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From the New York Times bestselling author of the My Struggle series comes a collection of ambitious, remarkably erudite essays on art, literature, culture, and philosophy.
In the Land of the Cyclops is Karl Ove Knausgaard's first collection of essays to be published in English. In these wide-ranging pieces, he reflects openly and with penetrating intelligence on Ingmar Bergman's notebooks, Anselm Kiefer, the northern lights, Madame Bovary, Rembrandt, and the role of an editor. Accompanied by black-and-white reproductions throughout, these essays illuminate Cindy Sherman's shadowlands, the sublime mystery of Sally Mann's vision, and the serious play of Francesca Woodman. They capture Knausgaard's remarkable ability to mediate between the personal and the universal, between life and art. Each piece glimmers with his candor and his longing to authentically see, understand, and experience the world.
"The collection, which also includes essays on Michel Houellebecq, Cindy Sherman and Kierkegaard, reads less like a book of criticism at times than a work of negative theology, circling the mysteries of artistic creation that cannot be directly articulated: What makes a book or a painting feel alive and relevant? Why should art, which occupies the realm of pure fantasy, have any rules at all?"
—Meghan O'Gieblyn, The New York Times Book Review
"Knausgaard’s passion for interiority and the detail of the individual experience, the most brilliant elements of his fiction, come through . . . In the Land of the Cyclops proves that Knausgaard’s struggle is still ongoing, the search for truth as a balance between reality and our experience of it: 'This, which we perhaps could call inexhaustible precision, is the goal of all art, and its essential legitimacy.'"
—Jessica Ferri, Los Angeles Times
"Knausgaard is less interested in answers than in authentic engagement with the world . . . In the Land of the Cyclops is another worthy addition to Knausgaard’s oeuvre that aims to recapture this intense feeling and to see the world anew."
—Phillip Garland, World Literature Today
"In this . . . thought-provoking essay collection, Knausgaard once again displays his knack for raising profound questions about art and what it means to be human . . . These wending musings will be catnip for Knausgaard’s fans. "
— Publishers Weekly
"Knausgaard succeeds in producing prose that is 'alive'. . . Such transgressive blurring of the borders between the public and private, sayable and unsayable, can be both life-affirming and riveting."
"Knausgaard argues that art is at its most effective when it destabilizes our understanding of the world... The moody, provocative black-and-white photos of Francesca Woodman reveal the 'constraints of our culture and what they do to our identity' while Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission succeeds because it suggests how easily disillusioned people might accept political upheaval, asking “What does it mean to be a human being without faith?”... The throughline is the author’s keen, almost anxious urge to understand the artistic mind."
"As in the fiction, [Knausgaard's] intense focus, formidable command of reference and tendency to see the interconnectedness of things make for highly stimulating, almost overwhelming reading . . . The pantomime of critical dispassion is avoided; the rhetorical effect is one of wisdom gained rather than merely delivered."
— Charles Arrowsmith, The Washington Post
"A modern Roland Barthes . . . Knausgaard has a gift for stopping the reader in their tracks with an unexpected, casual profundity.
— Steven Poole, Telegraph