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Macron-Trump Relationship; Interview with Karl Knausgaard. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 14:00:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: Our breaking news coverage continues right now.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, he's being dubbed the Trump whisperer. But how much influence does the French President, Emmanuel

Macron, really have over President Donald Trump, as he makes his first state visit to Washington?

My interview with the Paris Bureau Chief for the "Economist," Sophie Pedder. Plus the author who turns the ordinary into extraordinary,

acclaimed Norwegian novelist, Karl Ove Knausgard on his latest work, a moving tail of family, truth, memories and what makes life worth living.

Good evening everyone and welcome to the program, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. A very special relationship, that's how President Trump

describes his friendship with Emmanuel Macron as he welcomed the French President to the White House. They even exchanged kisses and held hands

and while Trump continued to rail against the Iran nuclear deal, he hinted that an agreement with France on this issue could be on the horizon.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we've really had some substantive talks on Iran, maybe more than anything else. And we

could have at least an agreement among ourselves fairly quickly. I think we're fairly close to understanding each other ,and I think our meeting --

our one-on-one went very, very well.


AMANPOUR: Now at the press conference later, President Macron defended the current deal, but implied that there could be add-ons in the future,

covering Iran's ballistic missiles and regional influence.


EMMANUAL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): You consider the Iranian deal, the JCPOA, the one that (inaudible) in 2015 with Iran is a

bad deal. For a number of months I've been saying that this was not a sufficient deal, but that enabled us at least until 2025 to have some

control over their nuclear activities. We therefore wish, from now on, to work on a new deal.


AMANPOUR: So, what will that deal look like and what about the outstanding disagreements on other issues from Syria, to climate, to trade and tariffs?

And can the warm, personal relationship between the two leaders produce the results each one wants?

Joining me now from Paris to discuss is Sophie Pedder. She is the Bureau Chief for the "Economist" magazine and she's just written a book on Macron

called, "Revolution Francaise."

Sophie Pedder, welcome to the program. It's a beautiful, sunny evening out there in Paris, but is there any light -- could you detect any light on

what Macron and Trump were saying about the Iran deal?

SOPHIE PEDDER, BUREAU CHIEF, ECONOMIST MAGAZINE: Well, I mean first of all, I think one has to be quite cautious when you hear these sorts of

declarations being made. But it certainly looks like there is some kind of common ground that they possibly are finding on this. It's quite


Macron has been very clear that he wanted to try and persuade Trump not to walk away from the Iran deal. Trump in front of Macron was extremely rude,

quite violently rude about the existing deal, the 2015 deal, and yet they were hinting quite clearly that they may be able to come to some sort of


Now what that really means in practice is quite difficult to know at this stage. Macron talked about a new deal, but then he talked about

complimenting the existing deal. We've got Merkel coming to Washington on Friday and the Germans and the British will also want to be involved in

this, so I think this is all still very tentative, quite surprising, but potentially encouraging.

AMANPOUR: So, before we sort of drill down on that, while you were speaking we had pictures of the two up and it is actually extraordinary to

count and list the number of times they held hands, kissed, and generally played the sort of bromance card. And I'm just wondering what you think

the reaction in France to that is going to be, particularly if there's nothing majorly substantive that Macron brings home?

PEDDER: Well, this is of course the big question. Is how tolerant is French public opinion of what Macron is trying to do here. He's freshly

elected, he was voted in last year, he is young, he is dynamic.


The French like the fact that he's now putting France back on the world stage. He's turning France more back into a diplomatic player, which it

hasn't been over the last few years. So, they like that.

At the same time, there is some skepticism about excessive sort of France or American closeness. The French traditionally, if you go back the

goal(ph), they like to have their independence from both the -- from the U.S. and they like to display that kind of independence. They don't like

an excessively obsequious relationship with an American leader either.

So, it all depends on the details. It all depends on what Macron can get in return. I mean this relationship itself is fascinating. You couldn't

get two leaders who had more contrasting world views, and I think at the beginning nobody expect Macron and Trump to get anywhere in their sort of

personal relationship.

One of them is the sort of brash former reality TV host, the other one is - - Macron is a philosophy graduate. He's really quite intellectual. He can recite passages from Moliere (ph) by heart. This is not your typical, even

for the French, this is not a typical leader.

