My Struggle: Book Four


Translated from by

Published: April 2015

$27.00 $21.60

ISBN: 9780914671176


“Perhaps the most significant literary enterprise of our time.”

— The Guardian


What’s notable is Karl Ove’s ability, rare these days, to be fully present in and mindful of his own existence. Every detail is put down without apparent vanity or decoration, as if the writing and the living are happening simultaneously. There shouldn’t be anything remarkable about any of it except for the fact that it immerses you totally. You live his life with him.”
— Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books


“The book kept me up till two almost every morning for a week . . . Real and singleminded in his storytelling. I don’t read Norwegian, but it’s hard to believe that the translator, Don Bartlett, could have made such vital, humane prose—over such a long stretch—unless he was hewing close to a work of genius.”
— Lorin Stein, The Paris Review


Book Description

The fourth installment in the eagerly awaited, internationally celebrated My Struggle series.

Book Four finds an eighteen-year-old Karl Ove in a tiny fishing village in Northern Norway, where he has been hired as a schoolteacher and is living on his own for the first time. When the ferocious winter takes hold, Karl Ove—in the company of the Håfjord locals, a warm and earthy group who have spent their lives working, drinking, joking together in close quarters—confronts private demons, reels from humiliations, and is elated by small victories. We are immersed, along with Karl Ove, in this world—sometimes claustrophobic, sometimes serenely beautiful—where memories and physical obsessions burn throughout the endless Arctic winter. In Book Four, Karl Ove must weigh the realities of his new life as a writer against everything he had believed it would be.

With each volume of My Struggle that is published in English, Knausgaard emerges more clearly, in all his human ambiguity. Volume Four presents a portrait of the artist as a young man, marinated in alcohol and sexual failure. It is awkward, painful, occasionally shocking and often very funny, particularly if you have ever been (or known) a teenage boy.

Hari Kunzru

Knausgaard's command of the traditional novelistic procedure is the reason these books are the opposite of dull, though on the face of it they should be. Knausgaard is always spinning a tale, always drawing the reader along with some romantic entanglement, sexual disaster, or emotional crisis. He feeds in atmosphere in just the right amounts; his pacing is flawless. How wonderful to read an experimental novel that fires every nerve ending while summoning in the reader the sheer sense of how amazing it is to be alive, on this planet and no other.

Jeffrey Eugenides, The New York Times Book Review

Its repetitions have a darkly comic energy that is unique to Book Four... The narrator’s companionable intelligence is one of the great pleasures of My Struggle. Yet almost none of that intelligence is gathered into concentrated thought... The result is a book that doesn’t think in the way that we expect novels to. You wait for some sort of deeper consideration of what’s happening, and it may come but more likely it will not—the book, like the life, keeps moving

Elaine Blair, The New York Review of Books

My Struggle: Book Four is an elegiac kind of comic novel, and it is pure Karl Ove Knausgaard. This is to say, it comprises intimate descriptions of daily life, descriptions that build to something improbably greater than the sum of their parts.

Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Knausgaard uses the plainspokenness that defined his previous books to powerfully evoke the depth of his obliviousness, the hollowness of his triumph. An entertaining portrait of the artist as a young lout.

Kirkus (Starred Review)

Unapologetically crude, this entry is the funniest and least self-conscious in the series to date; there’s a humorous momentum propelling the narrative as Karl Ove attempts to lose his virginity.

Publishers Weekly

My Struggle is candid and compulsively readable, with moments of searing insight and bold shifts through narrative time. Its scope is both ambitious and modest; its range aggressive and tender.


An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: He’s back! Karl Ove Knausgaard returns with his trademark hypnotic honesty, but this time he’s determined to make you laugh out loud. I read the fourth installment of his six-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle voraciously, greedily, happily. The writing is lighter, funnier than it’s ever been: Karl is no longer quaking in fear of his father, and not yet weighed down by the burdens of parenthood and the crushing anxiety of life. Instead he’s in the prime of his rowdy adolescent years – sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen – when all there is to think about is sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Effortlessly, he weaves in and out of his teenage past, recounting his year as a teacher in a northern Norway town, his first writing gig as a music critic, the beginning of his father’s alcoholism, his own reckless debauchery, and above all his all-consuming (often unconsummated) interest in the opposite sex. As he begins to formalize his dedication to writing, it’s easy to revel in the purity of his ambition, knowing that he eventually will find the audience he is clamoring for. And for those that haven’t taken the My Struggle plunge, the flush of adolescence could be the perfect inauguration to a new addiction.

