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At the Close of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s ‘My Struggle,’ a Magician Loses His Touch

In the third and final section he shows his wife, Linda, what he has written about her and their children in his first book. She weeps, but she seems strong enough to take it.

She is not strong enough to take it. In the very affecting final section, Linda has a mental breakdown (she had spent time in a psychiatric hospital before they met) and the author tries to care for her. He pulled the pin on a grenade when he wrote the first novels in this series, writing unsparingly about the people close to him, using their real names. In this final book the grenade has gone off; it’s too late for him to throw himself on it.

“This novel has hurt everyone around me, it has hurt me, and in a few years, when they are old enough to read it, it will hurt my children,” Knausgaard writes. Yet he would not, you sense, have changed a word.

Knausgaard remains Knausgaard. There is vital writing in this book on many subjects, from male vanity and supermarket carts to fruit labels and how we view the changing faces of loved ones over time. About prawns, for example, he writes: “Alive they looked almost like office workers of the ocean, in death like a company of ballet dancers.”

At least once, he made me laugh out loud. “If there were a choice between couples therapy and death,” he writes, “I would unhesitatingly choose death.” He’s seldom this vivid here, however.

This book feels like it was written quickly, and indeed it was. But then so were the previous books in the “My Struggle” series. He says amazing, terrifying things about his productivity in this book, such as: “I would have to write three new books in 10 months. Which wasn’t implausible, I’d been doing about 10 pages a day for the past six months as it was, in the region of 50 pages a week given the fact that I wasn’t allowed to work weekends.”

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