So, it's a very surprising relationship and I think at the moment the French view is, let's see where he can go with it. Let's give him -- sort

of indulge him, let's give him the benefit of the doubt, let's see where he can take it, but if he doesn't come back with something, then that patience

may be tested.

AMANPOUR: So Sophie, clearly President Trump believes and seems to see, according to people who know him, diplomacy and foreign relations based

around the relationship he has with the leaders and he's clearly chosen to have a good relationship with President Macron.

And Macron has clearly chosen to play into what he sees as what President Trump needs in order to feel valued. Like the flattery, whether it was the

parade down the Champs-Elysees last year and I'm just wondering, also for Macron, he sees an opportunity right, that Brexit Britain is kind of

weakening the special relationship there potentially? That Trump doesn't have such a great relationship with Merkel and that perhaps he can position

France to be the main relationship with U.S., do you think that's likely?

PEDDER: I think that's exactly right. He sees that there is this emptiness in the -- in terms of European leadership and even the last six

months Merkel has been building her coalition in Germany, so she's been very absent, but even now she's back, she's a weaker -- potentially weaker

leader than she has been.

So Macron has stepped right into that void. I think he also probably feels that there is a bit of an obligation, that Europe need someone to standup

for it's values and it's interests and he sees that that's something that he could do.

And the French, of course, they like that idea that France sort of punches above it's weight, that it's like all this sort of the grandeur that goes

with sort of projecting French power abroad.

So, I think that Macron does see all of that, but I think you're right as well in this idea that he has -- Macron has kind of understood Trump, I

think. This idea that he responds to flattery, that he responds to a certain sort of a power relationship as well.

Remember that knuckle crunching hand shake that he gave Trump last year at the NATO summit in Europe? That was the very first time they met and Macron

had studied Trump and he watched his hand shakes on replay, on videos. He studied him very carefully.

So, he had wanted to make sure that he established that position of authority and power to

Trump, the same way he treats Vladamir Putin for that matter. And so, that relationship is both one of sort of mutual flattery, I think that they each

know they've got something to gain, and I think that a last point would be that Macron really does, I think, genuinely think that they have something

in common.

It's the idea that they came from the outside to sort of with the presidency against all the odds, against this sort of political

establishment. And there is something of an outsider about them both and I have -- Macron has said this to me in interviews earlier this year, that

that is what makes he hit -- what forms the basis of his relationship with Trump.

AMANPOUR: Right. And he's also said that, my relationship is with the President of the United States. I need to have a good relationship with

the United States and the people of the Unites States elected Donald Trump, but beyond this relationship there are issues where they disagree, mostly

around clear issues, climate, trade and tariffs, Syria even.

But I did think I heard President Trump move a little bit towards the Macron side, when he said, "Yes I want to bring American troops home from

Syria, but not before we finish the job." That seems to be a little bit moving towards what Macron said, which was he's persuaded him to stay.


PEDDER: Well I think that that's the hint that I certainly heard as well, but you know, this is what Macron is all about. He knows that their

starting points are extremely divergent on almost everything, all the issues that you just listed and so he goes at this knowing that they are

poles apart on most of these things, but I think what Macron is trying to do is to sort of tame, in a way, Trump's sort of wilder instincts. He

wants to sort of keep him inside the liberal Democratic community; he wants to keep him listening to rational arguments. He wants him to not isolate

him. He thinks that the most dangerous thing of all with a leader like Trump is to isolate him.

And I think that therefore, if he can sort of inch him back towards a more reasonable position on some of these matters, then he will feel he's

achieved something. He's not going to win, he said - - he said this very clearly before in the past, sometimes I convenience him, sometimes I don't;

sometimes he'll win, sometimes he'll fail, but he wants to be seen to be trying and that I think is what he - - if he can get some movement on

Syria, then he feel that he's achieved something.

AMANPOUR: And back to Iran, particularly given the new diplomacy with North Korea, this is what he told me about the Iran Nuclear Deal in the

context of trying to bring North Korea into the fold, so to speak, this is what he told me back in September at the U.N.


EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: North Korea is a very good illustration of the "what if" scenario for nuclear deal with Iran, why?

Because we stopped everything with North Korea years and years ago, we stopped any monitoring, any discussions with them and what's the result?

So we'll probably get nuclear weapon. So my position for Iran, because if President Trump was to say look at the situation on North Korea. I don't

want to replicate the situation with Iran.


