My Struggle, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
My Struggle: Book One introduces American listeners to the audacious, addictive, and profoundly surprising international literary sensation that is the provocative and brilliant six-volume autobiographical novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard. It has already been anointed a Proustian masterpiece and is the rare work of dazzling literary originality that is intensely, irresistibly readable. Unafraid of the big issues - death, love, art, fear - and yet committed to the intimate details of life as it is lived, My Struggle is an essential work of contemporary literature.
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|Listening Length||16 hours and 10 minutes|
|Author||Karl Ove Knausgaard, Don Bartlett - translator|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 24, 2014|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #22,595 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#95 in Biographical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#400 in Biographical Fiction (Books)
#1,231 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
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It begins with a beautiful, deeply philosophical (yet entirely unemotional) musing on the nature of death. Then, the bulk of the book is dedicated to the mundane micro-details of Knausgaard’s childhood and family life—including 100 or so pages about a New Years Eve party he attended when he was a teenager. Diversions lead to other diversions, to the point where I skimmed full pages at a time, eager to get back to the good stuff.
Finally, it all comes full circle in the final third: his father has died, and this book is Knausgaard’s attempt to cope with it. Suddenly, as Death becomes personal for him (no longer abstract as it was in the beginning) the mundane descriptions all start to make sense within the larger context of the book: they allow Knausgaard to apply that same detailed scrutiny to his father’s death, and in doing so, reduce it to a similar level of banality.
It’s a frustrating read in its unevenness. There are passages of sheer beauty, depth and intimacy alongside boring recollections of past events. This is purposeful, but that doesn’t necessarily make it less frustrating as a reader.
It’s certainly one of those books whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I feel satisfied and fulfilled upon completing it, yet there were times in the middle when I was tempted to bail.
Will I read the next one? My answer is a begrudging yes. Knausgaard has a hold on me now, whether I like it or not.
This volume is primarily interested in two parts of Karl Ove's life, and are written as such. Part one is an overview of childhood and spends a lot of time jumping around but does coalesce here and there around his mother and father, mostly father, and their eventual separation. Part two is much more rigid in subject, and focuses on Karl Ove's father's death. In a weird sense that is very difficult to verbalize, reading this book was more about reading about my own life. Like the study of meditation gradually trains you to be more aware of your present moment, the reading of My Struggle had me living these moments simultaneous to viewing them from afar. Rather than just move from moment to moment, saying 'put that down' for the thousandth time to my son or turning right again at the end of the street I live on (something I could do blindfolded now), I watch myself say and do these things and actually think about them. This is my life, these moments, and they all make me the person that I am when I do inevitably come to a moment worth telling, like the death of a father. Reading My Struggle has trained me to think about my own life differently, more closely, and to be honest, with more tenderness and forgiveness.
This book is more than just that though, as if that weren't enough, it is also beautifully written, and the translation to English is so fluid and engaging I often totally forgot I was reading something in translation. I can't think of a time that has happened to me. Typically, I'm continually asking myself, "I wonder what the author really said here," or, "how is this different in the original". Don Bartlett has either abandoned Knausgard’s manuscript and rewritten a new ingenious version of it, or he is one of the finest translators I've ever read. My suspicions lie with the latter, as he's won some awards for translation. My point is that just reading the words on the page brings a joy that other writers/novels don't bring. The words carry an implied introspection. They guide you deep into what is happening. The mundane and unique coexist side by side and demand the same attention.
The story itself - stories themselves - aren't afterthoughts though, and they could have been, and maybe even are in later volumes... here, they are carefully selected and do ultimately circle in on a kind of third act moment. What otherwise may have been exhausting - this living of a life other than the already exhausting job of living your own life - is instead simplified by that rise and fall of the rhythm of story that we are all unconsciously accustomed to.
This is a book that every serious reader should read.
Top reviews from other countries
I wrote a beautiful, affectionate review of this volume, then somehow lost it before I could submit. [sigh]
This isn't a literary novel, and so it won't be for everyone. It was Knausgaard's decision to ignore the straitjacket of style and instead simply write it which freed him. The result, especially in this volume, is a rhapsodic play of memory and emotion, the central point being an old house where a man died in miserable circumstances, but attention wanders away to the author's childhood, an epic adolescent adventure one New Year's Eve, trying to get several miles down the road to a cool kids' party, forward to his present day living with his second wife in Sweden, and back to the grisly fallout from his father's death that is the true present of the novel. Knausgaard is surprised by memory and misremembering, just as I was when I re-read this five years on, so much having slipped; he is surprised by emotion and its absence. Everything, and famously he does include everything in this six-part saga, has the ring of truth, a clean sweep to match the cleansing of his father's house, and as such one is left reeling at the courage needed, the foolish courage, to tell the truth so nakedly, far more so than be appalled at his astonishing indiscretion and tactlessness.
Some will rightly complain of boredom. Yes, but the American critic, whoever it was, said it best: even when I was bored I was interested. (Here here.)
A fictionalised memoir, one that carries such conviction and draws the reader in so slyly, there is the opportunity to forego judgement and respond with compassion.