Al Woodworth,

Knausgaard perfectly captures the heady mixture of elation and confusion to be found in late adolescence... My Struggle remains addictive, intensely funny and intensely serious. Like the young man here portrayed, it is "full to the brim with energy and life".

Francesca Wade, The Times Literary Supplement

Judd Apatow on ice… This is prose so transparent and direct that the writing disappears into the background, leaving you immersed in the life… Being drawn into his world is an ineluctable pleasure and makes almost every other contemporary writer seem pathetically showy by comparison… It's much much more fun than Proust because it speaks to our desire for jokes and parties and travel and babies, as well as the tender memories of childhood and the lofty aspirations of literature. It's all beautifully human.

Melissa Katsoulis, The Times

The narrator may be intellectually earnest, an aesthete who mediates on the sublime, but he is also a hapless fool, prone to Chaplinesque pratfalls. In exposing himself as a bundle of contradictions, Knausgaard allows us to see ourselves. And for the most part, however unattractive his teenage self looks in the volume, it works wonderfully well.

Blake Morrison, The Guardian

I just finished the newest volume of My Struggle, the fourth of six, and it was marvelous, transporting. The whole sequence is maddening at times, yes, but also, beyond any question, something special and important... He does recapture the world, somehow; that's the thing, and it gives these strange, boring, hypnotic, luminous books almost a religious feeling, something like immanence. It's astonishing. If you haven't already, read them now.

Charles Finch, Chicago Tribune

My Struggle—which is heroically well-translated by Don Bartlett—is surely the grand monument to our selfie-absorbed times.

John Powers, NPR

As the books gradually make their way into English, it isn’t hard to see why. Knausgaard’s brooding Scandinavian obsessiveness has a way of getting under a reader’s skin, not because his life is so exciting and eventful — it isn’t — but because it’s so familiar. He writes a clear prose that transforms ordinary events, detailing the span of his life with such directness that everything seems to be happening in real time.

Washington Post

The sheer accumulation of minutiae becomes hypnotic. Many times I’ve thought to myself: It’s getting late, I’ll stop reading now. But an hour on, I’m still turning the pages. My Struggle is addictive, whether the narrator is frying onions, engaging in drinking bouts that end in a fetal position on the bathroom floor, or meditating on evil.

Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal

If the function of literature is to take you out of your own life and involve you in someone else's then My Struggle is literature… gripping.

The Sunday Times

So what is it that has led fellow authors to rave about Knausgaard and hail him as literary pioneer? [...] The answer lies in the intensity of focus he brings to the subject of his life. He seems to punch a hole in the wall between the writer and reader, breaking through to a form of micro-realism and emotional authenticity that makes other novels seem contrived, “made up”, irrelevant. […] Whether he’s writing about his adult alienation at a toddler’s birthday party or the memory of trying to get hold of alcohol as a teenager on New Year’s Eve, Knausgaard is prepared to go into extraordinary sensuous detail […] the overall effect is utterly hypnotic.

Andrew Anthony, The Observer

The sublime stands a hair's-breadth away from the ridiculous…. Translated again with both dynamism and delicacy by Don Bartlett … [My Struggle: Book Four] delivers a knockout kick.

Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

Book Four is the swiftest, most neatly arced of the books thus far... Not since Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur has a novelist depicted the terrors and highs of oblivion so well.

John Freeman, The Boston Globe

My Struggle is totally contemporary, and by being totally contemporary, by being a friend to time, it is timeless.

Jonathon Sturgeon, Flavorwire

An encyclopaedic catalogue of inconsequential moments that often feels far greater than the sum of its parts… What really interests him is how all of us remember our pasts as a form of narrative

Jon Day, The Financial Times

Knausgaard is among the most accessible literary novelist writing today … it’s a treat to find a realist work of such immersive length about the stuff of everyday life such as family and romantic difficulty … a coming-of-age comedy and the most appealing in the series so far.

Charlotte Heathcote, Daily Express

Knausgaard peels back his more youthful self’s skin to reveal confusion, desire, and ineptitude without once asking for pity... [An] universally appealing and astonishing set of works.

Jeff Bursey, Numéro Cinq

Knausgaard is an advocate for writing the unsayable, for plumbing the deepest recesses of human consciousness and experience. As such, he’s relentless in airing his most honest, and therefore often least admirable, self. I think it’s precisely this that makes My Struggle such a generous, dealienating and necessary endeavor.

Gerard Elson, Readings

Knausgaard devotees will be sustained by the pungent comedy and wonderful intensity of this book… My Struggle is not only notorious, it is also great literature, Proustian in its particular, and sometimes relentless, attention to the texture of lived experience.

Hermione Eyre, The Evening Standard

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume autobiographical novel, My Struggle, lives up to the hype and hyperbole... It’s the first truly monumental literary production of the 21st century. In a new millennium filled with literary sensations, it’s the first to truly deserve our attention and reward it.

Adam Hammond, The Globe and Mail

[Book Four] is another substantial piece of the vast, contradictory, intriguing, solipsistic puzzle that is My Struggle… The aspect that makes [the series] genuinely compelling… is its ambitious attempt to establish a connection between Knausgaard’s commonplace experiences and the grand philosophical and ideological currents of modernity, and in doing so to arrive at some kind of intimate understanding of the violent history that has been generated by those ideas.

Sydney Review of Books

Knausgaard's evocation of life in that remote village is memorably vivid and detailed... His descriptions of how daylight gradually disappears with the coming of winter, of the effect of the perpetual darkness... are outstanding. The lives of the villagers... are captured tellingly, sometimes with great verve. Two volumes remain... I can hardly wait for them.

Andrew Riemer, The Sydney Morning Herald

There is something strangely mesmeric about [Knausgaard's] minutiae-clogged storytelling, and we relish each insightful observation and candid declaration - the majority on this outing being avowals of love and lust, and a hilarious catalogue of sexual mishaps. Once again, thanks to Don Bartlett's expert translation, Knausgaard comes across as flawed, endearing, human, and his "struggle" feels vividly real… the end result is something so intense, so passionate and so compulsively readable.

Herald Scotland

Much of the brilliance of this project is a matter of structure: insights into character are provided and then evaded, explosive moments described and then abandoned; what we know about future selves is later informed by past ones. This is how memory works... If you have read the first one, you will need to read on - and you shouldn't stop reading until the end.

Toby Lichtig, Literary Review

Book Four is surprisingly plot-driven for a true story, and this is a testament to Knausgaard's ability to tie life’s messy events together seamlessly into an overarching tale... The events Knausgaard relates gain a raw intensity from the fact that the tale is told solely from the perspective of Karl Ove, and this, combined with Knausgaard's flair for storytelling, makes Book Four into the excellent composition that it is.

Ben G. Cort, The Harvard Crimson

It's an utterly absorbing, possibly essential literary experience in any language... Somewhere in that space between ludicrous ambition and microscopic examination, the series spins literary straw into odd, but beautiful, gold.

Doug McLean, Winnipeg Free Press

My Struggle represents a monumental undertaking and a significant aspect of the early 21st-century literary zeitgeist... Knausgaard forces us to confront life on both a grand and intimate scale. If its only redeeming quality is to encourage readers to focus a bit more carefully on individual moments and form slightly better memories, then My Struggle is worth its (considerable) weight.

Connor Ferguson, Libretto

Knausgaard’s work is an ongoing fight against impermanence... the details accrete to make a thrilling and momentous record of one person’s passage through time.

Catherine Holmes, The Post and Courier

What makes these books so compelling and yes, great, is Knausgaard’s refusal to label or judge anyone’s behavior—his or his father’s or anyone else’s—no matter how shocking, inappropriate or self-destructive it may be.

