Click here to read The New Republic’s profile of Knausgaard & the My Struggle series.
Book Two of the six-volume literary masterwork My Struggle flows with the same raw energy and candor that ignited the series’ unprecedented bestselling run in Scandinavia, a virulent controversy, and an avalanche of literary awards. Knausgaard breaks down lived experience into its elementary particles, revealing the wounds and epiphanies of a truly examined life. Walking away from everything he knows in Bergen, Karl Ove finds himself in Stockholm, where he waits for the next stretch of the road to reveal itself. He strikes up a deep friendship with another exiled Norwegian, a boxing fanatic and intellectual named Geir. He reconnects with Linda, a vibrant poet who had captivated him at a writers’ workshop years earlier, and the shape of his world changes. Book Two exposes the inner landscape of a man falling in love and the fraught joys and impossible predicaments he faces as a new father. We look on as he watches his life unfold. Love, rage, and beauty flood these pages. Knausgaard writes with exhilarating honesty and insight about the collection of moments that make up a life – the life of someone with an irrepressible need to write, of someone for whom art and the natural world are physical needs, of someone for whom death is always standing in the corner, of someone who craves solitude and love from the depths of his being.
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.
— The New York Times Book Review
Knausgaard . . . strips away the literary tricks, bursts through language, explodes artifice . . . Honest and wise . . . rare properties in contemporary writing . . . Book Two sears the reader because Knausgaard is a passionate idealist and not just a tetchy complainer. He wants to create great art, and he wants to fight the conformity and homogeneity of modern bourgeois existence.
— James Wood, The New Yorker
While not unconcerned with finding objective truth in the moments he recounts, Mr. Knausgaard aims first to simply record them, to try to shape the banal into something worth remembering. Beautifully rendered and, at times, painfully observant, his book does a superlative job of finding that "inner core of human existence." If his first volume was his struggle to cope with death, this is his struggle to cope with life.
— Brian P. Kelly, The Wall Street Journal
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, New York Review of Books
Perhaps the most significant literary enterprise of our time.
— The Guardian (UK)
Raising a family, making art and the difficulty of reconciling the two drives the remarkable second installment of this six-volume novel-as-memoir. … A patient exploration of courtship and fatherhood stripped clean of politesse.
— Kirkus (Starred Review)
The second volume surpasses the first in original ideas about society and love and childhood and friendship. Karl Ove—with his shyness, his passion, his honesty—can take on any subject and make it his own.
— Edmund White
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
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.
Steadily absorbing, lit up by pages of startling insight and harrowing honesty, My Struggle introduces into world literature a singular character and immerses us in his fascinating Underground Man consciousness.
— Philip Lopate
...The structure of Vol 2 is intricate and fascinating ... Knausgaard strings out for the length of the entire volume this utterly hilarious and tabloid-level fascinating story ... the sort of an anecdote that Knausgaard tells like nobody else can. (Oh, and on that subject, the section where Knausgaard’s wife gives birth to their first child is simply AMAZING; it is long and drawn out and excruciating and simply shows realist writing at its very, very best. I think I almost fainted.)
— Scott Esposito, Three Percent
...With each subsequent book of his that is translated into English, Mr. Knausgaard continues to solidify his reputation as one of the most vital writers working today.
— The Observer (UK)
The argument in this death of the essay essay is false but [rings] true. Like crying real tears at a convenient moment to avoid trouble but out of genuine sadness. I've been reading My Struggle by Karl Knausgaard which confronts this problem head-on. It's devastating. There is nothing the New Republic (or Slate) can run that could have this kind of effect on literature....one of the larger [literary] debates...is the debate of memoir vs. fiction. And Knausgaard fire bombs that entire conversation into the 18th century.
— Stephen Elliott, The Rumpus
Both Knausgaard’s Proustian style and the fact that his work is one long book stretched out into many volumes, just like In Search of Lost Time, should signal that it’s a literary event the likes of which we probably will not see again in our lifetimes...Unlike almost every other work of art released in the 21st century, Knausgaard’s massive book is an ongoing cultural event that we’re being afforded the opportunity to savor.
