Bruce Bawer at Hudson Review:
Yet while these very traits may distinguish Knausgaard from your standard Norwegian-literary-elite type, they make him seem very familiar—and endearing—to rank-and-file Norwegians. Like most of his countrymen, Knausgaard is a matter-of-fact and unpretentious soul; although My Struggle does include a number of essayistic musings on life, death, and other grand abstractions, some of which go on at length (the last and longest one, in the final volume, fills over 400 pages), they read not like highfalutin poetry but, in good Norwegian fashion, like frank, intensely engaged, down-to-earth conversation of the sort you could imagine taking place over a few beers at some down-at-heels watering hole. For obvious reasons, Knausgaard has been compared to Proust (Time magazine even entitled its review “Norway’s Proust”), but he’s every bit as Norwegian as Proust was French, which is to say that while it came naturally to Proust to perpetrate elaborate, poetic, and witty prose, it comes just as naturally to Knausgaard to be blunt, straightforward, and prosaic—to spin out sentences so artless that they can read like excerpts from a hurriedly dashed-off letter. Knausgaard himself has said that he reveres Proust but has laughingly dismissed descriptions of himself as a Norwegian Proust, stating in an interview, quite sensibly, that the very concept is “a contradiction in terms.”
So Norwegian is he, indeed, that at one point, in what amounts to a summing-up of the so-called Jante Law—formulated in 1933 by Norwegian novelist Aksel Sandemose, by way of representing the manner in which almost all Norwegians are (or, at least until the last couple of decades, were) trained from infancy to think about themselves—Knausgaard tells himself:
Don’t believe you are anybody.
Do not fucking believe you are somebody.
Because you are not. You’re just a smug, mediocre little shit.