J. Greg Phelan, America Magazine


Intense and vital . . . Knausgaard is utterly honest, unafraid to voice universal anxieties . . . Superb, lingering, celestial passages . . . [with] what Walter Benjamin called the “epic side of truth, wisdom.”

James Wood, The New Yorker

Karl Ove Knausgaard. My Struggle. It’s unbelievable. I just read 200 pages of it and I need the next volume like crack.

Zadie Smith

This deserves to be called perhaps the most significant literary enterprise of our times.

Rachel Cusk, The Guardian

Why would you read a six-volume, 3,600-page Norwegian novel about a man writing a six-volume, 3,600-page Norwegian novel? The short answer is that it is breathtakingly good, and so you cannot stop yourself, and would not want to . . . Arrestingly beautiful.

Leland de la Durantaye, The New York Times Book Review

Knausgaard pushed himself to do something that hadn’t quite been done before. He broke the sound barrier of the autobiographical novel.

Jeffrey Eugenides

By exposing every last detail of his life, Karl Ove Knausgaard became your favorite author’s new favorite author.

Evan Hughes, The New Republic

My Struggle is unexpectedly entrancing—the combination of detail and intimacy creates an illusion of being inside somebody else’s brain . . . My Struggle is worth the, uh, struggle.


Read an excerpt from My Struggle: Book Four in The Paris Review.

Read an excerpt from My Struggle: Book Four in The New Yorker.

Read an excerpt from My Struggle: Book Four in VICE.

MY SAGA: Part One and Part Two: Knausgaard on his recent travels in North America in NYT Magazine.

Read Knausgaard’s essay on International Ibsen Award winner Peter Handke.

Read Knausgaard’s essay “The Inexplicable – Inside the Mind of the Mass Killer Anders Behring Breivik” in The New Yorker.



Read Part One of William Pierce’s  “Reality Hunger: The Six Books of Karl Ove Knausgaard” at The Los Angeles Review of Books. Read Part Two here, and Part Three here.

Read Mark Athitakis’ profile of Knausgaard in Kirkus Reviewson writing and My Struggle: Book Four.

Read Andrew Anthony’s profile of Knausgaard in The Observer: “Writing is a way of getting rid of shame”

Read the New Yorker‘s piece on Knausgaard and Elena Ferrante

Read the Toronto Star‘s piece on Knausgaard and Elena Ferrante



Read James Wood’s interview with Knausgaard in The Paris Review

Read Joe Fassler’s interview with Knausgaard in The Atlantic, where Knausgaard examines the biblical story of Cain and Abel, and what it means to him.

Read the interview with Knausgaard in The Independent: “The acclaimed novelist on fatherhood, his funeral song and getting around to Finnegans Wake”

Read John Freeman’s interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard for LitHub.

Read Jared Levy’s interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard in Interview Magazine.

Read Steve Paulson’s interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard in Electric Literature.

Read “Translating Knausgaard: An Interview with Don Bartlett” in The Paris Review

Translator Don Bartlett discusses Knausgaard, process, and “the anglo-bubble” in this interview with the LA Review of Books.


Radio and TV:

Watch the interview with Knausgaard at Charlie Rose.

Listen to Knuasgaard at KQED’s Forum

Listen to Knausgaard in a Guardian Books Podcast interview, In Conversation.

Listen to Knausgaard at the Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC

Listen to an excerpt from the conversation with Knausgaard on Lars von Trier’s The Idiots at The Lincoln Film Society in May, 2015.

Christopher Lydon talks with James Wood about “The book(s) of Life” at Radio Open Source. My Struggle is discussed together with classic novels such as Don Quixote, To The Lighthouse, The Brothers Karamazov, and Stories by Anton Chekhov:


My Struggle: Book Four is longlisted for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Flavorwire listed My Struggle: Book Four as one of the “10 Most Anticipated Novels of 2015,” saying that “It is one of the most important artistic projects of our time.”

Kirkus Reviews listed My Struggle: Book Four as one of the  “10 Most Addictive Books of 2015