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So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch

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A brilliant and personal examination by sensational and bestselling author Karl Ove Knausgaard of his Norwegian compatriot Edvard Munch, the famed artist best known for his iconic painting The Scream In So Much Longing in So Little Space, Karl Ove Knausgaard sets out to understand the enduring and awesome power of Edvard Munch’s work by training his gaze on the landscapes t A brilliant and personal examination by sensational and bestselling author Karl Ove Knausgaard of his Norwegian compatriot Edvard Munch, the famed artist best known for his iconic painting The Scream In So Much Longing in So Little Space, Karl Ove Knausgaard sets out to understand the enduring and awesome power of Edvard Munch’s work by training his gaze on the landscapes that inspired Munch and speaking firsthand with other contemporary artists, including Anselm Kiefer, for whom Munch’s legacy looms large. Bringing together art history, biography, and memoir, Knausgaard tells a passionate, freewheeling, and pensive story about not just one of history’s most significant painters, but the very meaning of choosing the artist’s life, as he himself has done. Including reproductions of some of Munch’s most emotionally and psychologically intense works, chosen by Knausgaard, this utterly original and ardent work of criticism will delight and educate both experts and novices of literature and the visual arts alike.


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A brilliant and personal examination by sensational and bestselling author Karl Ove Knausgaard of his Norwegian compatriot Edvard Munch, the famed artist best known for his iconic painting The Scream In So Much Longing in So Little Space, Karl Ove Knausgaard sets out to understand the enduring and awesome power of Edvard Munch’s work by training his gaze on the landscapes t A brilliant and personal examination by sensational and bestselling author Karl Ove Knausgaard of his Norwegian compatriot Edvard Munch, the famed artist best known for his iconic painting The Scream In So Much Longing in So Little Space, Karl Ove Knausgaard sets out to understand the enduring and awesome power of Edvard Munch’s work by training his gaze on the landscapes that inspired Munch and speaking firsthand with other contemporary artists, including Anselm Kiefer, for whom Munch’s legacy looms large. Bringing together art history, biography, and memoir, Knausgaard tells a passionate, freewheeling, and pensive story about not just one of history’s most significant painters, but the very meaning of choosing the artist’s life, as he himself has done. Including reproductions of some of Munch’s most emotionally and psychologically intense works, chosen by Knausgaard, this utterly original and ardent work of criticism will delight and educate both experts and novices of literature and the visual arts alike.

30 review for So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    As a personal prereq for making the trip to Düsseldorf to see the upcoming exposition on Munch (http://www.kunstsammlung.de/edvard-mu...), I wanted to read Knausgaard's book about Munch published earlier this year as he is the co-curator of the show. The first exposition was in 2017 in Olso about which he writes in this book. Besides being a short biographical sketch of Edvard Munch's life, it is also an inquiry into the meaning of his art and an attempt to de-Munchify the art that is less emble As a personal prereq for making the trip to Düsseldorf to see the upcoming exposition on Munch (http://www.kunstsammlung.de/edvard-mu...), I wanted to read Knausgaard's book about Munch published earlier this year as he is the co-curator of the show. The first exposition was in 2017 in Olso about which he writes in this book. Besides being a short biographical sketch of Edvard Munch's life, it is also an inquiry into the meaning of his art and an attempt to de-Munchify the art that is less emblematic of his career since The Scream has become so synonymous with Munch that it distorts the real view of who he was. I enjoyed how KOK gives us his thoughts and then goes out to interview other contemporary artists and filmmakers to get their views and compare and contrast them. It gives a certain livelihood to the book and avoids an iconoclast reading of Munch's value as an artist. I have visited the Munch Museum in Oslo as well as the National Museum of Norway and seen many of the Munch paintings in other collections. I am, of course, like everyone else drawn to the period of the 1890s (Vampire, Melancholy, etc), but this book does a great job talking about the art leading up to this symbolic/expressionist breakthrough as well as the fact that it was an impasse and he still had 50 more years of painting after this period. Definitely an interesting book about Munch. I'll let you know how the expo stacks up! The exposition in Düsseldorf is astounding: 139 works in 4 rooms. I spent over three hours on two separate visits. Truly insightful and mind-blowing. This book did a great job of preparing me for that experience. Fino's KOK Reviews: Book 1 Book 2 Book 3 Book 4 Book 5 Book 6 A Time For Everything So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch

  2. 4 out of 5

    Abubakar Mehdi

    Funnily enough, I first learned about Munch when I was standing in front of his famous painting Madonna in The National Museum, Oslo. It was there that I learned some isolated and perplexing facts about Edvard Munch, one of the most accomplished and famous artists of the twentieth century. I learned, for instance, that he was a loner. That his mother died when he was a child and thence he suffered tragic loss of his siblings and his father over the coming decades. I learned that he once shot him Funnily enough, I first learned about Munch when I was standing in front of his famous painting Madonna in The National Museum, Oslo. It was there that I learned some isolated and perplexing facts about Edvard Munch, one of the most accomplished and famous artists of the twentieth century. I learned, for instance, that he was a loner. That his mother died when he was a child and thence he suffered tragic loss of his siblings and his father over the coming decades. I learned that he once shot himself in the hand, travelled widely and never married or had children. It all sounded terribly sad. In the sullen cold and quiet of a January Oslo, I walked out of the Museum concluding Munch as a stereotypical artist; a loner, a tortured youth and a genius ahead of his time. As is mostly the case, my clever lawyer’s reasoning was both right and wrong. It wasn’t until mid-June this year that I learned that Karl Ove Knausgård wrote a book on Munch. It was titled “So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch”. I felt like I had to read it. A few days later, I found a post on British Museum’s Facebook page advertising an exhibition called ‘Edvard Munch: Love and angst’. It was as if the universe was trying to coax me to finally satisfy the perplexity that first blossomed in my mind on that cold evening in Oslo. Who was Munch? Why is he important? But first I had to ask myself why Munch, or any artist, was important? In a world where art exhibitions have very much been an indulgence for the eccentric upper-class, is it really worth it for someone growing up in a small town in Pakistan, who never learned anything about painterly art or ever interacted with it to undertake this curious expedition? ‘So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch’ by Knausgård answered all of these questions. In exchange of my patience and perseverance, Knausgård like a sagacious guide introduced me to the world of art criticism. It wasn’t a biographical account of Munch and his art but rather a critical study of art, Edvard Munch as an artist and his influence on other artists. Knausgård speaks as an artist, a writer, rather than a critic when discussing art. Artists are fascinating people. They use a medium to say something that can’t be said in any other medium and do so in a way that it touches and affects any sensitive person who comes across it. Munch’s art fascinates us, not for its evocative representation of sickness, loneliness, suffering and angst, but for its masterful manipulation of the medium. As an artist and painter Munch was a master innovator. His woodcut and lithograph prints are a marvellous example of Munch’s industriousness and his vivacity. This is an excellent treatise on art and the creative process that transforms a chaos of ideas in the mind of the artist to a painterly expression. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in art and can spare a few evenings to spend in the company of a master craftsman like Knausgård.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I came for Knaus­gård and stayed for Munch. A great in­tro­duc­tion to Nor­we­gian’s most fa­mous painter by to­day’s most suc­cess­ful Nor­we­gian writer (es­pe­cially for an art newb like my­self). More if/when I have vis­ited the Ed­vard Munch ex­hi­bi­tion in Düs­sel­dorf (sans Scream) which was cu­rated by Karl Ove... This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. I came for Knaus­gård and stayed for Munch. A great in­tro­duc­tion to Nor­we­gian’s most fa­mous painter by to­day’s most suc­cess­ful Nor­we­gian writer (es­pe­cially for an art newb like my­self). More if/when I have vis­ited the Ed­vard Munch ex­hi­bi­tion in Düs­sel­dorf (sans Scream) which was cu­rated by Karl Ove... This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    Started this during the summer but put it down thanks to zoning out whenever KOK described paintings. Just could not engage or care. Returned to it recently, zoned out again at the same passages 15-20 pages into it, but this time googled the paintings that weren't reproduced in glossy color in the book, which helped, and made it through to personal talk about artistic creation and Hamsun and Deleuze, a visit with Anselm Kiefer, and later an interview and some scenes with the director of Oslo Aug Started this during the summer but put it down thanks to zoning out whenever KOK described paintings. Just could not engage or care. Returned to it recently, zoned out again at the same passages 15-20 pages into it, but this time googled the paintings that weren't reproduced in glossy color in the book, which helped, and made it through to personal talk about artistic creation and Hamsun and Deleuze, a visit with Anselm Kiefer, and later an interview and some scenes with the director of Oslo August 31, which I saw a few years ago on Netflix, knowing nothing about it, and loved and think about often (a puff of smoke from a fire extinguisher shot from a receding moped at early summer dawn after a wild night). Worth it for the intermittent emergence of the first-person roving textual experience we know and love -- and for how what he writes about Munch applies to his own writing. But the sections about Munch and his paintings I found myself skimming, particularly the descriptions, which I always zoned out on. Also felt like it was out of sequence, or that it could have been more engaging if the parts at the end were upfront, starting with outbidding someone online for the Munch piece, about Hamsun and Munch first as people and then as Norway's Greatest Artists, about the persistence of twenty-year-old Knausgaard's fantasy of the artist, free to travel, write, debauch, and drink, drink, drink, followed by curating the Munch show, the visit to Munch's house, and then ending with visits/interviews with the artists, with the biographics and painting descriptions integrated throughout. I guess it's an attempt at iconoclasm, an exploded biography, like one of those Emmanuel Carrère books (like Limonov), but in the end I found a third to a half of it not engaging, other than a few pages of primo exposition about art (~pgs 87-90, eg) that seemed worth the sticker price alone. Glad I spent a few days with it but would recommend "for completists only." On my Knausgaard hierarchical reading experience continuum, all our base belongs to this (that is, this is probably in my estimation his "worst book" -- better than most of what's out there but I'd rank it below even his Brazil/soccer correspondence, which I comparatively loved).

