“The only thing I have learned from life is to endure it, never to question it, and to burn up the longing generated by this in writing.”
― Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle
My Struggle is Karl Ove Knausgard's first book in the ambitious six part series, and one I had been hearing so much about in recent months that I finally decided to give it a try. As the title might suggest, this is not a comedy, so if you are struggling through a gray, bleak winter, stay well away!
Knausgard is kind of like sharp cheese. At first you think you hate it, but then it's actually not bad at all. The first half of the book, he came across as arrogant and, keeping in mind that a man who isn't even fifty is writing six books about himself, very self-indulgent. Nonetheless, even mildly irritated as I was, I had to admit that there was something about his style that made this book compulsively readable. About two thirds of the way through, something happens, "the big event" in Knausgaard's life and his voice softens. His mind turns to others and his vulnerability even as a grown, relatively successful man is exposed. It is this last third that makes me want to keep going with Knausgaard's books, though their length and number is a little daunting. Sometimes his recording of all the minutiae of his daily life and the airing of all his frustrations is a little annoying, and the setting reads like a gray-washed Scandinavian crime drama, but I suppose this is his attempt to provide an honest and transparent account of his inner and outer world. Undeniably he is a good writer, and his observations, though sometimes tediously conveyed, are often astute gems of human insight, which elevate this book from an autobiography, to a text that possesses philosophical musings and reads like a well-polished novel.
Something that initially irritated me was the title, "My Struggle" is, of course, "Mein Kampf" in German. Being German, I couldn't understand why anyone would chose to give their book such a name, but reading My Struggle, it becomes clear that he in no way associates his very personal story with Hitler's disgusting book.
When you read Knausgaard's story, the title does seem very apt, because he really highlights and dissects all the areas in his life that are rife with struggles.
Though I think I'll read something slightly lighter next, I will definitely return for Book Two, and maybe Book Three, but Books 4-6 about this man's struggles... we shall see;-)