cover image My Struggle: Book Six

My Struggle: Book Six

Karl Ove Knausgaard, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Martin Aitken. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $33 (1,160p) ISBN 978-0-914671-99-2

The final book of Knausgaard's six-volume masterpiece goes maximalist and metatextual, examining the impact that the autobiographical series has had on the author's life and the lives of those around him. The book is split into three large sections, each of which is subdivided into several digressions. The first section is set just before My Struggle: Book One is slated to come out. Knausgaard suffers from anxiety after his uncle sends a litigious email arguing that the novel's assertions of his brother's alcoholism are false. Like Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, the focus on the banal%E2%80%94shelling shrimp, choosing an ATM pin code, taking his three children to day care%E2%80%94takes on strange significance and ramps up the tension as readers sense the storm brewing in the background. The second section, a ranging, 400-page interpolated passage on Hitler's Mein Kampf, explores questions of "we" and "I" in Nazi Germany. This section boasts intriguing parallels to the overall work, but, with its extended dives into subjects such as the poetry of Paul Celan and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, doesn't always move briskly. The third section is an extraordinary coda, as Knausgaard depicts the release of books two through four and his wife Linda's bout with bipolar disorder. Her deep depression, then her mania, are disturbingly vivid and wonderfully written. This section also closes threads about Knausgaard's father and the nature of sudden literary fame. Friends whom readers haven't seen in thousands of pages return, and the effect is valedictory and moving. As Knausgaard keeps a journal of his last days writing his book while caring for his family and trying to sell a home, the rationale for his project comes into brilliant focus. This volume is a thrilling conclusion to Knausgaard's epic series. (Sept.)