Home and Away

Writing the Beautiful Game

Publisher: Knopf Canada
From the always astonishing Karl Ove Knausgaard--a brilliantly unusual book to delight both reading sports fans and the literary world. Bridging the two worlds of soccer and great writing, in the tradition of Lewis's Moneyball, Hornby's Fever Pitch or Buford's Among the Thugs, Knausgaard provides us with a die-hard fan's impassioned, personal, quirky, entertaining musings on that fundamental relationship between sports and life.

I remember every single World Cup starting with the one in 1978, what I was doing, how I was living, who I was, and the world in which it took place. But I have always just watched them on TV, never in reality, and I want it to stay that way--so that´s the starting point for this book, isn't it? Life against death, yes against no, Brazil against Argentina.

     Karl Ove is sitting at home in Sweden watching the World Cup on TV (and falling asleep), with his wife, four small children and the dog; his good pal Fredrik is away in Brazil, playing beautiful football on the beach and watching the match. In this lively, argumentative, unique long-form email correspondence between them, written back and forth across the world, what begins as musings on the famous 2014 World Cup becomes (naturally) an exploration of the essential questions of life, with soccer as the catalyst for an inspiringly entertaining exchange of thoughts and ideas encompassing everything from the elusive nature of personal happiness, competitiveness, politics, insider knowledge about international football, art and literature, all rivetingly dissected with brilliance, verve and humour.


[F]or whom these letters resonate, the effect is powerful and cascading, a pleasing waterfall of imagery and intellect. Though the correspondence is mostly about soccer, it is also about so much more.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] captivating tribute to soccer. Soccer fans will love Home and Away: Writing the Beautiful Game, perhaps persuaded by the title alone. My mission, then, is to exhort readers less familiar with the sport to try this captivating and even profound book by two writers at the top of their game. . . . Lifelong soccer fans, the authors each write from a passionate fan’s point of view, often describing the same match with wildly differing opinions. This book spoke to me as a soccer player and fan, highlighting in sublime detail the players and plays from a dramatic tournament. . . . Both authors have a knack for metaphor and apply it liberally to their sports writing. . . . Among the unexpected pleasures of the book is the power of letter writing to tell stories and deepen relationships. The two friends write intensely about the match of the day, then launch into fascinating musings that never seem off-topic or tangential because they are connected in the minds of the writers, who have revealing takes about, say, the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe . . . or improving economic conditions in the Third World or Swedish feminism. . . . So yes, Home and Away is about soccer, but it is, unpredictably and delightfully, much more than that.” —The Seattle Times

“The book takes the form of a competitive exchange of emails over the course of a month, in which the writers take turns to outdo each other with long improvisations of thought inspired by watching football and going about their lives. It’s a deeply intelligent and enjoyable correspondence: superb analyses of game. . . . [Knausgaard’s] portrayal of life at home with his wife and four children, running his publishing house, travelling to speak at events, evoke a quiet, vivid and sociable happiness. The man who never laughs is frequently very funny.” —Financial Times
“Karl Ove Knausgaard and Fredrik Ekelund . . . conjure up something substantial in Home And Away. . . . The results are invigorating, unexpected.” —Sunday Herald
Knausgaard is a writer with an astonishing ability to elevate the prosaic, not by superimposing great symbolic truths, but by examining it, describing it, almost fetishizing it. This, after all, is the real stuff of existence. Reading his books, one starts from a position of disbelief at the minutiae he explores . . . But if you persevere, you find yourself gradually absorbed into his world, you succumb to it, until you can’t get enough of these details, and find yourself wanting to wallow in them forever. Home and Away: Writing the Beautiful Game is no different. You might recoil from the concept, but it soon has you by the collar with the subtlest of grips. . . . The effect is part lyrical, part familiar, part philosophical. . . . As a reading experience, Home and Away is diverting, indulgent and stealthily enjoyable.” —Esquire UK
“[T]heir interplay takes on the familiar cut and thrust of a football match. . . . [A] genuinely unusual, genuinely engaging two-hander of real affection and insight.” —Literary Review
This might be the oddest book ever written about football. It is also fascinating, insightful. . . . Both men are as keen to discuss art, politics and death as they are to reflect on the beautiful game, and this strange, unclassifiable but engrossing book is the result.” —The Sunday Times
“[F]ascinating and complex insights into the way ‘modern football’ is manufactured and disseminated, the way it reaches into our lives and what we make of it when it’s there. . . . From the rosy glow of remembered childhood televisions—Knausgaard makes a lovely note about the sound, just the sound, of a World Cup game on television on a summer evening—through to the semi-political assemblies of lower league away days, football means something to almost everybody. For all its tribal allegiances, in a world where culture and politics have splintered into ever more segregated niches, there is undoubtedly something non-denominational about football. . . . What [this book] do[es] is important because [it] think[s] about football as a part of life, not as some specialist endeavour.” —The Irish Times
“Readers looking for a gentle introduction to Mr. Knausgaard’s work could do worse than pick up a copy of Home and Away. . . . Mr. Knausgaard offers incisive observations on football in his typically understated tone, which can often be hilarious. . . . The best part of the book focuses on Brazil’s 7–1 thrashing in the semifinal at the hands of Germany. Mr. Knausgaard’s description . . . captures the sense of panic at the Mineirão stadium. And Mr. Ekelund’s portrait of Rio after the match is haunting. . . . For a book which, at heart, is no more than two friends chatting about football, there is a lot to like.” —The Economist

“[Knausgaard] is contemporary fiction’s alchemist of the ordinary. . . . This writer is constructing a towering edifice, in what feels like real time. Few artistic projects of our era feel more worth attending to.” —The New York Times

“With each subsequent book of his that is translated into English, Mr. Knausgaard continues to solidify his reputation as one of the most vital writers working today.” —The Observer (UK)
“Knausgaard is a genius, without doubt.” —Heather Mallick, Toronto Star
“Mr. Knausgaard seemed to be able to write about anything. . . . [T]he great chronicler of the modern condition.” —Ian Brown, The Globe and Mail
“Once or twice a decade, word of mouth elevates a seemingly uncommercial literary writer to the status of a mass cult: you look around and suddenly it seems everybody is reading a particular book. To the ranks of David Foster Wallace and Haruki Murakami can now be added Karl Ove Knausgaard.” —Montreal Gazette (formerly The Gazette)
“A living hero who landed on greatness by abandoning every typical literary feint.” —Jonathan Lethem, The Guardian