My Struggle: Book 4

Book four of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s unending struggle was a bounce back in the right direction, much better than the stinker of book 3, albeit flawed in its own right. The time period is post-high school, Karl Ove heads to northern Norway to be a teacher at age 18, drinking heavily, attempting to write. Here we have signs of his real struggle, that of becoming a writer. He’s consumed by his problem of premature ejaculation and confesses to never masturbating, which is what he believes is causing this. There’s terrible stuff like: “Quite often I caught myself wishing we were still in the Stone Age, then all I would have needed to do was go out with a club, hit the nearest woman on the head, and drag her home to do whatever I wanted.” But this is balanced out as much as is possible by lyrical descriptions of the village by the sea that does not see sunlight during the winter, only thick snow and darkness:

The days became shorter, and they became shorter quickly, as though they were racing toward the darkness. The first snow arrived in mid-October, went after a few days, but the next time it fell, at the beginning of November, it came with a vengeance, day after day it tumbled down, and soon everything was packed in thick white cushions of snow, apart from the sea, which with its dark, clean surface and terrible depths lay nearby like an alien and menacing presence, like a murderer who has moved into a neighboring house and whose unheeded knife glints on the kitchen table.

He gleefully sinks into life in the village, storing up incidents to share via letter to friends, like the man who pulls a gun on him for spending too much time with his girlfriend, or riding in cars at top speeds and listening to old country and western songs. There’s also sprinklings of memories from high school days, how he got caught up in a drinking spiral and couldn’t shake it, kicked out of the house by his mom during the last few months of school. Mostly, it’s an endless struggle to find and hook up with ladies, which culminates in the final scene at a music festival, losing his virginity at last.