Monday, November 5, 2012

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson
Publisher:  Archipelago Books
Date published:  November 1, 2009
ISBN:  098003308X
Reviewed by Lynne
Obtained via publisher.

A boy named Antinous Bellori, born in 1551, has an encounter with angels which intrigues him.  His obsession then, in 1584, drives him to write On The Nature of Angels, which is later hidden away from public view, within the vaults of the Catholic Church.  It had been published under a pseudonym and was placed on the Vatican’s list of forbidden books.  All remaining copies were burned.  Bellori’s view of angels is different from what the Church ascribed them to be because he had seen them with his own eyes, so went about sharing what he knew through his writings.

Bellori shares how those angels trapped on Earth became mortal yet not human, how they had to struggle to survive because they would not fit in with the human communities.  His obsession with them lasted throughout his lifetime, and he spent his last days seeking more angels, which he eventually does encounter once more, according to his writings. 

The narrator of A TIME FOR EVERYTHING delves deeper into this topic and previous works by Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, and others, wondering how things would be now if Bellori was, in fact, correct in what he believed, thereby laying aside the ideas of the more famous scholars whose scientific beliefs gave a view of a different world from what Bellori believes exists. 

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING moves forward with a recounting of when angels first appeared in human history, at the fall of man.  It shares the stories of God’s creation of man, the stories of Cain and Abel, of Noah, the Ark, his eventual degeneration, giants, and the Great Flood, among other things.  Later, the book of Ezekiel is interpreted with a discussion on cherubim and their importance for mankind.

Oddly enough, A TIME FOR EVERYTHING eventually turns to the subject of seagulls, of how they were once angels...possibly.  This, of course, is a myth, yet it is shared how, if one takes a close up view of a seagull, one can see a small hand on the breast of a seagull, thereby proving the supposed myth as factual.
Near the conclusion, the narrator of A TIME FOR EVERYTHING is finally revealed.  He is Henrik Vankel, whose father shared with him the myth about the seagulls.  Fifteen years later, his father is dead, giving Vankel the realization that there is a time for every purpose under heaven.

Alone, Henrik lives a dull life, due to a self-imposed exile, and spends much of his time fishing.  Later, he cuts himself, on the face, as if to convince himself he is alive.  He yearns to feel something, and the pain is what satisfies this, it seems.

He feels as if time is a force stealing away days, weeks, hours, making him feel as if his life is like a flash of light in the darkness.  All he knows is that his heart beats, his lungs breath, and his eyes are observing, moving along landscapes.  As he sits outside and watches boats and other people...and his life...passing by.

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING by Karl Ove Knausgaard is his second novel and is a work of sheer brilliance.  Nominated for the Nordic Council Prize, it was his first book to be translated into English.  In 2006, a major Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, named A TIME FOR EVERYTHING as one of the best 25 books in the last 25 years.

After reading Knausgaard’s previous novel, MY STRUGGLE, I fully expected A TIME FOR EVERYTHING to perhaps be something similar or even a continuation of the first book.  Instead, as I began reading, I kept thinking, “What on earth is this about?”  But as I continued plowing through the 504 pages of this story, I soon discovered the fascinating writing talent of Knausgaard on an entirely new level. 

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING in no way compares to his previous work.  Strangely unique, original in all aspects, this novel is incredibly informative and entertaining.  There are some slow parts in it that bored me, so I put the book away for a few days.  When I tackled it again and got past the slow parts, I soon got hooked and found myself turning pages.  As a believer in angels, I soon became intrigued with the dramatized accounts of Biblical stories and of the narrator’s take on the divine.

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING is full of incredible thoughts and ideas that tug at the reader’s thought processes and ingrained beliefs of Biblical truths.  It makes the reader think and wonder if what is shared in the novel’s pages contain more than what he already knows.  I was amazed at how much fun I had reading the somewhat fictionalized accounts of Noah’s Ark and the many other Bible tales I am already so familiar with. 

Knausgaard has a wonderful knack for description, especially for nature, and is adept in his visionary aspects, insights, and creativity.  His intellect regarding the human mind is amazing, and I loved the imaginative way he brings life to people I’ve only read about in Scripture. 

Changes in A TIME FOR EVERYTHING all come in their time.  Once past the discussions on angels and Bible stories, Knausgaard abruptly interjects something new.  More into the final days of Antinous Bellori and later into the life and private despair of the book’s narrator, Henrik Vankel, who is considering suicide just because he wants to be able to feel something.  As you finally reach the end of A TIME FOR EVERYTHING, by then you feel Henrik’s utter despair completely.

I was totally mesmerized by A TIME FOR EVERYTHING.  Once it took hold of me, I had to keep reading.  It crossed my mind several times.  How ever did Knausgaard come up with the ideas for this book?  I am simply astounded by the subject matter.  With his talent for writing, for descriptions, for human feelings and psyche, it isn’t difficult to tell why this writer is so highly regarded.  A TIME FOR EVERYTHING is simply an extraordinary read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested, especially in the topic of angels. 

Bravo, Mr. Knausgaard. 

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.


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