Stuart Evers

Closure at last

After thousands of pages, My Struggle reaches The End. It’s a fitting conclusion to a mesmerising work of art

And so it comes, the final volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle sequence: a pale brick of a book, one that might be The End, but is an undertaking all of itself. The previous five books — autofictions that catalogue one’s man’s life in exacting, almost terrifyingly detail — were far from slender, but The End is nearly 1,200 pages, and as such presents itself almost as a challenge, or a dare. Are you sure you want to do this? Can you really face a further delve into the painstaking minutiae of Knausgaard’s thoughts and actions? These are questions that recur as you read, the answers often changing in the turn of a page.

As with A Man in Love, the second — and probably the finest — volume, Knausgaard narrates from a conspicuous present, looking back on past deeds, consumed by the brickbats and tensions of daily life. And there are many tensions. As the first novel is to be published in Norway, his uncle threatens legal action, his objections also speaking to a familial acrimony to which Karl Ove was oblivious. It feels that this battle will be at the heart of The End, his uncle a fierce antagonist, but the real threat is the author himself, and his monomaniacal urge to purge.

Some of the most effective parts of the first section — seamlessly translated by Martin Aitken, keeping the tone already established by Don Bartlett, who also translates the last section — are those when Knausgaard wonders why he’s vandalising important relationships, or examines his memory of events he has written about. His uncle claims that most of the first book is entirely faked, downright lies. It gives the reader pause — have we been duped all this time? — and threatens what we have already chosen to accept as fact.

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