Tonight I witnessed a blatant display of hero worship directed towards Norwegian literary sensation, Karl Ove Knausgaard. And I shamelessly admit that I was one of the disciples. Well, sort of. When I learned that he was giving a reading tonight at the English-language bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, I jumped on the metro after work and headed over. The crowd was large.
The gatekeepers at the door (below) told me it was standing room only. Seeing as it was only 6:20 pm and Knausgard wouldn’t be appearing until 7, I chose to wait outside. I’m too restless to stand in a crowd for 40 minutes. I must say that the staff at Shakespeare and Company are very professional and courteous. It’s an old, atmospheric, cozy bookstore oozing with history … and books! Everyone was reading, it was great to see.
Chairs and an audio system had been set up outside.
With 40 minutes to kill, I walked around the block and took some photographs. When I came back to the bookstore it was 7 pm. We waited and waited, and then at 7:10 pm I looked up and saw our literary hero standing at the window on the second floor. He was smoking and talking with someone. Knausgard is a chain-smoker and, evidently, not a punctual man. He seemed oblivious to the crowd below.
He finally came down to begin reading from his newest, yet-to-be-published book. Here he is, blurry, in the background. The outdoor crowd stood motionless while listening to his voice over the speaker system.
I felt like I had stumbled across a cult gathering or a bunch of groupies devoted to a preacher, a prophet or spiritual leader. Or a Norse mythic hero.
As I walked back to the metro station, I thought to myself – Is it any wonder we need our heros today more than ever?
I recommend these articles that I really enjoyed. They’re called Passage through America –