In the third of his Seasons Quartet, Knausgaard writes a letter to his youngest daughter meditating on his ideas and past experiences while recounting his family's daily activities, from which his wife is conspicuously and troublingly absent.
We’ve all seen this, I know, on TV and in the movies, the constant cajoling and haggling parent and the variously resistant kids, or we’ve done it ourselves, where it’s not cute and is almost always exasperating. But to read it as Knausgaard presents it is nothing but thrilling: it matters for us, we are aware of a tension; it feels routine but it also feels as if the unimaginably bad could happen at any moment ... There are two conspicuous mysteries and a few quiet ones that keep us anxiously focused as Knausgaard describes the routines and variations of everyday family life. He wants to show us that our thoughts, impressions, and memories are actions too ... As the house-making dad, the anxious husband and father, Knausgaard the writer continues to seem to me at his greatest, as he is in Spring, situating himself in the present day while he unpeels the past that is in its midst ... It’s poignant and beautiful, with his usual constant striving toward the most exposed vulnerability.
Knausgaard reveals his life and tries to impart some wisdom to his dozing infant passenger ... He weighs the promise of life against the meanness, cruelty and tragedy that await us all. Existence is full of spontaneous threatening swerves. Knausgaard’s assets are on full display, including his precise writing style and his unerring sense of detail. He is constantly attuned to his surroundings, noting the changing weather and the colors of flowers, which may account for why he is so successful at what he does: transforming quotidian life into drama. Perhaps it is the Proustian in him, this desire to impart the full benefit of experience, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Domestic life is his territory, and he enlarges it.
The book begins in a home where everything is leaking and creaking and on the verge of collapse. Every zipper is stuck, every button loose. The drains are clogged. The light bulbs have burned out long ago. So has the marriage ... Spring features Knausgaard unbound, writing for the first time without a gimmick or the crutch of extravagant experimentation, the endurance test of My Struggle or the staccato essays of his previous books on the seasons. Spring refuses contrivance; it refuses to parry ... the book’s blunt, unforced telling brings the larger project’s meaning into sudden, brilliant focus ... Knausgaard has assembled this living encyclopedia for his daughter with a wild and desperate sort of love, as a way to forge her attachment to the world, to fasten her to it — to fight the family legacy of becoming unmoored and alienated.