Reviews

Old Cobblers

Michael Hayward

I’ve been waiting impatiently for the final volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume novel/memoir, My Struggle, to appear in its English translation, so I perked up when Autumn (Knopf), a new book from Knausgaard, was announced. True, the reviews had been harsh—the Guardian called it “the most colossal load of old cobblers”—but I tried to stay hopeful. Autumn is written as a series of short essays addressed to Knausgaard’s then-unborn daughter, telling her of the wonders that await her in the world: apples, wasps, plastic bags and frogs; blood, piss, vomit and jellyfish; flies, lice, labia and war. Twenty wonders per month, for September, October and November. I was doing okay until I hit the first wonder of November, “Tin Cans,” which includes a rhapsodic description of canned peas: “small, round, dark green peas lying there in their transparent, slightly viscous brine.” The fatal blow was this: “They taste so much better and richer than pale frozen peas, the taste seems darker somehow, and is perfect as an accompaniment to fish fingers.” I immediately lost all respect for Knausgaard. For how can you trust the prose of someone who dines on fish fingers, and who prefers canned peas to frozen?

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