Caterina’s review of My Struggle: Book Four

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“Portrait of nan Artist arsenic a Young Jerk” --4.5/5

In Book Four, Karl Ove Knausgaard offers up his fictionalized late-teen aforesaid stumbling into semi-adulthood. This is by acold nan funniest installment successful nan My Struggle bid truthful far; though not arsenic bully arsenic Book Two, nan penning is much fluent and gentler, pinch much melodramatic irony. Young KOK is eager — astir writing, and astir surviving and reasoning successful ways that mobility and push beyond nan norms — including utmost drinking, and nan mysteries of emotion and sex. Sometimes his behaviour is outright alarming. But 4 novels in, he’s nether my skin. I cared astir him. I worried and groaned, chuckled and sympathized. I wanted him to style up — but besides wanted things to activity retired well, wanted him not to springiness up his dreams. This is portion of nan inexplicable magic of nan series.

As successful nan erstwhile volumes, attraction to seemingly insignificant and embarrassing specifications unfastened a benignant of acceptance to each our mundane quality lives and to life itself —yet successful a debased key, analyzable way. For nan scholar these novels themselves go nan Proustian cooky that we dip into nan beverage to conjure up our ain memories, arsenic Lee Klein pointed retired successful his fantabulous review*

Proust is nan patron saint of associative memory, nan celebrated arena successful which a cooky dipped successful beverage revives a forgotten world. KOK and his My Struggle bid will go associated pinch thing similar: alternatively of immoderate guiltless trigger evoking memories, Knausgaard’s dramatization of his past evokes memories for readers. My Struggle is nan madeleine. (Lee Klein)

Book Four originates arsenic eighteen-year-old Karl Ove Knausgaard takes a 1 twelvemonth occupation arsenic a coach successful a distant sportfishing colony successful bluish Norway, successful bid to prosecute his ambition to write. Midway, there’s a 200-page flashback to property sixteen and family life. Young KOK is intelligent and focused, concerned pinch defining an identity, styling himself, mounting retired an eager life-path. It’s nan precocious 1980s; he dresses successful achromatic pinch a studded loop and a transverse earring; he listens to caller euphony and writes astir it good capable to get a occupation arsenic a euphony professional for 2 newspapers. He eschews quality arsenic banal, refusing each invitation to hike pinch his outdoorsy workfellow though they are surrounded by spectacular mountains(!) He is inspired by books astir disaffected, anti-authoritarian young men pinch whom he longs to place — benignant of.

I wanted to steal, drink, fume hash, and research pinch different narcotics — cocaine, amphetamines, mescaline — to get precocious and unrecorded nan awesome rock-and-roll lifestyle, to consciousness to nan past driblet of humor that I couldn’t springiness a flying fuck astir anything. Oh, what entreaty location was successful that! But past location was each nan remainder wrong of maine that wanted to beryllium a superior student, a decent son, a bully person. If only I could rustle that to smithereens! (320)

On immoderate level I saw this soul conflict arsenic earnest. He longs to flight from nan oppression of his humiliating and constricted aforesaid — an authentic longing that we humans person astir apt ever sought 1 measurement aliases another. He’s besides seeking immoderate benignant of direct, raw, acquisition of reality, beyond nan constricted world he knows, and nan expertise to definitive it artistically.

On different level, this transition was a spot comical arsenic nan communicative went connected to show his young aforesaid to beryllium nan somewhat spoiled suburban type of nan rebel he wanted to be. His rants against authority are followed by rants against his mother connected whose drudgery (ironically arsenic a caregiver successful a psychiatric hospital, and successful nan home) he depends for food, shelter, clothing, and much spending money than she tin really spend aft his parents’ divorce. And why hasn’t she yet washed nan icky underwear that he near for her to wash?!! How thoughtless of her!

On a much superior level, his escalating binge drinking and irresponsibility person already caused immoderate trouble. He seems not truthful overmuch uncaring arsenic oblivious to its harmful consequences. His mother comes crossed arsenic extraordinarily calm and adjacent — but she’s intelligibly unhappy. It’s moreover implied that her son’s costly behaviour indirectly contributed to her losing her location and her beloved feline Mephisto erstwhile she downsizes to a rental apartment.

