Knausgaard closes his quartet of autobiographical meditations on the seasons in an appropriately verdant and optimistic fashion.
The author likes a big finish: The concluding volume of his landmark My Struggle series cracked 1,100 pages, and this volume is substantially longer than its three predecessors (Autumn, 2017; Winter, 2018; Spring, 2018). As in Autumn and Winter, the book is rooted in brief essays contemplating and anthropomorphizing objects of everyday existence: slugs, tears, wasps, Sting CDs that reveal the chasm between “myself and the person I was thirty years ago.” The riffs are typically light, at times willfully frivolous (“has a single good author ever owned a dog?”), at others more thought-provoking and counterintuitive. Playgrounds, for instance, are imagination-stifling spaces “whose order and formulaic reason is a kind of bureaucratic utopia.” The book’s serious side—and much of its heft—is contained in lengthy diary entries in which Knausgaard contemplates his health, his children, his work, and especially his family history. Having recently observed a brain surgeon at work for a magazine story, the nature of consciousness is much on his mind (he’s reading a lot of Emanuel Swedenborg), and despite having written reams of prose that straddle the line between fiction and memoir, he’s still sorting out what defines such writing and how honest it can be. To get out of his own head, the author writes a fictionalization of the courtship between his grandparents after World War II, a story that turns out to be thick with lust, betrayal, and violence of Shakespearean proportions. “I am bad at writing imaginatively,” Knausgaard insists, but this is a bluff: He knows that while interrogating the nature of storytelling, he’s priming readers for a powerful, straightforward yarn.
Breezy reading that’s also a commentary on breezy reading. Some trick.