  5. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/so... ...all artists are iconoclasts…But that is not what art is! You have to shove meaning into it and turn it into a possible place...I know that what I’m making will also exist outside myself. That it takes time… To read Knausgård as art critic or curator is to enter an unknown territory quite unfamiliar and in some ways much too foreign to be fully realized. But by the end of the book Knausgård achieves the unexpected. Though lacking in personal anecdotal mat https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/so... ...all artists are iconoclasts…But that is not what art is! You have to shove meaning into it and turn it into a possible place...I know that what I’m making will also exist outside myself. That it takes time… To read Knausgård as art critic or curator is to enter an unknown territory quite unfamiliar and in some ways much too foreign to be fully realized. But by the end of the book Knausgård achieves the unexpected. Though lacking in personal anecdotal material there was abundant biographical information provided about his subject Edvard Munch. Karl Ove is generally so personal and confessional that at times I found it difficult to remain engaged properly with his academic text. Even a bit bored at times. But I suffered through and was rewarded in the end. ...Doubt and shame are social mechanisms, they come into play when a boundary has been transgressed, when something is done or said that shouldn’t have been. Art lives by transgressing boundaries, by going beyond what has been collectively decided, beyond what everyone has agreed to see and think…Many of Munch’s paintings from the 1890’s are about being shut out, or about shutting the world out...It is almost as if he developed a symbolism of gestures of exclusion, with all the bowed heads and averted faces… It is understandable why Knausgård is attracted to the art of Edvard Munch. As accessible as Knausgård is in a symposium setting, interview, or even his creative nonfiction, the opposite is true of his private life. He is a homebody, content to spend time with his kids, his two gardens, and sitting down to business in his writing shed. Munch, as well, lived in a small and simple house, in an out-of-the-way little town, and made thousands of drawings and paintings of unspectacular people and his surroundings. Though famous for his remarkable masterpieces, Munch also produced an amazing number of works seemingly for no good reason. …Memories are identity, they are what we think of ourselves…but the fluid zone between the world in itself and our image of it is what painting explores, that is its core activity...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Philippe

    My very first Knausgaard and certainly an incentive to read more. But it’s rather the tone of voice than the insights about Munch that resonated with me. Knausgaard seems to say an awful lot of sensible and sensitive things about his countryman, but at the end there was nothing that really stuck. Maybe my reading was too fragmented or I was distracted. But then there is something in the book that doesn’t make me pay more attention. Definitely annoying that the colour plates in the book do not ma My very first Knausgaard and certainly an incentive to read more. But it’s rather the tone of voice than the insights about Munch that resonated with me. Knausgaard seems to say an awful lot of sensible and sensitive things about his countryman, but at the end there was nothing that really stuck. Maybe my reading was too fragmented or I was distracted. But then there is something in the book that doesn’t make me pay more attention. Definitely annoying that the colour plates in the book do not match the paintings discussed. I’ll rate the book with 3 stars. Upon rereading this may go up to 4 or down to 2.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Campbell

    This one didn't do for me, much to my disappointment. Perhaps it was just my natural aversion to at criticism, but I just didn't find it interesting, despite the occasional flash of beautiful prose. This one didn't do for me, much to my disappointment. Perhaps it was just my natural aversion to at criticism, but I just didn't find it interesting, despite the occasional flash of beautiful prose.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Preston

    The first time I've read Knausgaard in sustained essay mode. Here he channels his already ekphrasic writing style toward paintings, and the fit is predictably snug. On offer are analyses of KOK's own artistic development in addition to Munch's. Of particular note are ideas excerpted from Deleuze's book on Francis Bacon, which exerted a profound influence on KOK after he came across it in his late 20's. Deleuze held that "it is a mistake to think that the painter works on a white surface." Rather The first time I've read Knausgaard in sustained essay mode. Here he channels his already ekphrasic writing style toward paintings, and the fit is predictably snug. On offer are analyses of KOK's own artistic development in addition to Munch's. Of particular note are ideas excerpted from Deleuze's book on Francis Bacon, which exerted a profound influence on KOK after he came across it in his late 20's. Deleuze held that "it is a mistake to think that the painter works on a white surface." Rather, the painter works in the thrall of an ideal painting he must discover by way of the real painting, which he enters into "precisely because he knows what he wants to do but not how to do it, and the only path to that certainty leads through the painting and out of it." KOK relates. "When I read Deleuze's short essay for the first time in 1995, I didn't know how to write ... one image to suggest this way of writing might be a laboratory in which the objects being studied are kept in a glass case, within which they are manipulated by scientists by means of a pair of fixed gloves, the only physical connection between them and the object of their work." This experience is probably familiar to anyone who has made sustained attempts at writing. It’s not easy getting into the flow state: it requires seceding from a default state of abstracted inertia, wherein the writer hovers above what (s)he has written without ever inhabiting it. "Then, one year later, something happened. I changed my language, from a radical form of bokmâl (one of the two officials forms of written Norweigian) to a more conservative form, so that what I wrote felt slightly foreign ... it didn't express me or my world, it expressed the text, what had happened there at that particular moment. That moment could not be reconstructed, it belonged solely to the situation in which it had emerged. The art of writing was to find another such moment, and then another and another again." So writing draws nearer as it grows more foreign. A conundrum, but an approachable one. Probably part of it is that we are less viciously exacting in our standards of sentences not our own; less anal-retentive about handling artifacts that aren’t freighted with our own fragilities or identities. Another part of it might be that reading is much easier than writing, and writing much easier when it feels like reading, when the sentences seem to come on their own volition. KOK is a devotee of this unmastered, self-volitional writing style, which is naked but not hysterically so. Naked like a buddha, assured in its nakedness. Or as KOK says of Munch: “This is at once a strength and a weakness of his pictures, they are not sophisticated but so open towards the world that it seems to reveal itself defenselessly, as if it is the world that is unguarded, not the artist."

