The End by Karl Ove Knausgaard [9/10]

Over the course of his six-book My Struggle series (published in the original Norwegian in the early 2010s and eked out in English-translated form over a number of years), Karl Ove Knausgaard has varied his novelistic focus and his narrative structuring. Based on his own life, that is, “true” to an extent only he can answer, it applies a Proustian attention to the mundane and the interior that can be a trial to read but immensely rewards persistence. The final volume, “The End,” came out in August of last year and its 1,100-plus pages have proven to be formidable, but as I neared the end of the 3,600-page series, I was surprised to find myself lingering, soaking up the final elements of the seemingly undramatic story. I was gripped. In “The End,” Knausgaard intersperses minutely observed family activities (including a harrowing time with his burdened wife), drawn-out philosophical essays (including one on Hitler, of all topics), and his emerging stardom with the publication of the first few volumes. Stylistically seemingly simplistic, in fact the writing is dense with meaning and import, and the subtle structuring over different time periods, including always circling back to the topic of the first volume of the series concerning his father’s death, soaks into the reader’s psyche. Several times I put the book aside to sigh in glory or to weep. One of the most brilliant books of the past few years.

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