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HOME AND AWAY by Karl Ove Knausgaard Kirkus Star


Writing the Beautiful Game

by Karl Ove Knausgaard & Fredrik Ekelund translated by Don Bartlett & Seán Kinsella

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-374-27983-7
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

An epistolary exploration of soccer and life.

In 2014, the highly regarded Scandinavian writers Knausgaard (My Struggle: Book Five, 2016, etc.) and Ekelund exchanged letters during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. This book is the result of their exchanges. (It seems clear that they planned to produce a book based on their correspondence). Ekelund was in Brazil, an almost home-away-from-home for him, while Knausgaard was home, mostly in his adopted Sweden. Both are acclaimed writers in their own region, with growing reputations internationally, especially Knausgaard and his bestselling autobiographical My Struggle novels. Both love soccer, and thus the sport and especially the World Cup provide the connecting line for these insightful and discursive letters that reflect not only on o jogo bonito but also on seemingly everything else under the sun. From gender politics to family, food to writing, love and loss, tragedy and triumph, thoughts of suicide and feelings of ecstasy, and from the mundane aspects of daily life to the things that make life worth living (sometimes these are one and the same), the authors cover vast swaths of the human experience while always returning to their differing perspectives on the soccer they witnessed in 2014. For readers willing to accept these letters on their own terms and go with the sometimes stream-of-consciousness ramblings of two men deeply committed to the writer’s art, the rewards are great. However, there may not be enough soccer for fans expecting a work focusing on the sport, and what strikes some readers as joyful perambulations with two thoughtful interlocutors may strike others as self-indulgent and meandering. But for those for whom these letters resonate, the effect is powerful and cascading, a pleasing waterfall of imagery and intellect.

Though the correspondence is mostly about soccer, it is also about so much more.