  9. 5 out of 5

    J Earl

    So Much Longing in So Little Space by Karl Ove Knausgard is part art criticism, part simply art appreciation, part biography, and part memoir. I wasn't sure how I would feel about this book when I started but I was quickly caught up in every distinct aspect of the work. Knausgard, by his own admission not an art critic or historian, takes an approach to Munch's entire artistic output that makes more sense than it might initially seem. Because he is simply interested in Munch and not in promoting So Much Longing in So Little Space by Karl Ove Knausgard is part art criticism, part simply art appreciation, part biography, and part memoir. I wasn't sure how I would feel about this book when I started but I was quickly caught up in every distinct aspect of the work. Knausgard, by his own admission not an art critic or historian, takes an approach to Munch's entire artistic output that makes more sense than it might initially seem. Because he is simply interested in Munch and not in promoting a particular school of thought, he looks at the things that many people who enjoy art might also think about. Of course he looks at Munch's life and circumstances and how these play into his art. But he looks also at where and how art is viewed and produced. He does this by looking, such as is possible, at where Munch worked but also by interviewing contemporary artists about their work and work environments. As a guest curator for a Munch exhibit, he has the opportunity to arrange a selection of paintings along thematic strands that he sees running through the works. Would someone "trained" in art history or an experienced curator made the same decisions? Likely not. We walk with him through the process of pondering the works, thinking about similarities and differences, and about how best to display the works to bring these things to the fore. If you're looking strictly for either a biography of Munch or a critique of Munch heavily steeped in art theory, you may well be disappointed. But I think even if you're disappointed on those points you'll still find a lot to appreciate about Knausgard's unusual approach to art appreciation as it applies to Munch. And I think his perceptive comments about the arc of Munch's life give the already known facts of his life a new perspective and meaning. Plus there are some wonderful prints of Munch's work. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via Edelweiss.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark McKenny

    The Knausgaard biographical bits (and they are snippets) are what I bought this book for, but it's a really interesting art history book too. I didn't know much about Munch before reading this, and I'm not sure I know much more now, but I feel better connected to his works and look forward to next seeing some in a gallery. The interviews Karl has with various artists and filmmakers were the best bits of the book for me, as well as the comical ebay bidding. A decent read and a pleasant surprise, The Knausgaard biographical bits (and they are snippets) are what I bought this book for, but it's a really interesting art history book too. I didn't know much about Munch before reading this, and I'm not sure I know much more now, but I feel better connected to his works and look forward to next seeing some in a gallery. The interviews Karl has with various artists and filmmakers were the best bits of the book for me, as well as the comical ebay bidding. A decent read and a pleasant surprise, didn't even know this was out!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I dunno, Karl Ove. Everything since Min Kamp has been kind of a mess; some of the work is pretty good (e.g., this book!), while the 'seasons' books and the epistolary-soccer-dialogue book, etc., are just an embarrassment. So Much Longing is basically a B-minus version of the belles lettres art commentary sections of Min Kamp; pretty good, but, yeah. Honestly I was mainly happy to see Stephen Gill show up halfway through, he is absolutely one of the best British photographers working at the momen I dunno, Karl Ove. Everything since Min Kamp has been kind of a mess; some of the work is pretty good (e.g., this book!), while the 'seasons' books and the epistolary-soccer-dialogue book, etc., are just an embarrassment. So Much Longing is basically a B-minus version of the belles lettres art commentary sections of Min Kamp; pretty good, but, yeah. Honestly I was mainly happy to see Stephen Gill show up halfway through, he is absolutely one of the best British photographers working at the moment, hopefully Karl Ove has managed to raise Gill's profile somewhat (check out his work, especially Coexistence and Best Before End: https://www.stephengill.co.uk/portfol...). I don't buy photobooks very often, given how ferociously expensive they are, but I do own a couple of Gill's . . .

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erin Rouleau

    KOK can do no wrong in my eyes, but then add his study on Munch and his works and it was a combo made in heaven.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Prathyush Parasuraman

    A brilliant, indulgent, text on not just Munch but the act of painting itself. I love how Knausgard writes this book against the backdrop of curating a Munch exhibition himself. The conversations with artist critics (who look at Munch technically), artists (who look at Munch with emotional depth), and film-makers (who look at Munch as source material), there is a very nice mix of voices in here. I love Knausgard's irreverent tone, like how he dismisses his entire book in the last paragraph. "In t A brilliant, indulgent, text on not just Munch but the act of painting itself. I love how Knausgard writes this book against the backdrop of curating a Munch exhibition himself. The conversations with artist critics (who look at Munch technically), artists (who look at Munch with emotional depth), and film-makers (who look at Munch as source material), there is a very nice mix of voices in here. I love Knausgard's irreverent tone, like how he dismisses his entire book in the last paragraph. "In themselves, pictures are beyond words, beyond concepts, beyond thought, they invoke the presence of the world on the world’s terms, which also means that everything that has been thought and written in this book stops being valid the moment your gaze meets the canvas." This isn't a biography of Munch, and it isn't even a very expansive look at his work. There's a bit of broad brush strokes made to categorize him and his work, but I didn't mind it so much because of how windingly it is written. Most authors wouldn't be able to carry paragraph length sentences, but Knausgard does, even with pathetic punctuation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Bertaina

