Rivka Galchen at The New York Times:
An international best seller, “My Struggle” has been acclaimed, declaimed and compared to Proust. It is said that Norwegian companies have had to declare “Knausgaard-free” days — no reading, no discussion — so work can get done. All of which means whatever it means, but even a skeptical reader, after a few hundred of any of the volumes’ pages, will concede it is highly likely that “My Struggle” is a truly original and enduring and great work of literature. Yet it is an original and enduring and great work of literature that produces the sensation of reading something like an unedited transcript of one man’s somewhat but not all that remarkable life, written in language that is fairly often banal. (The final phrase of Book 3 is “lodged in my memory with a ring as true as perfect pitch.”)
And so a perhaps childish thought, akin to that of young Karl Ove’s, nags at a reader, especially if the reader reveres the book, as this and many other readers do: Is that really all there is to it? Seemingly indiscriminate amounts of detail about whatever it is that actually happens in real life (or close enough) and there you go, that’s a great book? It’s difficult to believe that literature has been replenished not by an obscure and patient pearl fisherman diving into deep waters and coming up with a blue face, but rather by a reasonably successful 40-something Norwegian guy with three (now four) kids and a pretty comfortable bourgeois life near Copenhagen whose work more resembles “diving” for pennies at the local water fountain.