cover image The Wolves of Eternity

The Wolves of Eternity

Karl Ove Knausgård, trans. from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken. Penguin Press, $35 (800p) ISBN 978-0-593-49083-9

Knausgård (My Struggle) blends a Russian family epic with his familiar rendition of a rural Norwegian boyhood in this inspired if slow-moving novel. Syvert Løyning grew up in Norway and lost his father at 11. As a young man, he returns home from his military service in 1986 and takes care of his ill mother. He also gets into mischief with his old football friends, falls in love, and takes a job as an undertaker. The center of Syvert’s life is his precocious younger brother, Joar, whom he dotes on after his father’s ghost appears to him in a dream and tells him to look out for Joar. In a parallel narrative set in Moscow, Knausgård introduces readers to their father’s other family. There, Syvert’s half sister, Alevtina Kotov, a brilliant biology student, forsakes her dreams to raise her son and witnesses a decade of political upheaval. After Alevtina and Syvert discover each other’s existence (Syvert in shock, Alevtina with benign indifference), they make plans to meet. Though only intermittently propulsive, Knausgård’s book doesn’t shy away from big questions about the substance of his characters’ inner lives, wondering if they’re made from “things that didn’t exist, which we constructed and believed to exist.” Knausgård captures the spirit of a Russian novel in this dense tale. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)