    This painting too is unfinished, there is something sketchy about the hands, and a rather unmotivated or poorly defined field of red in the lower right-hand corner, while at the same time the left arm is indistinctly painted, but the air of incompleteness no longer feels like a shortcoming, since the person portrayed has such a powerful presence, presence which does away with everything else. She is all that matters. ...This ability, to both step aside for the motif, make room for it, see it and This painting too is unfinished, there is something sketchy about the hands, and a rather unmotivated or poorly defined field of red in the lower right-hand corner, while at the same time the left arm is indistinctly painted, but the air of incompleteness no longer feels like a shortcoming, since the person portrayed has such a powerful presence, presence which does away with everything else. She is all that matters. ...This ability, to both step aside for the motif, make room for it, see it and sense it, which both demands a great openness to the world, and at the same time be able to bring out ones own bison in a painting, is perhaps the decisive quality for every artist

  15. 4 out of 5

    ania

    Was surprised to come across this at the bookstore. Knausgaard on Munch? That exists? So niche and right up my alley. Was delighted. Didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would though. Not the best Knausgaard. Too many comma splices. A bunch of philosophical, abstract sentences that I’m not sure even he understands. Also! All the boring stuff is at the beginning. Why? Was still worth reading. A few nice insights into why painters paint and what makes Munch’s art exceptional. Also the parts where Was surprised to come across this at the bookstore. Knausgaard on Munch? That exists? So niche and right up my alley. Was delighted. Didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would though. Not the best Knausgaard. Too many comma splices. A bunch of philosophical, abstract sentences that I’m not sure even he understands. Also! All the boring stuff is at the beginning. Why? Was still worth reading. A few nice insights into why painters paint and what makes Munch’s art exceptional. Also the parts where Knausgaard talks about himself and what he’s doing — like bidding on a Munch print or wondering why Hockney never wrote him back — are riveting, as usual. ————- Knausgaard: “So what do you think Munch himself was after, then, walking around at Ekely painting these pictures?” Artist Vanessa Baird: “Filling his life with something. What else was he supposed to do?... And then at first it’s dead, right? Not necessarily bad, but it seems affected. Before it sort of starts to flow and you become a part of it yourself. And that’s the only good place to be, really. Art isn’t a therapeutic project, at least not to me it isn’t. It’s a way for me to get away from being therapeutic, and be free, do something else. It’s a separate place. It’s nothing other than that. So I don’t find it strange that an old person like him did that. What else was he supposed to do? It’s a way of being in the world which makes it possible. It can get very empty without it.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Howard

    I have to admit that this book is too specialized for me. I lack the knowledge of art criticism and theory to really grapple with the material meaningfully; but, this is also part of why I was drawn to it. At the end of the day, I was always going to love it. Few writers communicate my inner world or interior reactions to life in the way Knausgaard is so frequently able to. He reflects the world in much of the way I encounter it, and his take on art is hardly an exception.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matt McBride

    What I found most engaging was Knausgaard's attempt to give us the boundaries of the ineffable qualities in Much's work. Less a primer on Munch than the nature of art itself (while also containing some good criticism specific to Munch). This book seeks to pin down what exactly makes Munch's work so alive. It falls off a bit toward the second half as he begins to bring in his personal relationship to writing about Much, but not to the point of naval gazing. What I found most engaging was Knausgaard's attempt to give us the boundaries of the ineffable qualities in Much's work. Less a primer on Munch than the nature of art itself (while also containing some good criticism specific to Munch). This book seeks to pin down what exactly makes Munch's work so alive. It falls off a bit toward the second half as he begins to bring in his personal relationship to writing about Much, but not to the point of naval gazing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Aside from The Scream, Edvard Munch means very little to me. I came to this work because I'd read Knausgaard's Struggle books and because I had a vague notion that I should learn more about how people respond to art/ paintings. Knausgaard offers some critical responses, some personal responses (though not as much detail as one gets int A Death in the Family), and, finally, he three interviews about Edvard Munch. Knausgaard collates a showing of obscure Munch paintings, buys a Munch painting onli Aside from The Scream, Edvard Munch means very little to me. I came to this work because I'd read Knausgaard's Struggle books and because I had a vague notion that I should learn more about how people respond to art/ paintings. Knausgaard offers some critical responses, some personal responses (though not as much detail as one gets int A Death in the Family), and, finally, he three interviews about Edvard Munch. Knausgaard collates a showing of obscure Munch paintings, buys a Munch painting online, and journeys to Munch's home. If I had to locate So Much Longing in So Little Space within a larger stack of books, however, I might not lump it in with other critical overviews of celebrated artists. Instead, So Much Longing in So Little Space more strongly recalls for me "side projects by famous people." What's that add up to, you ask? It's not so far removed from Patti Smith's M Train or Haruki Murakami's On Music. I'd happily read more works about famous artists, but I'm also eager for more side projects.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    There are a lot of nuggets of wisdom for artists in here. It's way more than a biography. I'll definitely go back through it and pluck them out! There are a lot of nuggets of wisdom for artists in here. It's way more than a biography. I'll definitely go back through it and pluck them out!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Pati