— Jason Diamond, Flavorwire
...free-form, fear-filled, densely descriptive…Norway’s biggest literary star since Ibsen
— New Statesmen (UK)
My Struggle is already the most significant literary achievement of the 21st century and we still have three volumes to go.
— Sunday Express (UK)
The locations and details may be unique, but it is Knausgaard’s gift to make of this unsparing specificity something universal.
— The Times (UK)
Between Proust and the woods. Like granite; precise and forceful. More real than reality.
— La Repubblica (Italy)
A rope round the neck, a knife in the heart. The book is full of magic. The world simply opens up ... Knausgaard will have the same status as Henrik Ibsen and Knut Hamsun.
— Kristeligt Dagblad (Denmark)
My Struggle teems with . . . ‘sensory bridges’ that interweave description and reflection in an unaffected yet poetic fashion. Out of the ashes of his childhood and the cooling cinders of his youth, Knausgaard has fashioned a memoir that burns with the heat of life.
— Barnes & Noble Review
I can’t stop, I want to stop, I can’t stop, just one more page, then I will cook dinner, just one more page…
— Västerbottens-kuriren (Sweden)
Achieves an aching intimacy, one that transcends the personal and makes Knausgaard’s pursuit of grand artistic ideals, his daily joys and misgivings, strangely familiar.
— Time Out New York
Compelling, rewarding, maddening and often breathtaking, A Man in Love is a bold exploration of how we create and curate our lives.
— The Observer
[Knausgaard's] preternatural facility for description, the dreamy thickness of his prose, speaks not only to the sheer pleasure his fiction affords, but to the philosophical stakes of that pleasure.
— Mark Sussman, Los Angeles Review of Books
His work ranks as one of the most memorable reading experiences of my life. There has been, for me, nothing quite like it. Karl Ove makes me see better. I have not wanted his books to end because I have not wanted to unmerge with him. He writes of longing to be back in “the maniacal, the lonely, the happy place” he achieved while writing. In my own maniacal, lonely happiness, away from the world for a time, away from the human pull, I found comfort in knowing that, despite his deep craving for distance and work, Knausgaard remains loyal to the human world, to being open to what it offers.
— Nina MacLaughlin, The LA Review of Books
A masterpiece of staggering originality, the literary event of the century . . . Life here and now, examined at a fever pitch, daily recollections recounted in exhausting but exhilarating detail.
— The Wichita Eagle
I read both books [One and Two] hungrily and find myself already missing Knausgaard just a few days after turning A Man in Love’s last page, searching the Web for inexpensive crash courses in Norwegian, mostly just wishing Volume Three were available in English now.
— Jonathan Callahan, The Millions
Knausgaard has written one of those books so aesthetically forceful as to be revolutionary. Before, there was no My Struggle; now there is, and things are different. The digressiveness of Sebald or Proust is transposed into direct, unmetaphorical language, pushing the novel almost to the edge of unreadability, where it turns out to be addictive and hypnotic.
— Jesse Barron, The Paris Review
I am very close to believing that the complete work will not only match sales in Norway, where the total copies sold equal a tenth of the population, but also become the sort of thing you see old people reading on the subway, freshmen using to bookend their dorm-room shelves, and house husbands discussing at the laundromat.
— JW McCormack, The New Inquiry
My Struggle: Book Two: Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard: There will be six volumes in total. Quite simply this is one of the best novels ever written.
— Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
There are many instances in My Struggle where Knausgaard unchains himself from plot entirely, ignores the requirements of a scene, and simply expounds. Without the pressures of telling a story, the results are magnificent."
Knausgaard’s six-volume memoir...has catapulted the Norwegian writer into the rarefied company of such authors as James Joyce, Marcel Proust and Henry Miller. These writers burst forth with a new consciousness and in so doing became the voice of their generation. Years hence we will be talking about Knausgaard’s incredibly detailed memoir cycle doing the same for the late 20th century.
— Providence Journal
[My Struggle is] just there, one of those books that changes human perspective in a subterranean way, but won’t really sell. It will be a basic text of influence. It’s biblical.
— Heather Mallick, The Toronto Star
The everyday becomes fascinating… A full world that Knausgaard and his translator, Bartlett, have built by never shying away from the detail of the human.
— Harvard Review