AMANPOUR: So Sophie, he seems to be still saying that, but in slightly a different way that we should carry on with this Iran deal, but then at some

point in the future, add on the ballistics, the regional influence if they could. Does that sound about right?

PEDDER: That seems to be the - - listening to the press conference, that seems to be what Macron was suggesting, all the details about how this

would happen under - - and in what sort of framework remain to be spelled out, but I think that the underlying principle is, this is very much -- it

is typical of Macron, he's trying to find common ground, he's trying to find Trump - - a way of bringing Trump back into the dialogue, not walking

away from the deal - - from the 2015 deal, finding some kind of a common ground and a way for Trump to lose face and above all, not leaving - - not

allowing the most dangerous scenario of all to take place, which would be that the U.S. tears up that deal altogether.

This is what he meant by talking about North Korea in those terms, he really does want to keep that dialogue going and keep the Americans

involved in it. So we don't how this is going to go forward in terms of the detailed ballistics and the regional political situation, that's going to

come out in the next few days, but we at least know that there is going to be the possibility of stopping the worst scenario taking place.

AMANPOUR: Well as President Trump likes to say, we'll have to wait and see. Sophie Pedder, thank you so much for joining us. Now as you heard

Sophie said, President Macron is incredibly cultured, he can recite long passages of French literature and he does have an obsession with culture,

and he's put it at the center of France's soft power, but in the literary world, genuine blockbusters are rare, and yet that is exactly what my next

guest has produced. Karl Ove Knausgaard is a Norwegian writer extremely well known now because his sixth volume, autobiographical novel, "My

Struggle", has taken his country and the world by storm.

In it, over more than 3,000 pages, he dissects his own life in almost excruciating detail, exposing family secrets along with his own fears and

failings, and now he has a new work, it's called "Spring" and it's part of his season's quartet, compared to its mammoth predecessor, this book is

positively minute, but it is no less profound. And the head of its publication here in the U.K. Karl Ove Knausgaard, joined me earlier to

discuss the book and he said he's baffled by his extraordinary success.


AMANPOUR: Karl Ove Knausgaard welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So here I have this little book. What made you move from that maximalist style to this?

KNAUSGAARD: I wanted to do something completely different so in "My Struggle" series it's very much about internal life and my internal

turmoil, and these books are about outer world much, much more and they're shorter.

[14:15:00] AMANPOUR: Did you feel you needed to get away from the turmoil of your--


AMANPOUR: -- the turmoil of your inner world?

KNAUSGAARD: Yes, very much so. And I --

AMANPOUR: Because it was too painful?

KNAUSGAARD: It was painful, but also that I explored it, I have written about it, I found that I have to explore in and you have to challenge

yourself as a writer, you have to do something different. And this is the most different thing I could think of. A very, very little books, a very,

very -- there's almost nothing in them and the miniature books.

AMANPOUR: Why did you decide to do that, completely different from you first one?

KNAUSGAARD: Well, it is -- I'm very much trying to do things I am not able to do. Things that is difficult, things that I don't know how will turn

out. So I can't -- I think to be a novelist you -- the first thing is to constantly know how to write a novel. You have to invent this way of

writing, because then there is a sudden freshness to it, certain newness to it, so I always try to do what I can't do.

AMANPOUR: So, it's really kind of challenging yourself to a busting through your fears maybe? Or your insecurities?

KNAUSGAARD: It's all kind of things. And writing it is all about getting to new places, places you haven't been before and when you write about

yourself, that could be hard to find. But it is possible to write things - -

AMANPOUR: Well, actually you know what? You have a beautiful passage there don't you? You -- can I ask you to read it?

KNAUSGAARD: Yes, of course. Yes. Yes exactly.

What makes life worth living? No child asks itself that question. To children life is self evident. Life goes without saying. Whether it is

good or bad makes no difference, this is because children don't see the world, don't observe the world, don't contemplate the world, but are so

deeply immersed in the world that the don't distinguish between it and their own selves.

Not until that happens, until a distance appears between what they are and what the world is, does the question arise. What makes life worth living?

And later the world expresses it's being, but we are not listening and since we are no longer immersed in it, experiencing it as a part of

ourselves, it is as if it escapes us.

AMANPOUR: It's really beautiful and it's really interesting because you're asking these questions in the "Seasons Quartet," your second opus.


