Dancing in the Dark by Karl Ove Knausgaard

If you need any convincing to get on board with Karl Ove Knausgaard's epic, critically acclaimed literary endeavour, read this extract from the opening pages of the fourth volume in the series

Dancing in the Dark

Slowly my two suitcases glided round on the carousel in the arrivals hall. They were old, from the end of the 1960s, I had found them among mum's things in the barn when we were about to move house, the day before the removal van came, and I immediately commandeered them, they suited me and my style, the not-quite-contemporary, the not-quite-streamlined, which was what I favoured.

I stubbed the cigarette out in the ashtray stand by the wall, lifted the cases off the carousel and carried them to the forecourt.

It was five minutes to seven.

I lit another cigarette. There was no hurry, there was nothing I had to do, no one I had to meet.

The sky was overcast, but the air was still sharp and clear. There was something alpine about the landscape even though the airport I was standing outside was only a few metres above sea level. The few trees I could see were stunted and misshapen. The mountain peaks on the horizon were white with snow.

Just in front of me an airport bus was quickly filling up with people.

Should I catch it?

The money dad had so reluctantly lent me for the journey would tide me over until I got my first wage in a month's time. On the other hand, I didn't know where the youth hostel was, and wandering blindly around an unfamiliar town with two suitcases and a rucksack would not be a good start to my new life.

No, better take a taxi.

Apart from a short walk to a nearby snack bar stand, where I consumed two sausages with mashed potato in a cardboard tray, I stayed in the youth hostel room all evening, lying with the duvet over my back and listening to music on my Walkman while writing letters to Hilde, Eirik and Lars. I started one to Line as well, the girl I had spent all summer with, but set it aside after one page, undressed and switched off the light, for all the difference that made, it was a light summer night, the orange curtain glowed in the room like an eye.

Usually I would fall asleep at once wherever I was, but on this night I lay awake. In only four days' time I would be starting my first job. In only four days' time I would be entering a classroom in a small village on the coast of Northern Norway, a place I had never been and knew nothing about, I hadn't even seen any pictures.


An 18 year-old Kristiansander, who had just finished gymnas, who had just moved away from home, with no experience of working other than a few evenings and weekends at a parquet flooring factory, a bit of journalism on a local paper and a month at a psychiatric hospital this summer, I was about to become a form teacher at Håfjord School.

No, I couldn't sleep.
What would the pupils think of me?
When I went into the classroom for the first lesson and they were sitting there on their chairs in front of me, what would I say to them?

And the other teachers, what on earth would they make of me?

A door was opened in the corridor, releasing the sound of music and voices. Someone walked along quietly singing. There was a shout: 'Hey, shut the door.' Afterwards all the noise was enclosed again. I rolled over onto my other side. The strangeness of lying in bed under a light sky must have played a part in my not being able to fall asleep. And once the thought was established that it was difficult to sleep, it became impossible.

I got up, pulled on my clothes, sat in the chair by the window and began to read. Dead Heat by Erling Gjelsvik.

All the books I liked were basically about the same topic. White Niggers by Ingvar Ambjørnsen, Beatles and Lead by Lars Saabye Christensen, Jack by Alf Lundell, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr., Novel with Cocaine by M. Agayev, Colossus by Finn Alnæs, Lasso Round the Moon by Agnar Mykle, The History of Bestiality trilogy by Jens Bjørneboe, Gentlemen by Klas Östergren, Icarus by Axel Jensen, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Humlehjertene by Ola Bauer and Post Office by Charles Bukowski.

Books about young men who struggled to fit into society, who wanted more from life than routines, more from life than a family, in short, young men who hated middle-class values and sought freedom. They travelled, they got drunk, they read and they dreamed about their life's Great Passion or writing the Great Novel.

Everything they wanted I wanted too.

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