Reviews — From the July 2014 issue

Master of the Mundane

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s encyclopedic novels

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Discussed in this essay:

My Struggle: Book Three, by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Archipelago. 300 pages. $27. archipelagobooks.org.

Few of us are glad to be seated, on a long-distance flight, next to a loquacious stranger who ignores the signals of our open book, our headphones, the sleep mask we pull down over our eyes. Imagine, then, that the stranger in question is a craggy, middle-aged Norwegian determined to tell us everything that ever happened to him — every boyhood memory, every random association or metaphysical speculation, every song he listened to, every book he read, every detail he can recall about his parents, his first friendships, his three children’s personalities, the diapers he changed, the meals he cooked, and the highs and lows of his marriages. Would we like to hear about how much his father liked seafood, or about the eating habits of an airport Burger King customer? The situation is not all that difficult to imagine, but what seems far more improbable is that we might actually become riveted by our companion’s story.

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is the author, most recently, of Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 (Harper). She is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine.

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