My Struggle: Book One

Karl Ove Knausgaard, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Archipelago (Consortium, dist.), $18 trade paper (471p) ISBN 978-1-935744-18-4
Knausgaard's perplexing autobiographical third novel (after A Time for Everything) is by turns a coming of age story—told in fits and starts—and a philosophical exploration of what it means to be a son, brother, and writer. The first in a series of six, this work is at its melancholy best when ruminating on how to survive in a world too minutely examined to trust or love: on the first page, the narrator's focus shifts in a moment from a sentimental note on the life of the heart to an outline of the physical processes of bodily decomposition. And though Knausgaard's sprawling story is rife with vital energies—flitting from the discoveries of childhood to the meditations of a more mature man—death's presence is palpable throughout: Karl's attention is constantly drawn toward the vanishing point of his late estranged, alcoholic father. A profusion of quotidian ephemera—from binge drinking to cigarette after cigarette—serves to highlight the incommensurability of death in light of the banality of life. Though light on plot (or perhaps heavy on it, depending on a reader's estimation of hyperrealist saturation as constituting a storyline), Knausgaard's gorgeous prose and enthralling reflections make this tome a rewarding struggle. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/04/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
Ebook - 250 pages - 978-1-935744-52-8
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