    Lovely written, unfortunately I realized I’m not that interested in Munch’s art and life, and just can’t force myself to finish it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I was hoping for more of a biography of Munch but this was an interesting book on Munch's creative genius. I was hoping for more of a biography of Munch but this was an interesting book on Munch's creative genius.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Crupi

    This is a hell of a ride if you’re an unabashed enthusiast of the comma splice and fear the appearance of the semicolon as if the noble hybrid were a harbinger of capital-d Death. While I think it’s wonderful that KOK has achieved the readership he now enjoys [sic?], I’ve also never been able to figure out what the fuss is all about. This sloppy Munch monograph effectively reinforces my early misgivings —there are 14 color plates of mid-tier paintings bundled into the text, of which KOK acknowle This is a hell of a ride if you’re an unabashed enthusiast of the comma splice and fear the appearance of the semicolon as if the noble hybrid were a harbinger of capital-d Death. While I think it’s wonderful that KOK has achieved the readership he now enjoys [sic?], I’ve also never been able to figure out what the fuss is all about. This sloppy Munch monograph effectively reinforces my early misgivings —there are 14 color plates of mid-tier paintings bundled into the text, of which KOK acknowledges seven (as it happens, four of these pictures would seem to beg for the sort of analysis he affords the other works)—and the text seems to have been edited by a mongoose on speed. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the section where KOK marvels at the erasure of humans in a particular forest landscape; skip ahead to the plates and you’ll count as many as onetwothreefourfiveSIX people in the frame. Yipes. KOK completists will eat this up like so much Krumkake, but Munch fiends should stay well clear.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Knausgaard sets out to write a book about Munch, that is not a traditional biography, nor a traditional art history analysis. I admire the non-traditional approach to a subject, and was very intrigued by the prospect of what such a book could be. Unfortunately, Knausgaard’s overwhelming self-consciousness really undoes him here. Instead of an analysis of images, the book too often is about how the pictures make him feel. Then there’s a bunch of philosophical speculation thrown in. The best bits Knausgaard sets out to write a book about Munch, that is not a traditional biography, nor a traditional art history analysis. I admire the non-traditional approach to a subject, and was very intrigued by the prospect of what such a book could be. Unfortunately, Knausgaard’s overwhelming self-consciousness really undoes him here. Instead of an analysis of images, the book too often is about how the pictures make him feel. Then there’s a bunch of philosophical speculation thrown in. The best bits are interviews done with other artists (notably Anslem Kiefer). But instead of achieving a something genuine and unorthodox, Knausgaard more or less leaves us with the sense that we’d be better off just looking at Munch’s work and making up our own minds about him. I could do that without reading his book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric Sutton

    3.5 stars. Well, I learned a bit about Edvard Munch, but I came to this book primarily for Knausgaard's writing, which perhaps was the wrong approach. In the end, however, the book worked for me. Had it not been written by Knausgaard, I'm not sure I would have gotten through it. Not that I'm not a fan of modern art - in fact, the book helped me place Munch stylistically and thematically against his contemporaries - but to read an entire text on it holds not the same sway as would a parallel piec 3.5 stars. Well, I learned a bit about Edvard Munch, but I came to this book primarily for Knausgaard's writing, which perhaps was the wrong approach. In the end, however, the book worked for me. Had it not been written by Knausgaard, I'm not sure I would have gotten through it. Not that I'm not a fan of modern art - in fact, the book helped me place Munch stylistically and thematically against his contemporaries - but to read an entire text on it holds not the same sway as would a parallel piece on a specific author's life and works. With that said, I think Knausgaard, not an art critic whatsoever but likely chosen for his fame and compatriotism, did an admirable job. I felt badly for him when he is chosen to curate the exhibit for Munch's 150th birthday at the museum in Oslo. His talks with art historians and visual artists firmly solidifies his dilettante status, but he perseveres nonetheless. I enjoyed reading the narrative adventures of his in the latter half of the book as he prepares the exhibition. He's a go-getter, meeting up with professionals, visiting Munch's home, planning a documentary of the experience, writing constantly, maintaining - in his trademark self-deprecating manner - his children and household, and even purchasing a lesser-known of Munch's drawings for himself. The art criticism section was, for me, a little less successful, especially without reprintings of all the paintings he discussed. As a theorist, Knausgaard hits and misses. I felt the same when reading his seasonal quartet. Some of his ideas register, others seem far-fetched and pedantic (although I imagine that's true of all critical theory to an extent). I was lost in his abundance of clauses. Reservations aside, his writing has this lovely fearlessness about it that is so attractive, that even while I was plodding through some of his more esoteric ideas I never felt burdened. I believe this has to do with his humility as a writer - which may seem ironic considering he's written extensively about his own quotidian life - that, despite any insecurity, he forges ahead. Sure, the writing gets discursive at points, but he elucidates the life of an artist in the process, how so much of art is in the creating and execution, a "willing into being" against trends or expectations, which became a major trope of the text. He explores it through the work of Munch and demonstrates it as a writer himself. Perhaps he was chosen to write the text precisely because he wasn't a painter or art critic, but a writer, which broadens the scope of the creative process, especially for someone like Munch, who produced thousands of paintings in numerous styles over a roughly 70-year career. Of course it's different from the My Struggle series, but the Munch text captivates nonetheless. Somehow, Knausgaard's writing, while pulling few tricks (although he's caustically funny), is so wholly original. I can't help but read whatever he publishes.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jose

