In its long, wandering sentences, in which so much that is unalike is swept up and suspended, the grammar seems to stretch to accommodate this contradiction: that details mean both nothing and everything ... This uncertainty as to seriousness, of not knowing what the weight of experience is—the literary term is bathos—is My Struggle’s pervasive feeling. It’s the feeling, both thrilling and confusing, of encountering somebody who doesn’t know the unwritten rules. They are unwritten because they are deep inside us; they are the rules of society, which are part of our identity. On every page of My Struggle we are reminded of these rules, which human beings follow instinctively and as a matter of self-preservation, because Knausgaard disregards them. We feel viscerally that he shouldn’t be telling us what we nonetheless can’t stop reading because we know exactly what he means.
At 1,156 pages, this final volume is sprawling and episodic. It is also a public performance, in that it was written as the drama around the publication of the earlier volumes was unfolding. There is a sense of the worm eating its tail or tale ... There are moving passages in the new book, notably a painful discussion of his wife’s bipolar disorder ... Book Six should finally put to rest the interpretation of the early volumes of My Struggle as the work of a 'noble savage,' a deliberately artless or unmediated outpouring. Knausgaard is frank here about his artifice and more than happy in the realms of intellectual abstraction ... his explorations seem urgent, part of an attempt to present 'a man in full,' to give weight to every part of his life, connecting his intellectual preoccupations to his domestic ones ... It is instructive to watch an attentive novelist sifting through what is known about Hitler’s hungry early years ... Knausgaard’s intention is not to recuperate or exonerate Hitler, but to suggest that presenting him as an immutable figure of evil, as Kershaw feels duty bound to do, is a sort of fictionalization ... By its nature, My Struggle—a vast text produced at a breakneck pace—is a patchy, imperfect book, but reading it is an unforgettable experience. Knausgaard’s presentation of self is not only a democratic assertion of the importance of an ordinary life, but also a major contribution to the scant literature of fatherhood.
Perhaps because they have so much more to compete with, this volume’s evocations of domestic life — fraught spats with Linda about who will mind the children in the apartment in Malmo, grueling family vacations, simmering irritation with the stridently politically correct parents of the kids’ school friends, shopping for dinner parties — are not only exhaustive, but downright exhausting ... All this, finally, brings us to the main event, by far the finest thing in this strange book and, in my experience, the best thing Knausgaard has written, marked by enormous intellectual panache and quite different from anything else in the novel (it’s amazing how lively the writing suddenly is when he’s not writing about himself): a nearly 400-page close reading of 'Mein Kampf,' complete with detours through related texts, in which the author tries to recover and reproduce the lived experience of the frustrated, depressed and impoverished young man who would become the Nazi tyrant... Yet this intriguing notion forces you into an uncomfortable reconsideration of Knausgaard himself. As I closed the final volume of My Struggle, struck by how little this hugely ambitious artistic undertaking had moved me, I thought about the emotions that course through it and how they are presented.... Knausgaard’s creation, for all its vastness and despite its serious intellectual aims and attainments, reduces the entire world to the size of the author.