The Norwegian author continues his series of seasonal meditations with some appropriately austere thoughts on nature and life in a cold climate.
This is the second book in a planned quartet that Knausgaard (My Struggle: Book Five, 2016, etc.) conceived as a kind of welcoming present for his newborn daughter, collecting brief musings on a variety of quotidian subjects, written as if one were seeing the world anew. Its predecessor, Autumn (2017), balanced riffs on philosophical themes (forgiveness, illness) with more overtly offbeat takes on everyday stuff (tin cans, vomit). Here, the author sticks to more elemental matters, drawing heavily on nature and Scandinavian folklore, while also writing more personally about friends and the messiness of family life. (One piece is literally titled “Mess.”) Pipes evoke “a vast physical network which lies coiled, serpent-like around the globe”; stuffed animals externalize what children’s “souls look like, small, soft, good, and faithful”; a train is “an embodiment of longing”; sugar is a “cheap and simple pleasure” undermined by good-health hard-liners. Where the prevailing mood in Knausgaard’s My Struggle novels is anxiety, these seasonal books are propelled by his sense of wonder. Whether he’s contemplating a deer struck by a car on the highway or a beloved pair of “old, tattered, almost Chaplin-esque boots,” the author casts the world in a holy glow of surprise and compassion, whether it involves science or myth. The fact that he follows a piece on atoms with one on the prankster god Loki seems no accident. Trying to see the world anew, though, also means seeing the world weirdly at times, and he delivers peculiar takes on Q-tips and half-seriously proposes “sex stations along major roads” to satisfy carnal cravings. Such moments, however, read more like fresh perspectives than hollow provocations.
A winningly interior journey into the most interior of seasons.