In the finale of his Seasons Quartet addressed to his young daughter, the My Struggle author offers extended meditations on domestic life, the quotidian—from playgrounds to the electric hand mixer—as well as a narrative about a Norwegian woman his grandfather knew who fell in love with a German officer during World War II.
In essays like these, subjects glow in the light of fierce attention ... His view is existentialist and tragic; many essays end with a reminder of death ... Yet he can become transfixed with the glory of the everyday, the wordless eloquence of landscape, sky colors at sunset, the hills of Norway. Such near-ecstatic homage pulls against his insistent darkness ... Also pervading Summer is art, what it is, why it is crucial. The diary entry for June 7, 2016, meditates on literary art, why art must be ruthless, tell the truth no matter how we feel about it (as Knausgaard tries to do here). Utterly remarkable, this passage could be a mini-primer for a course on literature ... Although there will be much that saddens and disturbs, Little Anne may well grow up grateful for this record of a father's world and soul.
Summer begins with Knausgaard continuing his encyclopaedic summaries of things and concepts ... electric hand mixers, which, he notes, unlike almost everything else human-made, resemble nothing else in nature ... It’s a charming but head-scratching piece poised elusively between the absurd and the profound—a description that applies to most, if not all, the entries. They can be enjoyed for the ideas and images Knausgaard conjures seemingly out of nowhere, or at least out of such everyday material to which most of us give so little thought that nowhere might as well be their provenance ... He is...endlessly curious about the world. It’s just that his perceptions of it are so particular, and so much the product of his internalized debate, that the world ends up being one vast, if often fascinating, projection of Knausgaard’s restless mind.
The fourth volume in his Seasons Quartet, Summer, is less propelling [than Spring]—a combination of musing on his quintessential subjects and diary entries ... Summer, in particular, is uneven and uncategorizable ... Surprisingly, in these diaries the first-person narrative is taken over by the voice of a 73-year-old Norwegian woman remembering her affair with an Austrian soldier during World War II ... her narrative is underwhelming, and not nearly as interesting or courageous in its revelations as Knausgaard himself. Taking on a female perspective is refreshing, but he fails to give this character equal gravitas. He also rather disappointingly leaves out an ending diary for August ... He may be done with this quartet, the My Struggle series, and autofiction altogether, but I still want more of it. That kind of passionate literary intimacy is rare. And wanting more and even more—isn’t that just like being in love?