I’ve read five Karl Ove Knausgaard My Struggle books. I’ll read the sixth, beginning the day it’s released, when the final installment is translated from the original Norwegian to English. I’ve found each book rewarding.
Not really novels, the books read more like memoirs. In a modern series reminiscent of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past), the texts recount Knausgaard’s youth, coming of age, adulthood and battles overcoming anxieties to become, inarguably, one of the world’s most successful authors.
What makes the My Struggle books so rewarding is the way Knausgaard artfully presents everyday common occurrences, and failures, familiar to all, as we all must navigate human and social interactions, high school and college life, occupational responsibilities and family trials. By genuinely sharing his unfiltered experiences, Knausgaard assists readers in forgiving themselves for their own shortcomings, while understanding everyone you see and meet is striving, yearning, battling, losing and succeeding. It’s OK, he seems to be reminding us.
If you’re not familiar with Knausgaard, or the My Struggle series, I recommend you watch two videos.
Charlie Rose’s June 2015 interview remains the only interview I’ve seen in which Rose becomes seemingly genuinely perplexed by his subject’s answers. Knausgaard’s responses to whether writing the books have proven cathartic (a little after the 4-minute mark) and whether he’s achieved success (around the 6-minute mark) are among the best and most sincere I’ve ever encountered.
The Vice interview, in which Vice’s Michael Moynihan walks the streets of New York with Knausgaard and settle in for an informal tavern interview at The Ship, is wonderful. When approached for a handout (around the 1:30 mark), Knausgaard’s innate compassion is evidenced. Certainly, it’s that compassion that’s helped him author such incredibly revealing and engaging books, despite not wanting to reveal or impose himself in the process.