From the author of the six-volume My Struggle series, a collection of essays on art, literature, culture, and philosophy. Knausgaard reflects openly on Ingmar Bergman's notebooks, Anselm Kiefer, the Northern Lights, Madame Bovary, Rembrandt, and the role of an editor.
... may prove to be less salacious but no less provocative. Or, at least, no less thought-provoking ... Neither confessional in the vein of David Sedaris nor meditative in the style of the Atlantic’s James Parker, these essays suggest the philosophical mode of Emerson, that of an observant, detached, analytic, earnest, and fearless interlocutor whose intellect ranges over a landscape as vast as the Scandinavian night sky ... The first 17 essays in In the Land of the Cyclops are philosophically illuminating, but somewhat didactic and stylistically ponderous. The same ideas appear several times, and Knausgaard’s digressions, while interesting, can be distracting. But then we come to the final offering, Ten Years Old, the one giving form to all the principles found in the rest ... his artistic genius makes us feel something has transpired. And it is monumental.
Between the slings and arrows born and the writer’s already well established tendency toward fruitful self-absorption, it is not surprising that Knausgaard spends too much time playing defense in In the Land of the Cyclops ... But when the veil of self-preservation lifts, the fine criticism is impossible to overlook ... His review of Michel Houellebecq’s controversial novel Submission is exquisitely done ... When he gets out of his own way, Knausgaard’s passion for interiority and the detail of the individual experience, the most brilliant elements of his fiction, come through.
These occasional writings reveal a more academic Knausgaard. But, as in the fiction, his intense focus, formidable command of reference and tendency to see the interconnectedness of things make for highly stimulating, almost overwhelming reading ... Though such asides — the lighting of cigarettes, conversations with his children, midnight angst — might seem redundant, they do give the essays the same semblance of radical honesty that radiates through his fiction. This pseudo-narrative approach also allows him to dramatize his critical process: to lay bare his neuroses, deconstruct his prejudices and construct judgments from scratch. The pantomime of critical dispassion is avoided; the rhetorical effect is one of wisdom gained rather than merely delivered ... Though they can sometimes seem recondite, these essays repay slow reading and retain considerable power to surprise ... Saying everything that comes to mind may be risky, but its rewards are potentially awesome: revelation, epiphany, salvation.