    I love Munch and I heard about Karl Ove K. As the new literary sensation. So I reached for this book hoping to kill two birds with one stone and ended up injuring just one. The author admits that being raised immersed in Munch causes the type of inability to really look or listen to things so famous that just become background noise, like the Beatles or the Mona Lisa. How to see them with fresh eyes? KOK , a writer, rolls his sleeves and goes back to basics. What is painting? What did Munch pai I love Munch and I heard about Karl Ove K. As the new literary sensation. So I reached for this book hoping to kill two birds with one stone and ended up injuring just one. The author admits that being raised immersed in Munch causes the type of inability to really look or listen to things so famous that just become background noise, like the Beatles or the Mona Lisa. How to see them with fresh eyes? KOK , a writer, rolls his sleeves and goes back to basics. What is painting? What did Munch paint and why in his long career? Was he any good? To answer this questions he enrols the help of anyone he meets in his rarefied circle of cultured friends, from Anselm Kieffer to Joachim Trier and Vanessa Baird. He also refers to Deleuze so he can get into the expression of painting itself, and the power of art to create an emotion that survives encapsulated in an object when creator and subject are long gone. He confesses a certain landscape brought him emotional stirrings and so there must be something to putting colors on canvas. The problem is he can’t find the words to explain why. So he connects Munch to his daily impressions, to Munch’s own withdrawn personality and family losses. He doesn’t tread new territory when addressing the most famous works, the many versions of works depicting intense loss, sickness, melancholy, jealousy...in a symbolist language full of curves and with perspectives that pour the figures into our lap. As thoughtful as the Trier brothers seem talking about their country man , Vanessa Baird takes a more blunt approach. Some of Munch’s work are just not that good she says with that self-sufficient air of artist that have met success and like to be on a first name basis with the icons even if they are dead. She might be right. Kieffer just mumbles things about trauma and whatnot and keeps on pouring molten lead. More humbly, the writer comments on a few biographies and visits the Oslo repository of Munch’s paintings in order to curate a show of his art. He doesn’t want overexposed blockbuster art. But he needs a theme, forests, portraits. Page after page he ponders. Why did Munch paint? Just to pass the time? Once he had left his mark, the author seems to conclude that Munch was after the essence, painting quickly, lightly, using too much green here and barely touching the canvas there. Just preserving time and fending off his longing to belong. Could be worse. But I’m not sure this book is the intro to Karl Ove’s greatness I was hoping for.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dilip

    Ruminatively reflective and inadvertently autobiographical. The reading experience is akin to following a person in an art gallery as he goes from one painting to the next, absorbing his experiences as he reflects on the paintings. At each painting you get to stand behind him and take in the painting while his shadow is cast on it, you also change perspective to face him directly and experience the painting through his reflections. Every ray of light bounces off the painting and onto Knausgaard a Ruminatively reflective and inadvertently autobiographical. The reading experience is akin to following a person in an art gallery as he goes from one painting to the next, absorbing his experiences as he reflects on the paintings. At each painting you get to stand behind him and take in the painting while his shadow is cast on it, you also change perspective to face him directly and experience the painting through his reflections. Every ray of light bounces off the painting and onto Knausgaard and then reaches you. In every sentence you see part of the painting, and every word carries a color, a form or a brushstroke. It is very difficult to remove this observer from the canvas, and it becomes quite evident quite soon that through the paintings we see not only Munch but also Knausgaard. The struggles and loneliness that is evoked in the reader by some of the paintings through Knausgaard is as much a portrayal of the author’s own background as it is of Munch’s fear of commitment caused by childhood losses. The calm and peace you perceive as a reader through certain paintings resonate as much with the author as it does with the painter. The ephemera of life and the void left behind by death is vigorously visceral in the writing. It is now that you realize the inadvertently autobiographical nature of the book, and if you can get past this blunder you can savor the literary prowess of Knausgaard and the paintings of Munch. To experience the paintings merely through words typically demands a lot in the form of imagination from the reader, however the evocative yet honest writing makes this rather trivial - so the reader can focus entirely on the experiences that are readily brought home. The words reflect without refracting and evoke without exaggerating, they admire sans aggrandizement and in the end quite simply feel sans feigned fulfillment.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vel Veeter

