Going through a complete stranger’s intimate diary does not sound like the most thrilling read, even more so when that stranger hails from half way across the world and the title bears the same name as a famous hate-filled book, but volume one of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s MY STRUGGLE is a worthwhile read. The first in a six-book memoir project that has earned comparisons with Proust, is not always gripping but definitely ranks one of the most intriguing books in recent times.
The first volume is split into two unequal parts, the first (and shorter section) about Knausgaard’s teenage years, describing a disappointing New Year’s Eve party and the (unrelated) divorce of his parents, the second (and much more substantial segment) going into his father’s death years later and the funeral preparations.
While the first part is slow, it is surprising how many cringe inducing parallels readers can find between Knausgaard’s teenage years and their own, and there lies the appeal of these books. In the specific lies the universal. As Knausgaard reflects on his own life, it is hard not to do the same. And those who make it to the second part are rewarded with a touching account and meditation on death and parenthood.
The first volume of MY STRUGGLE is not for everyone. Anyone looking for a beach read should search elsewhere, but those with even a passing interest in the series are advised to jump in. With four of the books out in English and a fifth arriving this Spring, those looking for another big series need look no further.