Norwegians owns a copy of the novel) and led to the author’s being compared to Proust and Tolstoy.
My Struggle begins with the death of Knausgaard’s father from
chronic alcoholism and goes on in subsequent volumes to cover the entire span of his childhood, adolescence, college years, and beyond, eventually encompassing his struggles to balance the demands of marriage
and fatherhood with his outsized ambitions as a writer. In the sixth and
final volume, just published this past fall, he self-referentially addresses
the response to and fallout from the publication in Norway of the earlier
volumes of My Struggle, with their heavily autobiographical content. The
last volume runs to 1, 160 pages and includes a 450-page meditation on
Hitler and Mein Kampf, the book that lent its title to Knausgaard’s novel.
In his recent work, Knausgaard has abandoned his epic tendencies,
exchanging the macro for the micro in order to focus on aspects of the
world that are often overlooked and perhaps are not as fashionable nowadays as the sweeping or dramatic gesture. Beginning in August 2017 and
continuing for almost exactly a year, with the last installment appearing
in August 2018, Knausgaard has been quietly (as quietly as a writer of
his stature can do anything) releasing a quartet of slender volumes that
take their titles and much of their structure from the cycle of seasons.
Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer, listed in order of publication, are
examples of the kind of work that I’m suggesting reads and was written
“tiny” from the outset.
With the exception of the third book, Spring, which reads more like
a straightforward narrative of a period in Knausgaard’s life when his
wife was struggling with major depression around the same time that
his youngest daughter was born—and, to a lesser extent, Summer, which
includes some longer narrative passages—each volume is organized into
three longer sections, consisting of three months each. Each section, or
“month,” begins with a letter addressed to Knausgaard’s unborn daughter and is then further subdivided into twenty to thirty very short chapters, each with a one-word title that refers to the object or concept it
discusses. These objects, ideas, or concepts—entries such as “Chewing
Gum,” “Labia,” “Vomit,” and “Buttons” (Autumn); “Winter Sounds,”
“Fireworks,” “Crows,” and “Sexual Desire” (Winter); and “Lawn Sprinklers,” “Foam,” and “Ice Cream” (Summer)—are discussed for the stated
purpose of describing to Knausgaard’s unborn child the world she is
about to encounter. The entries are brief, prose-poem-like meditations
that are often quite philosophical—at times almost preposterously so