cover image My Struggle Book 5

My Struggle Book 5

Karl Ove Knausgaard, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $27 (500p) ISBN 978-0-914671-39-8

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. [em](Apr.) [/em]