The third book in Knausgaard’s quartet of seasonal observations takes a more novelistic (and funereal) turn.
In the prior installments in this series, Autumn (2017) and Winter (2018), Knausgaard welcomed his infant daughter to the world through a series of short observational essays about everyday life; becoming a new father was a kind of writing prompt, inspiring him to re-experience life as if through a child’s eyes. This volume is a novella that more directly recalls his epic My Struggle series, driven by the same intensely analytical impulses but applying a narrative scrim upon them. As the book opens, Karl Ove is preparing his children for the day and planning to drive the infant girl to visit her mother. Knausgaard delays explaining why mom isn’t at home, nor does he immediately explain why he had to pay a visit to Sweden’s Child Protection Service the previous summer. There are hints, though, in the themes that Knausgaard keeps returning to as he ferries his child: parental anger, connection, depression, and suicide. As in the My Struggle series, Knausgaard approaches the story with a mix of quotidian depiction (at this point we know more about his bowel movements than those of any writer of consequence since antiquity) and a Proustian attention to the ineffable. The perils a child puts herself through prompts him to contemplate our fragility, how “to be alive is to be always in proximity of death.” Because mortality is so much on his mind, the minor domestic calamity in the closing pages (he’s low on gas, out of money, and left the baby’s bottle behind) takes on a life-or-death tension. If we neglect simple things, how else are we neglectful? And how much harm are we unwittingly bringing upon others, especially those we love most?
A somber, philosophical addendum to My Struggle and a fine stand-alone meditation on mortality and fatherhood as well.