Karl Ove Knausgaard shares how his correspondence with Fredrik Ekelund during the 2014 World Cup became a book about the beautiful game and more
Home and Away is your correspondence with fellow writer Fredrik Ekelund centring on your shared love of football. Could you tell us a bit about how this correspondence started?
In Malmo in Sweden there is a field in the city, just by the sea, and every Sunday morning at 10.15 people have gathered there to play football. Not the same people! So when I moved to Malmo, I was 14, it’s a bit pathetic but at least I started to play football there. And there I met Fredrik, and he was a writer too and he knows Portuguese so translates Brazilian literature and he’s a big, big, football fan. And somehow we decided that we would go to the World Cup and write a book about the World Cup in Brazil. But then I couldn’t go, I have four children and I couldn’t be away for a month, so he left. I was at home and we exchanged letters. So the book starts the day before the World Cup and ends the day after. So it’s a kind of time capsule somehow.
I think he got things out of me that I never would have written without him
You’re not just talking about football of course. Albert Camus said that everything he learned ‘about morality and the obligations of men’ he learned from football. What do you think people might learn from the correspondence between you and Fredrik?
I don’t think anyone watched football to learn something! Not even Camus, I don’t think so. No, you watch football to enjoy it and this book is very much a book about joy and enjoyment. And it was a joy to write it. There was a review in Norway saying it’s My Struggle on holiday and it is a bit like that.
My Struggle was a very singular a solo enterprise for you, you were locked away, you were writing it very quickly in isolation whereas of course by this book’s very nature it’s almost a depiction of friendship, is that how it felt when you were writing it?
Yeah, that was the amazing part of it because writing is a solitary thing, you know? This was different. We weren’t good friends; we were friends but not very good friends. And we didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know him so well that I’d know what he would return. So this is a journey for us too. He was telling me things that I didn’t know about him and we go in all kinds of directions. There is an absolutely beautiful and touching story about his grandfather’s death. And we don’t think about the publication of these letters from him to me. And then there’s the football. We’re leaving it, coming back to it, leaving it, coming back to it – so that’s the structure in the book. And it’s a lot about politics too. And it’s a lot about, you know, life, what it is. And Home and Away, that’s the title; you know, what is ‘home’ now in our day? And football is very much a global thing so that’s another subject we are discussing. But I loved it, you know, to write. And I think he got things out of me that I never would have written without him.
Find out more about the author
Selected as a Book of the Year in The Times and Evening Standard
Karl Ove Knausgaard is sitting at home in Skåne with his wife, four small children and a dog. He is watching football on TV and falls asleep in front of the set. He likes 0-0 draws, cigarettes, coffee and Argentina.
Fredrik Ekelund is away in Brazil, where he plays football on the beach and watches matches with friends. Fredrik loves games that end up 4-3 and teams that play beautiful football. He likes caipirinhas and Brazil.
In Home and Away, two writers use football and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to reflect on life and death, art and politics, class and literature and the most important question: was this the best football championship ever?