Karl Ove Knausgård was on Oslo to talk about his new book Autumn. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix
The writer, whose 3,500 page novel My Struggle was a sensation in Norway when its six books were published between 2009 and 2011, has been increasingly vocal about what he sees as the refusal of the educated middle classes in his adopted home of Sweden to face up to the realities of immigration.
“In Sweden, my impression is that the desire to be decent, which is in itself laudable, has given people an aversion anxiety against discussing many problems concerning integration and immigration,” he told Aftenposten during a book tour. “If you talk about the issues, it means you are somehow automatically critical of immigration.”
Swedish writer Jan Guillou, speaking on Norway's state broadcaster NRK on Thursday night dismissed Knausgård's attack on Sweden, saying he was a victim of the right-wing’s “delusion” that immigration could not be discussed in the country.
“Knausgård is probably one of the worst political analysts in Scandinavia,” he told NRK on Thursday night. “God! Open debate? Over the last ten years this has been one of the main topics for discussion in Sweden. It surprises me that a man like Knausgård, who has lived in Sweden, is also a victim of this delusion.”
Knausgård said that the consequences of immigration depended on how much effort society was prepared to expend on the process.
“We know nothing about the consequences of immigration, but they are clearly entirely dependent on the resources used,” he said. “The worst thing that can happen is ghettos, closed cultures developing inside the culture.”
He said that in Stockholm at least, this had already happened.
“Stockholm is a divided city. The white middle and upper classes congregate in the urban areas, while the immigrants and working classes live in the suburbs,” he said. “That same white middle class is in favour of immigration, but they have no immigrants whatsoever close to them in their personal lives, and they become furious if anyone expresses right-wing populist views.”
However Knausgård stressed that while he thought it was good that Norway had a mainstream party which could express anxieties about immigration, he was not himself a Progress supporter.
“I do not agree with their views, but it is good that they are able to express them openly without being demonised,” he said.