Wednesday, April 18, 2012

MY STRUGGLE by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Publisher: Archipelago Books
Date published: April 24, 2012
ISBN 9781935744184
e-ISBN 978-1-953744-52-8
Reviewed by Lynne
Obtained via publisher.

Karl Ove Knausgaard was born in Norway in 1968. The youngest of two sons, he is the more idealistic of the two, more emotion-drawn. Yngve is more realistic and practical. Unfortunately, Yngve is the one who was not allowed to fail, to make himself out as a fool or to show weakness. Karl has always looked up to him, is dependent on him.

While growing up, Karl’s parents lived apart for many years, so Karl lived alone with his father, because of his parents’ different careers. Yngve did his national service and chose to stay away from home, choosing his school and friends over family, which angered his father.

Karl’s father worked various jobs over the years. While studying at the university, he worked as a night watchman. He was a middle school teacher for eight years and was later elected to the local council. He was also one of the country’s leading stamp collectors. Karl’s mother had studied nursing and was not around much. So it was Yngve and his father who were Karl’s role models growing up.

As Karl matured, his father took up drinking more and more, especially after his marriage collapsed. When he eventually drinks himself to death, it is then Karl Ove begins to examine the difficult relationship he had with his father, his passion for rock music, and the misadventures of his high school garage band.

As he struggles to find his place in the world, particularly through his writing, his autobiography strikes nerves in all of us as we relate to his pain, his insatiable need for acceptance from his father, as we witness what happens to an ambitious, sensitive person as he claws his way through emotional turbulence and dissects various aspects of his 43 years that have made him into the person he now is.

MY STRUGGLE by Karl Ove Knausgaard is an incredible piece of literature, one I absolutely enjoyed reading. And as some have stated in other reviews, I agree that it is difficult to explain exactly why I like this book so much.

Referred to as an autobiographical epic, MY STRUGGLE was an overnight sensation in Scandinavia, having sold over 480,000 copies in Norway alone. It is a definite page-turner that draws the reader into the thoughts and life of an exceptionally talented writer with ease.

Knausgaard has a tremendous eye for detail, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his life as he shares the ups and downs of his childhood in Norway and the struggles he faces growing into an adult. As an American, I find that it gives insight into a country that few Americans ever get a chance to visit. Observing it through Knausgaard’s eyes is a treat that any reader will enjoy.

MY STRUGGLE is refreshing in its scope. A writer such as Knausgaard is a treasure who lends so much of himself in his story that, at times, you ache for him and the difficulties he has had to go through. Without his mother around a lot, it makes one empathize even more with him. Sometimes it is only a mother who can soften the painful blows, verbal or otherwise, a father may inflict upon his children, whether knowingly or not.

One thing I believe draws in the reader is the complete reality of this story. All that happens in MY STRUGGLE actually happened, to someone who probably never realized how it would eventually help him become the successful writer he now is.

The human aspect of MY STRUGGLE is what appeals to the reader most, I think, because so many of us can relate to it, to how Karl Ove felt during each episode of his life. None of us have a perfect life or a perfect family. So many are dysfunctional in similar ways to Knausgaard’s. That, I believe, is what drives our interest, our caring for what happens to Karl as time goes on.

Knausgaard is a brave, talented writer with amazing insight and observational skill that few possess. His presence is felt in every page of MY STRUGGLE, as you continue rolling through his life with great interest and expectation. He is not afraid to share anything with the reader which may, at times, shock or even embarrass him.

Whatever this story has, I loved it and look forward to reading more from this author. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for something different that will quickly suck you in and never let you go.

MY STRUGGLE is a memorable book that is sure to please.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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