William Deresiewicz at The Nation:
So why are we even talking about it? Because My Struggle is in the process of being anointed as a literary masterpiece, and not just in Norway. “Karl Ove Knausgaard Is Your Favorite Author’s Favorite Author” went a recent headline in The New Republic. The article cites Jeffrey Eugenides, Zadie Smith and Jonathan Lethem among the devotees and adds that Knausgaard, who turns 46 this year, is already being touted for the Nobel Prize. James Wood, in The New Yorker, has called the novel “ceaselessly compelling.” Leland de la Durantaye, in The New York Times Book Review, has pronounced it “breathtakingly good.” “Everywhere I’ve gone this past year,” wrote Smith last December in The New York Review of Books, “the talk, amongst bookish people, has been of this Norwegian.”
That talk, it’s fair to guess from the reviews, has centered on a single theme: the book is often boring, yes, the writing often artless, but despite it all—or rather, for those very reasons—Knausgaard manages something unprecedented. He immerses us completely in his own experience. “You live his life with him,” writes Smith. “You don’t simply ‘identify’ with the character, effectively you ‘become’ them.” Knausgaard’s life may be mundane, the thinking goes, but so is yours. His existence may be full of petty chores and cares, but so is everyone’s. And his renunciation of art—his apparent refusal, as Wood expresses it, to shape or select—is the very thing that draws us in.