AMANPOUR: But in the "My Struggle," your first big launching work, you must have asked yourself what makes life worth living? Right?


AMANPOUR: I mean you describe a really difficult childhood. You describe a very harsh father, authoritarian, you were afraid of him. You say, even

-- you were afraid if you put a cup in the wrong place or you lost your sock or something --


AMANPOUR: -- what would his reaction be? Did you ever thing what makes life worth living?

KNAUSGAARD: No. Never. I never thought of that until I became a teenager and then kind of everything changed. When you are in a world a bit

differently, because then you see yourself from the outside.

AMANPOUR: Your books have been a sensation all over the world. Obviously, in your native Norway, all over Europe, but in the United States and

everywhere. They are translated into many, many languages and it really requires time and effort to read them, they're really long.

And the great Jeffrey Eugenides, the novelist, said that -- what did he say about you? He said that you have broken the sound barrier of the

autobiographical novel. Have you been surprised by the global reaction to that book?

KNAUSGAARD: Yes. That is -- but it's very -- when I started to write this thing, it was so little and so small and so low that I thought it would --

no one would be interested in it because it was about me and my own life and nothing else.

So, I expected nothing in Norway. I thought maybe very literary interested persons will read it, but nothing -- and then it just exploded and then I

thought OK, that's Norway. That's because we are related somehow and they want to peek into another life.

But then it happened in other countries too, and it is still -- I'm still amazed. I was just stopped outside the street here from a few minutes ago,

was someone coming up reading the book, and they were wanting to relate to me and my life. But, it's the dream of writing. It's so fantastic. So, I

have to remind myself about it.

AMANPOUR: But do -- how lucky you are.


AMANPOUR: But also what a vein you've tapped. Why are they so fascinated by, let's face it, the minutia, the laborious minutia of your every single

second of life?

KNAUSGAARD: That's me -- that puzzles me, but I think the pattern in people coming to me, wanting to talk to me is they say like one sentence

about the book and then they start to talk about their own lives. So, this is kind of a vessel to get things up from your own life that you can think

about and relate to. We are much more similar, that's my experience through this. We are much more similar than we like to think we are.


I mean --

AMANPOUR: Maybe that's what people are yearning; that sense of we're all alike, we're all community --


AMANPOUR: -- at a time when everything is being fractured and fragmented.

KNAUSGAARD: Yes, and even in, you know, in a sense of being lonely, there is a certain togetherness. And you see that in literature. You know, it

is an us. It is we -- even though if you are going in (ph) and reading a book by yourself, it still -- there's connection.

AMANPOUR: And you -- part of your style is memory and minutia. And you write about your -- your father. That's the central --


AMANPOUR: -- at least the death of your father.


AMANPOUR: Because you said that he had died surrounded by empty bottles of alcohol.


AMANPOUR: And what did your family say to you?

KNAUSGAARD: They just said -- two things that I -- I couldn't, you know, reveal family secrets, and that it's lies, what I'm writing.

So it felt like an attack -- felt like I was attacking them, and you know - - which I did, and I think it is kind of a curse for a family to have a writer in its midst, you know.

But I could -- I didn't want to hurt anyone. But I could take position -- this was before it was published, I sent it to them. They're ready to send

away. I could have said, OK, I won't publish. You know, but I did publish.

AMANPOUR: But the central point is, was it true? You were being told by your family that you had made it up.

KNAUSGAARD: Yes. No, that's -- that is --

AMANPOUR: And so how did you resolve that?

KNAUSGAARD: It was -- it was very strange. Because I got a lot of letters, and -- saying you know, this didn't happen that way. And I

started to, did it happen? Have I exaggerated? Did I -- have I made it into something?

You know, and I was -- it was tormenting me. And then I got a letter from one person that was with the ambulance, wrote me. And she said she was

reading the book and realizing I was in that house. And she wrote me and she said it was worse.

And then, you know, I -- that was the first time I was angry. You know, because --

AMANPOUR: Angry at your -- at your family?

KNAUSGAARD: Yes, that's -- that's -- my version of what part of that was a lie? But it was my father's death. You know, it's kind of a -- you know,

very --

AMANPOUR: But memory is also really difficult, isn't it?

KNAUSGAARD: Yes, it is. It is. And that's also a subject in the book that's very, very important, because this isn't an objective version of the

happenings in my life. It's how I remembered it. And memories are deceiving us. That we know.

