Thursday, March 17, 2016

Review: "My Struggle: Book One" by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I had been hearing nothing but good things about My Struggle, the 3,600 page ongoing novel by Swedish author Karl Ove Knausgaard, and for the most part, it lived up to my expectations. No matter what, with its length, this book was bound to be a groundbreaking work of fiction. It throws out every kind of normal literary technique, much like Henry Miller did with Tropic of Cancer, and in doing so Knausgaard has created a kind of portal into his fractured yet brilliant psyche. It is many things at many times. It can be maddening, self indulgent, meandering and at times very pointless, but one thing it is not is boring. Despite some of the book’s poorer qualities, which cannot be denied, the fact that he can make his own life so fascinating and intensely readable is quality that cannot be ignored, even if the ultimate product is something that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. This book is really just the first 400 pages of 3,600, so really it acts as an introduction to this world. If you can tolerate it, and like it if you are lucky, you can continue on to the other 3,200, at your leisure of course. It is divided into two sections. The first section is a bit loose, with it going between introductory musings about death, and early parts of Karl’s life as he discovers the very adult vices of booze and women, all the while detailing the shaky relationship he had with his father. The second section, the better one, sees Karl as a struggling writer who finds his world turned upside down as he has to deal with his father’s death and, by proxy, his grandmother’s increasing senility. A book like this lives and dies by its little moments, and luckily, they are fantastic, from early scenes of Karl’s failure in both music and writing and a scene where a cleaning product triggers memories like cookies did for Proust, they are windows into Karl’s genius and insecurities. Books like this will divide people, and I think that is a good thing, it creates interesting discussions and free flowing ideas for books whose richness deserve such intense attention.

Rating: 4/5

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