) made his literary debut in 1998 with the widely acclaimed novel Out of the World, which was a great critical and commercial success and won him, as the first debut novel ever, The Norwegian Critics' Prize. He then went on to write six autobiographical novels, titled My S

Other books in the series

Min kamp (6 books)
  • Min kamp 2 (Min kamp #2)
  • Min kamp 3 (Min kamp #3)
  • Min kamp 4 (Min kamp #4)
  • Min kamp 5 (Min kamp #5)
  • Min kamp 6 (Min kamp #6)

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