"I had never seen people that fat before": Karl Ove Knausgaard is shocked by Canadians' "enormous girth"

The novelist has just dropped a huge essay in the NYT magazine describing his travels across America

By Peter Finocchiaro
Published February 25, 2015 4:25PM (EST)
Karl Ove Knausgård, in cover detail of "My Struggle: Book 1"       (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Karl Ove Knausgård, in cover detail of "My Struggle: Book 1" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

American audiences got their first real taste of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard last year, when the third volume of his mega-autobiographical novel "My Struggle" was released stateside to a flood of media hype. Now, with "My Struggle: Book 4" set to release in April, Knausgaard has taken to the pages of the New York Times Magazine, with a very long (and very Knausgaard-y) essay about his recent travels in the United States.

In the first paragraph of the piece, Knausgaard drops what, for die-hard fans, amounts to a tragedy barely averted — he left a laptop with 20 years of writing in the back of a New York City taxi cab:

I lost my driver’s license over a year ago. I lose stuff all the time. Credit cards, passports, car keys, cash, books, bags, laptops. It doesn’t worry me, they usually turn up eventually. The last time I was in New York, I left my backpack in a taxi. I had taken three of my kids with me, so I was a little distracted when we got out. All of our passports were in the backpack, as well as my laptop, where everything I have written in the last 20 years is stored. I never talk to taxi drivers, but this one had been so friendly that I ended up questioning him a little. At a red light he even took out a photograph of his children, which he showed me. When we got back to the hotel that afternoon, I asked the receptionist what we could do. He just shook his head and said I could forget about seeing my backpack again. This is New York, he said. But the driver was from Nepal, I objected. And he had two kids. I’m sorry, the receptionist said, I don’t think that will help much. But of course you can report it missing. At that point the doorman came over, he had overheard our conversation and said he knew some Nepalis, should he call them for me? So he did, and I met them outside the hotel a while later. Based on my description, they identified the driver, and the next morning the backpack was waiting for me at the reception desk.

Whether you're a Knausgaard fan, or just hearing his name for the first time, it's worth the effort to check out the entire (frankly somewhat bizarre) essay, over at the Times — which he peppers with observations like this one, about the purveyors of a bar in Canada:

I had never seen people that fat before. The strange thing was that none of them looked as if they were trying to hide their enormous girth; quite the opposite, several people were wearing tight T-shirts with their big bellies sticking out proudly.


Peter Finocchiaro

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Karl Ove Knausgaard My Struggle New York Times New York Times Magazine