Advice from Karl Ove Knausgaard

When writing my recent memoir, I often asked myself: Where on the line do you stand between honoring the truth and capitulating to satisfy the terms of someone you love? What are you prepared to sacrifice in order to tell your story? Karl Ove Knausgaard answers these questions and more, in an intimate master class at the University of Auckland.

This article was originally published in NZ Author magazine, Issue 315, Spring 2018. Thanks to the NZSA and editor Tina Shaw.

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The House that Linette Built (or, Inside the House of my Father’s Birth Mother)

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The Sallies men move through the house like reverent ghosts. ‘We can’t take that,’ they say. ‘It’s ripped. Yep, we can take that.’ Their feet pad the pale carpet, perhaps wary of lurking grief. I try to piece together the left over ephemera into a life, a woman: a splayed grass skirt; a chipped Alsatian ashtray; seven champagne coupes wrapped in newspaper; a box of wooden Tourist Hotel Corporation of New Zealand coat hangers; two black umbrellas; a Stereophonic radiogram, Chas and Dave’s Ain’t No Pleasing You forever on the turntable; a girlish white wedding album stripped of its photographs, spidery black captions beneath plastic: “Had joined a family of three beautiful women, but he chose the original.” She had thought herself beautiful! She thought herself original! The torn corner of a ten-dollar note floats to the ground. Continue reading

Book Review: Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)

‘Even War must end some time, and perhaps if we are alive in three or four years’ time, we may recover the hidden childhood again and find that after all the dust and ashes which covered it haven’t spoilt it much.’- Letter from Vera to Roland, 1915

Dedication

Dedication

Testament of Youth is a momentous historical text preserving for us – the lucky generations – what war really meant. Most poignantly it is the portrait of Vera Brittain’s unrelenting and tragic psychological annihilation during and after World War One. Through loss after tragedy after loss we see the breakdown of Brittain’s hope, which we would now label ‘post traumatic stress’. Through Brittain’s diary extracts, letters and poems we see her decline from hopeful, energetic, burgeoning feminist and Oxford student – giddily in love for the first time – to a broken, traumatized, suicidal twenty-something who hallucinates that her face is covered in fungus each time she looks in the mirror. Continue reading

Book Review: Barefoot Years, by Martin Edmond (2014)

Barefoot yearsEdmond’s writing transports me to a dream-world, where things are viewed as if through a filter – colors are more vivid yet muted – and almost anything can happen. It’s as if I’m floating through layers of Edmond’s memory and consciousness, much like wading through one of those layered colored-sand jars you used to get at the Easter Show.

I first discovered New Zealander Edmond through Luca Antara, a chapter of which was held up by a tutor as an ingenious take on the travel writing genre. I thought it strange, very strange indeed. I then read Dark Night: Walking with Colin McCahon – this really was an ingenious take, this time on the biography genre, based on a 24 hour period in 1984 when McCahon went missing in Sydney. Am I really here? I thought as I travelled Sydney’s streets with McCahon, lost as Mary’s little lamb. I was beginning to understand why Edmond is so revered.

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