A Time To Every Purpose Under Heaven

Karl Ove Knausgaard

Published: 6 July 2009
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 612 pages
ISBN: 9781846270192

Translated by James Anderson


It's the 1560s and Antinous Bellori, a boy of eleven, is exploring the woods above his home in the north Italian mountains when night falls. Suddenly fearful, the boy wanders blindly through the trees, sensing danger at every turn, until he comes, unseen, upon a clearing in which there stand two glowing beings, one carrying a spear, the other a flaming torch: angels ... This event is decisive in Bellori's life, just as encounters with angels have been for others throughout history. Beginning in the Garden of Eden and soaring right through to the present day, we revisit key moments when men have come face to face with these intermediaries of the divine: Cain and Abel cultivating their differences murderously; Lot's shame in Sodom; Noah's isolation before the Flood; Ezekiel tied to his bed, prophesying fiercely; and the death of Christ. Alighting upon these dramatic scenes - from the Bible and beyond - Knausgaard's imagination takes flight: the result is a dazzling display of storytelling at its majestic, spellbinding best.

About the author

Image of Karl Ove Knausgaard

Karl O. Knausgaard was born in Norway in 1968 and made his debut with Out of This World. This, his second novel, won the P2 Listener's Novel Prize and Sorlandets Literature Prize and was nominated for the Nordic Council Prize. Translation rights have sold widely in Europe. More about the author


‘A dazzling storytelling cornucopia’



‘A fascinating new angelology that ... allows him to retell the Bible story, from the Land of Nod to the death of Christ, in a striking new way’ Brian Morton

‘A vast, intriguing novel ... The power it carries is perplexing ... I'd recommend this brave and at times bizarrely beautiful novel’ Niall Griffiths

‘A work of impressive ambition ... Knausgaard is a gripping storyteller. His eye for detail is precise and judicious, and his orchestration of interconnected themes adept’ Tess Lewis

‘An extended meditation on humanity's post-Enlightenment estrangement from notions of mystery, beauty and the sublime’ Christopher Taylor

‘Gripping. Knausgaard is at his best with finely observed natural description; he is also skilful with atmosphere ... It may well become a cult novel’ Salley Vickers

‘Knausgaard writes world-class literature ... You simply have to read this’ Norwegian Broadcasting Company

‘Knausgaard's distinctive qualities as a writer are already abundantly evident in this novel. At just under five hundred pages, it is a strange, uneven, and marvelous book. Knausgaard's most evident strength as a writer is his gift for minute description, especially of nature, but also of the human psyche’

‘Masterful, breathtaking’ Christos Tsolkias

‘This strange and serious novel of ideas is an admirably imaginative contemporary reinterpretation of characters whose odd, splendid appearances in Christian mythology are made all the more mysterious for being matter-of-fact and never fully explained’ Tina Jackson

‘This theological fantasy is a heavenly delight. We see life among those early people from Genesis: tilling the soil, building houses and preparing sacrifices to God, always aware of the glow of the Cherubim guarding Eden, over the mountains. But wait: they have stoves, and button-fly trousers, and guns. Not just strange, this is a quite extraordinary novel, and completely original’

‘This unusual novel is an extended meditation on humanity's post-Enlightenment estrangement from notions of mystery, beauty and the sublime. Knausgaard writes as though it's quite natural for characters from the Pentateuch to live near fjords, carry rifles and stock up on potatoes and smoked ham, and soon Cain lending Abel a jumper and a pair of socks seems unsurprising. The domestic dramas and Knut Hamsun-like evocations of landscape make the book's sudden outbreaks of violence -- extra-biblical torture and infanticide on top of fratricide and mass death -- all the more unsettlingly incongruous.’ Christopher Tayler

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