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Letter sent on Jul 22, 2015

July 22, 2015: What does it take to kill another person?

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Four years ago today, a 32-year-old man walked out of a building in Oslo and climbed into a van. By the time he was taken into custody by police officers on the island of Utøya three hours later, he had set off a bomb, fired hundreds of bullets, killed 77 people, and hurt an entire nation.

Anders Breivik has been under the microscope before, and rarely with a great deal of success — after all, the man appears to have been little more than a highly motivated racist narcissist. But in this essay by the novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard, we get to see inside just a little bit more.

In many ways, I find it repellent to write about Anders Behring Breivik. Every time his name appears in public, he gets what he wants, and becomes who he wants, while those whom he murdered, at whose expense he asserted himself, lost not only their lives but also their names — we remember his name, but they have become numbers. And yet we must write about him, we must think about the crisis that Breivik’s actions represent.

It’s not easy, but it’s my pick of the day.

Inside the warped mind of Anders Breivik

Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Daily Telegraph

(For what it’s worth, I realize Knausgaard is an acquired taste. Like, I imagine, many pseudo-intellectuals around the world, I have a copy of his My Struggle sitting by my bed, partially read. It is an intriguing text, but involved with itself in a way I find hard to connect with. And I found his recent series in the New York Times almost unbearably dull.

But here, in this essay — which draws regularly on a book about the spree, One of Us by Åsne Seierstad, he manages to balance some of his best abilities against the impulses I find most frustrating. So, even if you dislike Knausgaard, I would say: try it.)


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