The fifth installment in the eagerly awaited, internationally celebrated My Struggle series
The fifth book of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s powerful My Struggle series is written with tremendous force and sincerity. As a nineteen-year-old, Karl Ove moves to Bergen and invests all of himself in his writing. But his efforts get the opposite effect—he wants it so much that he gets writer’s block. At the same time, he sees his friends, one by one, publish their debuts. He suspects that he will never get anything published. My Struggle: Book 5 is also a book about strong new friendships and a shattering love affair. Then one day Karl Ove reaches two crucial points in his life: his father dies and, shortly thereafter, he completes his first novel.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-part autobiographical cycle is a remarkable undertaking, one man’s attempt to examine his existence through a microscope. Each book loosely focuses on a different time in the Norwegian author’s life; the fifth installment covers his early twenties, during which he attended a prestigious writing school, self-detonated with drink, and fell in love. It’s hard to put down My Struggle. Knausgaard’s writing is powerful and his recall of details is superhuman, but ultimately it’s the mundane (and familiar) details of conversations, fights, and pivotal experiences that exert a magnetic pull. It’s like spending an evening with a fascinating stranger and hearing all his best stories.
The penultimate entry in Knausgaard's autobiographical series centers on the trials and tribulations of a competitive young writer, as the protagonist, Karl Ove, adjusts to the various responsibilities and expectations of adult life in the city. Told chronologically, the book spans the 14 years the narrator spends living in Bergen, Norway, beginning with his enrollment at an exclusive writing academy, and leading up to the publication of his debut novel. Kept company by his older brother, Yngve, and a rich, memorable cast of supporting characters, Karl Ove leads the life of a self-conscious and hardworking yet feckless young man with lofty literary and romantic aspirations. He takes his craft and the direction of his life seriously but frequently finds his noble, long-term goals pitted against his lower, more immediate urges. Issues with alcohol that surfaced in book four define a good chunk of these pages, as they produce lasting outcomes that affect his relationships. The narrative, like the protagonist, strikes an impressive balance between the interior and exterior, as well as the cerebral and emotional; snappy and amusing episodes coexist alongside weighty, meditative, and essayistic passages on art and literature. The text could have benefited by some additional shaping especially those portions that fall into a flat, reportorial pace. But the slow-burn buildup and protracted story arcs more than compensate. Those who have come this far in the series will not be disappointed by book five; it is a pleasure to witness the gradual emergence of a dedicated artist over the course of a decade.