Doesn’t your life feel like his?
June 3, 2014 3:06 PM Subscribe
This week sees the publication of the third volume of “My Struggle,” the thirty-six-hundred-page autobiographical novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian novelist.
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It’s hard to overstate the strangeness of the book’s success. The six volumes of “My Struggle” chronicle, in hypnotic detail, episodes from Knausgaard’s life. There is no plot to speak of, unless you consider real life a plot.
And yet, in Norway, one book has sold for every nine adults; as translations have proliferated, readers all over the world have fallen in love with Knausgaard. Part of the appeal is that he has left many of the names and details unchanged; you can do a Google images search and see many of the characters you read about. But the appeal isn’t just gossipy. Perhaps because he is so candid and open, Knausgaard has made his memories into common property. He encourages readers to look inside and find their inner Karl Oves. Or the reverse: he holds a mirror up to his life; you look, and see yourself.
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to recognize yourself in “My Struggle.” The first is to notice where your own thoughts and experiences coincide with Knausgaard’s—to find, as many readers have, that he has written the diary that you would’ve written, were you a Norwegian man born in 1968. (Reading the first volume, I was delighted to find that Karl Ove and I liked the same bands—New Order, Talk Talk, Talking Heads—and that we have the same elaborate theory about why they’re good.) The second is to discern, in the rhythms and textures of the book, the rhythms and textures of your own life. This second kind of recognition is the secret to “My Struggle” ’s popularity. Set aside the particular events that Knausgaard describes: doesn’t your life feel like his?
Terrific post by Cash4Lead on Knausgaard previously.