You know, you're making things so that you're who you want to be.


KNAUSGAARD: Almost, you know, subconsciously you do that all the time. So this isn't a book about the truth. It's a book about trying to --

AMANPOUR: Yes, you know, I have to tell you, I'm fascinated by that, because you're in opposition. You, on the one hand want to be believed --


AMANPOUR: -- but you say it's not about the truth. It's about memories, and memories are subjective.


AMANPOUR: So it -- it must be this sort of big conflict going on in your head the whole time.

KNAUSGAARD: Yes, and that's why the book is so incredibly long, you know. It's 3,000 -- over 3,000 pages on this because there are several levels.

There's one thing you see and understand when you are 10. And then there's -- you understand it completely different when you are 20. It's to capture

that life, you have to have all these levels of different, almost conflicting memories, you know?

AMANPOUR: But the idea of masculinity today is very current.


AMANPOUR: What are your conclusions? What is masculinity? What makes it not, quote/unquote, "toxic"?

KNAUSGAARD: That's -- that applies in our novel. I remember I picked flower, like our son colors, and just -- I remember I picked flowers for my

father and he just threw it away, and "boys don't pick flowers." You know, that kind of --


KNAUSGAARD: That was the '70's. And -- but I think it's (inaudible) you have to find your way in that, too. I mean that's --

AMANPOUR: Can you hug other men?

KNAUSGAARD: If they -- you know, if they do like that, I do.

AMANPOUR: If they initiate it?

KNAUSGAARD: Yes, but if not, I don't.

AMANPOUR: Is that a you thing, or a Viking thing?

KNAUSGAARD: It's -- no one hugged men when I grew up. It's after when I was like at the gymnasium. I became a liberal thing (inaudible) --

AMANPOUR: In the school, clearly (ph) yes, yes.

KNAUSGAARD: Yes. So we started to do that. But I mean, I write that in the book about --


KNAUSGAARD: -- I never said to my mother than I love her, never said to my brother than I love him. They never said that to me. It's like; don't say

that, don't go there.

AMANPOUR: Yes. I - I feel a little bit like a -- like a -- a cad for bringing up this criticism, because you speak very eloquently, and a lot of

people will understand a lot of the emotions that you are talking about.

But to go back to the minute detail that you recount --


AMANPOUR: -- of me (ph) in "My Struggle", you obviously have read some of the negative criticism. There was at least one from the Nation. I know

you don't read your reviews, but from the Nation --

KNAUSGAARD: Would you like to do it for me?

AMANPOUR: Yes, I'm going to do it for you.



AMANPOUR: I did all the good ones.

"Who cares? I kept wondering." Says this critic. "Why is he telling me this? Who is he to think his life is worth this kind of treatment? I

wasn't just bored. I was angry about being bored. I felt my time was being wasted."

KNAUSGAARD: Well, I have sympathy for that critic. That is what I thought the reaction would be all over. You know? That is what I thought. I

think just the -- what happened was -- is an enigma, a mystery.

AMANPOUR: We'll have to send this to the critic. I think that's a good answer.


AMANPOUR: What is next on your agenda?

KNAUSGAARD: I'm writing a novel now, which is pure fiction. And I -- I want to deal with something that is very difficult to deal with. It has to

do with -- with -- very, very depressant and -- yes, but I won't reveal too much.

AMANPOUR: You -- you can't tell me? Nothing about it?

KNAUSGAARD: I don't want to. I don't want to because I (inaudible) --

AMANPOUR: You don't want to? Then I'm not going to push you.



KNAUSGAARD: Because I can fail, and then this would look very stupid.

AMANPOUR: Well, no, you can also, you know, publish it and it can be another sensation. So we'll wait and see.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, thank you so much for joining us.

KNAUSGAARD: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: And there he was; the novelist with the long view.

And before we go, let's take a moment to recall a real monument to change. A hundred years ago this year, some British women won the right to vote,

thanks to the activism of suffragists, like campaigner Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

And today, she has broken into one of the toughest boys clubs of all. Hers is the first statue of a female to join 11 statues of males in Parliament

Square, here in London.

Fawcett's statue was revealed to the public under the watchful eye of Britain's second female Prime Minister, Theresa May.

And it's a double first because her statue is also the first in this square, to be made by a woman, the award winning British artist, Gillian


And that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at And you could follow me on

Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.