Meanwhile, young Karl Ove is obsessed pinch girls and (his imagination of) sex. Good point he tin now deploy his consciousness of joke against moreover this humiliation. Here is nan sixteen-year-old:

[T]here were only 3 things I wanted. The first was a girlfriend. The 2nd was to slumber pinch a girl. The 3rd was to get drunk. Or, if I americium being wholly honest, location were only 2 things: sleeping pinch a woman and getting drunk. I had tons of different interests, I was afloat of ambition successful each sorts of areas … but erstwhile it came to nan crunch location were only 2 things I really wanted. No, erstwhile I actually came down to it, location was only one. I wanted to slumber pinch a girl. That was nan only point I wanted. A occurrence burned wrong me, 1 that ne'er went out. Even erstwhile I was asleep, it flared up, a glimpse of a bosom successful a dream was each I needed, and I came. Oh no, not again, I thought each clip I woke up… (122)

Unfortunately, nan show aliases thought of interaction pinch a beautiful woman often has nan aforesaid consequence while he’s awake, and Karl Ove is acrophobic that his deficiency of power will condemn him to loneliness forever. Yet it’s not really each astir nan sex. There’s a awesome woody of tender and delicate penning astir nan mysteries (and imbalances) of emotion and attraction successful his galore and varied friendships and relationships pinch girls and women. He seems to beryllium charismatic and well-liked arsenic a friend and arsenic a romanticist interest, truthful I fishy that pinch his self-critical slant he paints himself worse than he really was.

Poignantly, arsenic a nineteen-year-old coach he is astatine pains to understand aliases conceal his attraction to 1 of his thirteen-year-old students — who besides seems to beryllium concealing an attraction to him. In bluish Norway, group return connected big roles astatine an earlier age, but Karl Ove wisely considers anyone nether sixteen, and surely his ain student, arsenic disconnected limits. He thinks he’s handling it well, but 1 time 1 of his antheral students, possibly innocently, calls him out.

My insides trembled.
Was I successful emotion pinch Andrea?
Was I
in love?
No, no, no.
But I was drawn to her successful my thoughts. I was.
When I was astatine nan schoolhouse during nan night, erstwhile I stood by nan dark, motionless h2o successful nan swimming pool, I imagined she was successful nan changing room, alone, and that soon I would spell in. She covered herself, looked up, I knelt down successful beforehand of her, she looked astatine me, astatine first pinch apprehension, past tenderness and openness.
I imagined this and astatine nan aforesaid clip thought nan opposite, that she wasn’t successful nan changing room, really could I deliberation for illustration that, nary 1 must find retired really my mind worked.
My insides trembled, but nary 1 knew because my movements were controlled…nothing of what others saw could deny my soul thoughts.
I hardly knew I had these thoughts, they lived successful a benignant of no-man’s land, and erstwhile they came, successful an explosion, I didn’t clasp onto them, I fto them autumn backmost to wherever they came from, and truthful it was arsenic though they didn’t exist.
But what Jørn had said, that changed everything, because that came from nan outside.
Everything from nan extracurricular was dangerous.

Everyone knows everything astir everyone successful this colony of 300-some families. Yet it’s besides an inclusive, accepting organization successful a measurement Karl Ove has ne'er experienced. Everyone is invited astatine each societal gatherings. Students, school colleagues, and fishermen driblet successful unannounced astatine his flat to socialize. (I wonderment whether this civilization has survived nan internet.) And, besides dissimilar nan portion of Norway wherever Karl Ove grew up, galore group successful nan northbound get together astatine nighttime to portion heavy — and Karl Ove loves, loves to drink.

Why didn’t everyone drink? Alcohol makes everything big, it is simply a upwind blowing done your consciousness, it is crashing waves and swaying forests, and nan ray it transmits gilds everything you see, moreover nan ugliest and astir revolting personification becomes charismatic successful immoderate way, it is arsenic if each objections and each judgments are formed speech successful a wide expanse of nan hand, successful an enactment of ultimate generosity, present everything, and I do mean everything, is beautiful.(426)

Even though drinking his measurement to transcendence is followed by frightening black-outs and vague memories of alarming aliases humiliating things he whitethorn aliases whitethorn not person done, he doesn’t look to deliberation it’s overmuch of a problem. His descent into utmost drinking parallels nan simultaneous descent into alcoholism by his begetter aft he divorces Karl Ove’s mother.

You mightiness expect that betwixt teaching, drunken revelry, and nan pursuit of his desire to bestow his carnal gift, Karl Ove would person recovered nary clip to constitute — but you would beryllium wrong. On that count he’s a disciplined fellow, crafting galore short stories and sending them to anyone he regards arsenic discerning capable to critique them, successful hopes of further refining them for publication. There’s a great, terrible, comically melodramatic segment erstwhile he finds personification has near successful his typewriter a parody of 1 of his stories — a good parody, he realizes — but he is hurt, and can’t forgive. He’ll show them! He’ll CRUSH them pinch his astonishing writing!!!

Appropriately, nan caller ends pinch comic triumph -- somewhat undermined by an constituent of ickiness and degradation. But I’m still connected committee for nan remainder of nan series, and immoderate other Mr. Knausgaard whitethorn person translated into English.

*For different view, spot Lee Klein’s fantabulous review: