cover image My Struggle, Book Three

My Struggle, Book Three

Karl Ove Knausgaard, trans. from the Norwegian by Donald Bartlett. Archipelago (Random, dist.), $27 (427p) ISBN 978-1-935744-86-3

The third installment of Knausgaard’s six-part autobiographical novel takes a deeper look at the author’s childhood. Set in the 1970s and ’80s on the vividly described island of Tromoya in southern Norway, volume three is more conventionally structured than the previous two. (The first book focused largely on the death of Karl Ove’s father, and the second followed the courtship of Karl Ove’s second wife, Linda.) Here, the adult narrator (“the forty-year-old creature who is sitting in Malmo writing this”) makes fewer appearances than in the first two installments, as he recounts his formative years. The sensitive young Karl Ove takes journeys with his neighborhood friends through the forest on the island, exploring the landscapes with curiosity and indulging his appetite for adventure and troublemaking. Progressing through early years at school, he plays soccer, chases crushes, develops interests in books and rock music, and seeks the guidance of his compassionate older brother, Yngve. Always looming over his actions, though, is Karl Ove’s domineering schoolteacher father, who scolds him and twists his ear over trivial mistakes. As the brothers grow older, the father begins to lose his grip over them, and the narrator sets the stage for rifts to come. This book is more concerned with conveying the experiences of childhood and the anxieties of school boys than with sustained plot, and some passages verge on being reportorial. The ever-present threat of Karl Ove’s father provides an engrossing source of tension, however, and Knausgaard skillfully recreates the point of view of a child. This segment of a genre-defying and unusual novel will leave readers hungry for the following installments, and serves as a fine entry point into the series. (June)