Rain Falls in Norway

Michael Hayward

It’s time to check in again on the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose six-volume memoir-as-novel is being released in annual installments in an English translation by Don Bartlett. In the 216 episode, Some Rain Must Fall (Knopf), volume 5 of his ongoing struggle, we find our hero at age twenty, about to be admitted to a prestigious writing academy in Bergen. In this volume we see Knausgaard wrestle with ambition and envy, self-doubt and despair, lust and shame. You cannot overstate the urgency of Knausgaard’s desire to become a writer: it is all-consuming. “What was the point of looking,” he asks at one point, “if you couldn’t write about what you saw? What was the point of experiencing anything at all if you couldn’t write about what you had experienced?” As in the earlier volumes of My Struggle, Knausgaard demonstrates his remarkable ability to make every banal detail, and each minor decision, seem heightened by his attention to it: “Surely this incident must be crucial to the narrative, or it wouldn’t be included.” And yet it almost never is crucial: “This opera we call life,” we conclude with some surprise, “is simply one ordinary event following another.” And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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