Harvill Secker £17.99

Review: A Man in Love, By Kari Ove Knausgaard

Wrecked dreams and broken spirit? Welcome to parenthood!

Newcomers to the phenomenon that is Karl Ove Knausgaard might be forgiven for wondering what they've let themselves in for with A Man in Love, the second instalment of the six-part dissection of his life that has caused such a storm in his native Norway.

Knausgaard plunges straight into the tense backdrop of a family holiday with characteristic disregard for the reader, who is left flailing as he segues from marital discord and child-rearing theories to train-of-thought philosophising on behavioural determinism. And all within the first few pages.

This is classic Knausgaard, who shot to fame in 2009 with the publication of the first part of My Struggle: in total, a 3,600-page work in six parts that put his family life under the microscope. The doggedly autobiographical volumes, which kicked off with a description of growing up with an alcoholic father, offended family and friends alike, prompting lawsuits and furore in his native country.

The very title – Min Kamp in Norwegian – implies Knausgaard's aptitude for a fight, and nothing in A Man in Love deviates from that notion. The struggle, for him, is life itself, with its debilitating routines and ultimate pointlessness. "Everyday life, with its duties and routines, was something I endured, not a thing I enjoyed, nor something that was meaningful or made me happy," he discloses. This leaves him struggling to make his life his own, "because of course I wanted it, but I failed, the longing for something else undermined all my efforts".

His endeavour, not to mention fluid narrative, which skips around in time and place, both externally and internally, invites obligatory comparisons with Proust, who Knausgaard has, of course, read. The result is a remarkable insight into the mind of a man in the grip of a mid-life crisis as he battles with the big questions posed by parenthood and the unwelcome realisation that there is no second chance. "At the age of forty the life you have lived so far, always pro tem, has for the first time become life itself, and this reappraisal swept away all dreams, destroyed all your notions that real life, the one that was meant to be, the great deeds you would perform, was somewhere else."

A Man in Love sees Knausgaard, now 44, move from Norway to Sweden where he marries Linda, an old acquaintance, and has three children. His descriptions of fatherhood in that most notorious of egalitarian countries are priceless: his "modern and feminised" self, buggy in hand, battling with his internal "furious 19th-century man" as he strides Stockholm's streets.

The many passages on parenting have a raw honesty. His description of his wife giving birth is exemplary, and I speak as someone who has gone through the process. The other topic he tackles head on is depression, his wife's depression. It's uncomfortable, if instructive, stuff. He views Sweden as a "shitty little country" where "everything [was] normality; anything different was abnormal".

This is a man who details seemingly every last cigarette smoked and coffee drunk, and who can fill paragraph-less pages with the permeations of a single thought. But, surprisingly for one so self-obsessed, his achievement is that his struggle ultimately becomes that of his readers.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie