Books on GIF #8 — 'A Time for Everything' by Karl Ove Knausgaard


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

This Sunday's book is 'A Time for Everything' by Karl Ove Knausgaard.

A Time for Everything

This book was relentlessly interesting. But if you ask me what it's about, I'd have to reply:

I looked for some book reviews, which I almost never do, to help me figure it out. There weren't many, as Knausgaard wrote this years before his multi-volumed 'My Struggle' turned him into a literary rock star. Still, this line from The New York Review of Books perhaps puts it best: 'it is a strange, uneven, and marvelous book.'

It's sort of about angels.

Antinous Bellori is 11 years old back in the 16th century when he goes fishing in a forest river. He gets lost, and stumbles upon two angels. He's smote by their radiance. Something like:

The encounter inspires Bellori to devote his life to the study of angels, and from there the book veers into retelling key biblical scenes involving angels: Cain's murder of Abel, Noah's Ark, Lot's flight from Sodom and Gammorah, and the prophesies of Ezekiel.

Woven in is a quasi philosophical-theological think piece that pulls heavily from the Bible, the Apocrypha, medieval scholarship, myth, legend and just plain fiction. It's fascinating.

But the biblical scenes are the most interesting and powerful, particularly the heartbreaking section on Noah.* They are told with various anachronisms (guns in the pre-flood era, for example), and that seems like a nod to St. Thomas Aquinas's notion that Bible stories are often meant to be understood metaphorically rather than literally or historically.**

There's no overall plot here, or main character for readers to follow from beginning to end. Still, the book works. I can't really explain it. Perhaps it's the creeping undercurrent that just as humans are imperfect, can fall from grace and change over time, so, too, can the divine. And there is divinity all around us, even among the mundane creatures, like seagulls.

Sorry, God. This book totally original, weird and quite profound.

My rating:

'A Time for Everything' (En Tid For Alt), by Karl Ove Knausgaard, was published in 2004. It was translated from Norwegian into English by James Anderson and published by Archipelago Books in 2009.

What's next? There will be no Books on GIF next week for the July 4th holiday. You'll get the next newsletter Sunday, July 10.

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* Noah is an albino in this book.  I thought Knausgaard made that up as some sort of device, but then I googled it and apparently there is a whole theory out there that Noah was albino. Who knew?!
** I was also put in mind of Medieval (and Renaissance/Baroque??) paintings that depict biblical scenes in contemporary (for them) settings and dress.