    This is ostensibly a critical analysis of the work of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgard. I say ostensibly because through various digressions, we also end up looking at discussions of Norway in general, art in Norway, literature in Norway, art, and various other related topics. What the questions seem to be as we look at Munch’s work: is he a serious artist? Is he a good artist? What is his art beyond “The Scream”, which is both his most famous and infamous piece. So we get a history of the art This is ostensibly a critical analysis of the work of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgard. I say ostensibly because through various digressions, we also end up looking at discussions of Norway in general, art in Norway, literature in Norway, art, and various other related topics. What the questions seem to be as we look at Munch’s work: is he a serious artist? Is he a good artist? What is his art beyond “The Scream”, which is both his most famous and infamous piece. So we get a history of the art of Munch, beginning with his connections to late 19th century Norway. We see his ties to Knut Hamsun, who is his contemporary both in age and place, both working on their early masterpieces in the 1890s. And like Hamsun, we find Munch being contrasted with more reified and established geniuses like Monet and Van Gogh. What we find at the center of this project is Karl Ove Knausgard, temporary art student as a youth, trying to find out if he is capable of selecting Munch paintings for a retrospective using his role as literary giant in the country and amateur art critic, and he finds out that maybe he’s not entirely the best choice. But Karl Ove Knausgard is like Munch, where is artistic talent is inextricably tied to his national identity both inside and outside that identity. For Norwegians it might be asked: in the history of Norwegian writing (or painting for Munch) how does he rank? But for outsiders the question is more like: is he good? Or is he good, for a Norwegian?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex Zakharov

    Picked up the book with some trepidation, both names are so famous that disappointment seemed inevitable. And yet I was wrong: I very much enjoyed Knausgaard’s writing, and I have grown a new fondness for Munch. But perhaps most of all, I was drawn to Knausgaard’s philosophical musings about artistic process, nature of truth, and passage of time. Reading the previous sentence makes your eyes roll, doesn’t it? And that is my point exactly – these days it is borderline impossible to say anything a Picked up the book with some trepidation, both names are so famous that disappointment seemed inevitable. And yet I was wrong: I very much enjoyed Knausgaard’s writing, and I have grown a new fondness for Munch. But perhaps most of all, I was drawn to Knausgaard’s philosophical musings about artistic process, nature of truth, and passage of time. Reading the previous sentence makes your eyes roll, doesn’t it? And that is my point exactly – these days it is borderline impossible to say anything along these lines without sounding pretentious and unoriginal. Knausgaard pulls it off. Here is a sampling of themes he touches upon – how symbolism is self-defeating, whether art is a reaction to time or to eternity, how art pieces representing a bygone era are bound to be the least typical for that era. And of course, given the ostensible subject matter, he can’t avoid talking about “Scream”. Knausgaard suggests that while 1890s “Scream” showed the pain of a radically subjective alienation from the world, today that sense of instant pain is equally relevant. But today the pain comes from immediate and graphic (media-driven) exposure to all the horrors around the globe. Pretty, pretty good, no?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    The starting point for this book was when Knausgaard was asked to curate a Munch exhibition at the Munch Museum in Oslo and had 1,000 paintings to choose from, a collection of both good and bad paintings, many of which he had never seen. This book is an account of the process of selection and an evaluation of the paintings. The book is not a work of art appreciation in the traditional sense but a personal exploration of what Munch has meant and still means to Knausgaard, and why the artist has a The starting point for this book was when Knausgaard was asked to curate a Munch exhibition at the Munch Museum in Oslo and had 1,000 paintings to choose from, a collection of both good and bad paintings, many of which he had never seen. This book is an account of the process of selection and an evaluation of the paintings. The book is not a work of art appreciation in the traditional sense but a personal exploration of what Munch has meant and still means to Knausgaard, and why the artist has always been so important to him. He concentrates on the work rather than the life and reflects on why art can have such a deep impact on an individual and what, in essence, is the purpose of art. The style is somewhat rambling and with many digressions into his, Knausgaard’s, own life and is very much a personal meditation, with his own thoughts, reflections and analysis. I find Knausgaard’s style and approach to writing quite mesmerising, and although for me this book had its longueurs, something his My Struggle sequence doesn’t have for me, overall I very much enjoyed listening to him and sharing his thoughts. An interesting and thought-provoking read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Travis Timmons

    Mostly very good. Knausgaard is generally so effective when writing about art/culture. He hits his stride in a philosophical key. It's his strength and I hope he does more of it. Hence the best parts of this book were the philosophical analysis of Edvard Munch's work and painting in general (e.g. his use of Gilles Deleuze's "the painting before the painting" concept, the tension between reality and essence or memory in painting, the ways in which painters are a sort of event, etc.) The books weak Mostly very good. Knausgaard is generally so effective when writing about art/culture. He hits his stride in a philosophical key. It's his strength and I hope he does more of it. Hence the best parts of this book were the philosophical analysis of Edvard Munch's work and painting in general (e.g. his use of Gilles Deleuze's "the painting before the painting" concept, the tension between reality and essence or memory in painting, the ways in which painters are a sort of event, etc.) The books weaknesses were two-fold: 1) it needed more pictures of the Munch paintings (copyright limitations here?) ... I googled about 30 different paintings and was stuck with whatever image I could online; 2) Knausgaard, true to himself, can't avoid framing the book with memoir, personal narrative. At times, this strategy really worked, at other times it didn't and I skim through his prose here.

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