The Pequod Review:
My Struggle: Book One is the first volume in Karl Ove Knausgaard's six-volume masterpiece documenting his own personal history in meticulous detail. Knausgaard writes intense and candid descriptive scenes that elevate the mundane to the universal:
It was a very special feeling to wake up in the morning, all alone in a flat, it was as though emptiness were not only around me but also inside me. Until I started at the gymnas I had always woken to a house where Mom and Dad were already up and on their way to work with all that entailed, cigarette smoke, coffee drinking, listening to the radio, eating breakfast, and car engines warming up outside in the dark. This was something else, and I loved it.
I don't get anything out of socializing anyway. I never say what I really think, what I really mean, but always more or less agree with whomever I am talking to at the time, pretend that what they say is of interest to me, except when I am drinking, in which case more often than not I go too far the other way, and wake up to the fear of having overstepped the mark. This has become more pronounced over the years and can last now for weeks. When I drink I also have blackouts and completely lose control of my actions, which are generally desperate and stupid, but also on occasion desperate and dangerous. That is why I no longer drink. I do not want anyone to get close to me, I do not want anyone to see me, and this is the way things have developed: no one gets close and no one sees me. This is what must have engraved itself in my face, this is what must have made it so stiff and masklike and almost impossible to associate with myself whenever I happen to catch a glimpse of it in a shop window.
Now I saw his lifeless state. And that there was no longer any difference between what once had been my father and the table he was lying on, or the floor on which the table stood, or the wall socket beneath the window, or the cable running to the lamp beside him. For humans are merely one form among many, which the world produces over and over again, not only in everything that lives but also in everything that does not live, drawn in sand, stone, and water. And death, which I have always regarded as the greatest dimension of life, dark, compelling, was no more than a pipe that springs a leak, a branch that cracks in the wind, a jacket that slips off a clothes hanger and falls to the floor.
My Struggle is often compared to Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, but it has some essential differences: Knausgaard is more descriptive and more detailed than Proust, and less philosophical. And his 20th and 21st century references (to rock music, soccer, automobiles, consumer objects, etc.) will provide modern readers with a more direct connection to the author's inner landscape. This is a rich work of interiority, and well worth your time to at least sample.