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, Amazon.com
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
MORE PRAISE FOR THE MY STRUGGLE SERIES
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.