One of Norway’s leading novelists, composers and contemporary musicians, Ketil Bjørnstad, published his latest book, The Story of Edvard Munch, on 5 September.
The biography, published by Arcadia, coincides with the Royal Academy of Art’s major Munch retrospective (1 October – 11 December) and Ketil Bjørnstad’s UK concert tour.
Damaged in childhood by appalling family tragedies, the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch was obsessed with sickness, insanity and death. His life was tormented by persecution mania and emotional and physical fragility. Relationships with women foundered in loathing and mistrust, friendships frequently turned to enmity and violence, and his dark, difficult genius was misunderstood. Yet his tortured and personal art, which at first provoked outrage, eventually gained him fame, wealth and the respect of the art establishment that had rejected him, and of his native Norway. In a single year, no fewer than eleven exhibitions of his paintings were shown throughout Europe, and the city of Oslo built a museum to house his work.
Using Munch’s own letters and diaries and those of his contemporaries and friends, as well as newspapers and journals of the time, Ketil Bjørnstad’s ‘literary biography’ – which can also be read as a novel – presents a picture of Edvard Munch as unsparingly true as any of his self-portraits. Reviews of the book include:
‘A dazzling tapestry which has the weight and inevitability of myth’ – Daily Mail
‘Invaluable for anyone interested in the great Norwegian painter. Drawing heavily from Munch’s extraordinary writing, most of which is unpublished, Bjørnstad gives the reader a lively and intimate account of an artist whose love and suffering became his work’ – Siri Hustvedt
Ketil Bjørnstad’s previous novels include The Personal Motive, The Storm and Villa Europa. He has also written a biography of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. Bjørnstad, an accomplished pianist and composer, lives in Oslo.