September 23, 2018

“My Struggle” Takes on Hitler and Fails

“So here we are, at the end of the carnival. The sixth and final book of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s vast and consuming diaristic novel My Struggle is out in America, and the burden of authorship shifts from him to us. Readers who believe that Knausgaard has done something remarkable now have to answer a question: What remarkable thing did he do?

His technical breakthrough was to give up. Knausgaard describes writing My Struggle at a heedless pace, 10 or 20 pages a day. He wrote the fifth of the six books in just eight weeks. “It hasn’t anything to do with courage,” he’s said. “It’s more that I was so desperate and so frustrated. The only way I could trick myself into writing was by doing it like this. By setting myself the premise that I would write very quickly and not edit, that everything should be in it.”

What’s driven many critics and especially many of Knausgaard’s fellow writers crazy is that this shouldn’t work. Richard Brinsley Sheridan observed that “easy writing’s vile hard reading,” Thomas Mann that writers are people for whom writing is harder than others.”

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