PositiveFull StopAs is so often the case with prophets (not to mention the books that typically get written about them), his most lasting desire as soon as he had cleared himself of his origins was to erase them completely. However, it is one of the more noticeable features of Tokarczuk’s tentative and capacious form that it does not let him do this — or at least it does not let us do this with him. On the contrary, it lingers over the world of Jacob and his followers like a group of old women gossiping over a dinner they are preparing ... Indeed, in many places, the battered world of Jewish shtetl life appears to be lending its shape to Tokarzcuk’s narrative itself, nudging what might have been a straightforward rise-and-fall story into something that twists unexpectedly, doubling back on itself with the insistence of a dog chasing a scent. Its swerves and sudden tugs can be bewildering at first, even disorienting, but after a while we start to sense a pattern in them, as if they were dictated by a hidden center. The feeling of immanence and expectation is one that the characters in the book feel too, although often in a way that moves them to reject the very world that has given rise to it ... as things fall apart in this book, they get very sad, not melodramatically but gently and irresistibly, like a reminder, as opposed to some new truth. It is a sadness that makes us nostalgic, at least partially, for the joy of a life that knows where it is going and what it is doing.
Karl Ove Knausgaard
RaveThe Literary ReviewWhat gives the novel its tension is that the worst part of its disaster always seems about to happen. This overwhelming sense of dread transforms a typical coming-of-age story into a monster movie—or, to put it another way, it shows us that childhood is itself a monster movie ... Form and destruction: the two words run like rails through My Struggle, creating an energy that we see not only in the writing itself, but in the book’s central relationship between the jittery, unformed narrator and his rule-obsessed father ... A book so shot through with emptiness and death that it leaves its readers feeling full and alive. A deeply morbid book, My Struggle is nonetheless as full of life as a boat is of wind or a house is of light.