My Struggle: Book 4 finds an eighteen-year-old Karl Ove Knausgaard in a tiny fishing village in northern Norway, where he has been hired as a schoolteacher and is living on his own for the first time. When the ferocious winter takes hold, Karl Ove--in the company of the Håfjord locals, a warm and earthy group who have spent their lives working, drinking, and joking together in close quarters--confronts private demons, reels from humiliations, and is elated by small victories. We are immersed, along with Karl Ove, in this world--sometimes claustrophobic, sometimes serenely beautiful--where memories and physical obsessions burn throughout the endless Arctic winter. In Book 4, Karl Ove must weigh the realities of his new life as a writer against everything he had believed it would be.
Part four of Knausgaard s sprawling autobiographical novel gives a clear picture of narrator Karl Ove s late teenage years and his transition from the reckless abandon of youth to the responsibilities and demands of adulthood. The book centers on the year he spends teaching children some not much younger than he is in a provincial town in northern Norway. Though his primary aim is to earn money to finance his writing career, he learns a bit about the quirks of smalltown living, making a few friends and enemies along the way. A large chunk of the book is devoted to the year or so leading up to Karl Ove s decision to take the job, as he begrudgingly finishes high school. These sections give readers a clearer understanding of Karl Ove s life after his parents divorce, and of his father s downward spiral into alcoholism that ultimately led to his death (as described in book one). Meanwhile, Karl Ove drinks heavily, experiments with drugs, and gets into a bit of trouble. But he also matures and develops his own artistic sensibilities. The internal battle between his carnal urges and his ambitions and morals is an ongoing theme. Unapologetically crude, this entry is the funniest and least self-conscious in the series to date; there s a humorous momentum propelling the narrative as Karl Ove attempts to lose his virginity. Unfortunately, the casual breeziness of the prose can make it hard to keep track of Karl Ove s countless love interests and acquaintances, as many are only briefly mentioned. The book is strongest when Karl Ove is figuring out who he is as a writer, and when he begins to take his craft seriously, hinting at the success that will come in the author s own life.