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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
A Man in Love: My Struggle Book 2 (Knausgaard)
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on 14 August 2017
The second in the magisterial fiction series, that is closely autobiographical to Karl Ove Knausgaard’s own life. The substantial volume follows the first in the series – forensic accounts of episodes from the narrator’s past, in conjunction with philosophical and literary thoughts. The narrative begins with the Norwegian narrator, Karl Ove himself, living in Sweden with his three children and wife, Linda and then works it way slowly, in a decidedly non-linear way, to establish how he got to this situation, with all its daily frustrations and rewards. At times it’s a bit like a Russian doll of a book, in that he will wander off to discuss another strand of the story, leaving previous other elements unconcluded, and then returns to them, to confuse the inattentive reader.
The core of the story is about Karl Ove’s new relationship with Linda, with whom by 2009 he had three children. He was already married, to Tonje, but feels stifled in Norway, and bolts, moving to Stockholm, where he meets and becomes enraptured by his new love. The challenging romance and relationship is described in, at times, painful detail.
At times, Knausgaard seems rather like Philip Larkin in his need for solitude and quiet, while still balancing a fairly complicated social existence, as well as disliking the publicity that comes with being a well-known and talented writer.
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on 14 September 2017
Use them.
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on 25 September 2017
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on 20 October 2014
I read this in the US hardback edition (available directly from Archipelago books) which was an experience that, as with volume 1, worked out well.

There is nothing in this second volume to equal the account in the second half of the first volume of Knausgaard going, with his brother, to visit the house in which his father died, where his grandmother now lives (with her mind unravelling) and which has been completely trashed by his alcoholic father over the previous three years.

But there is a great deal to enjoy, and I suspect remember: the full horror of finding it a struggle to cope with three children and of the politics of the family and the couple - and dealing with a mother in law who is drinking while looking after their first child for them part-time; a New Year's Eve party with friends (in which they all say their life has been going down hill and they are in their 30s); becoming a house husband; talks with his friend Geir and the differences between Swedish and Norwegian behaviours (of which I had previously has no idea - Swedes are civilised and controlled; Norwegians a little wild and let it all hang out); readings of his work and interviews; and reflections on Norwegian literature (which I expect I will soon forget!)….above all Knausgaard's determination to work (write) come what may - and come what may in terms of the consequences for his wife and his children…and Knausgaard in love, lacerating his own face with a broken bottle when an approach to the woman who will become his (second) wife has gone awry at a residential writer's workshop (and he is already married at the time)….

This remains a work like no other, and it remains a puzzle to me how the mundane details of life can provide the material for a work of fiction that holds the reader's attention…But I have now read two long books and expect I will soon set out on the third...
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on 11 July 2013
Another compelling read with a stunning start; probably more so for anyone who has had children and taken them to stay with childless friends. Perhaps a slightly guilty, but soon shrugged off, sense of recognition from just those same childless recipients of families coming to stay. And maybe a sense of disbelief from those who are childless and don't have families to stay, or have children but don't stay with the childless. And a sense of sadness from those childless who do have children to stay and love every minute (despite the tiredness), and their visitors who absolutely love going to stay with them and are eternally, and I mean eternally, grateful for their reception. Karl Ove Knausgaard maybe a bit of a selfish c**t at times, but he's an honest selfish c**t, and there aren't that many of them around, particularly those that can write so well and so accurately. I loved reading this book, I had to ration myself so i didn't read it all in one sitting.
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on 16 May 2015
the first book fulfils all of the brief; dark , Nordic, quirkily microscopic (oh and easy to read). This one loses the drama, ups the mundanity and is much less good.
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on 22 March 2015
I think this is the best of the three Knausgaard volumes that I've read so far (I started with Book 3 and then read Book 1 - not a bad order to tackle them, as it happens). Having read about his childhood and his father's death, this volume covers fatherhood, though in fact we miss out a period that would have covered his first marriage, which we hear little about. Maybe that comes in the next installment, I'm not sure. Or maybe even Knausgaard can't think of much to say about it.

Why should we want to read about this rather ordinary life? That's the great mystery of Knausgaard: he manages to keep us reading while describing, in great detail, the boring routine of everyday life. This is reality literature: a rambling account of everything we all do all the time, detailed descriptions of making a cup of tea, boiling potatoes, changing a nappy, pouring a drink ... it's mostly banal, often dull, but also strangely compulsive and occasionally brilliant.

This book reaches new heights with a lengthy account of the birth of their first baby. It's by far the most moving part of the story so far, perhaps because the birth of a child is of course more moving than making a cup of tea, but also because Knausgaard captures the intensity of the whole thing quite brilliantly. I'd be surprised if any author has done it better.
But of course, not many authors have tackled these subjects before. Or at least, if they did they weren't published. This is what makes him so different: he wrote a 3,600-page novel detailing an ordinary life, and he actually got it published!

Knausgaard has been compared to Proust, with some justification, but Proust never wrote about this kind of thing. Where in `La Recherche' is the artful description of boiling potatoes? Nowhere, because Proust never made a meal in his life. And he didn't get married or have kids. In fact this book is the least Proust-like of the three volumes I've read so far, but none the worse for that. No writer will ever improve on Proust, because Proust is about a time and a place as well as being the ultimate expression of literature as an art form.
What Knausgaard does is to update the lengthy autobiographical concept for modern times: to capture, as Proust did, the essence of what it means to be human, but to do it not through a privileged, high-society existence, but through a life much like everyone else's. And it works: this is his genius.

However, there are a lot of boring bits in `My Struggle', and Book Two is no exception; Towards the end there's a conversation between Knausgaard and his friend Geir that lasts for 30 pages and becomes a device for dumping a whole load of opinions onto the reader, similar in a way to the rambling dialogues on religion and philosophy in `The Brothers Karamazov', which might not be a coincidence, as Knausgaard often mentions Dostoevsky.
It's because of this sort of thing, and all the times he writes `ha ha ha!' and all the other lines that should have been left out, that I can't give this five stars. But even so, it's good in its own unique way, and I intend to read the next installment, after a short break, perhaps.
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on 5 August 2017
Excellent series of books. This one is my personal favourite though!
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on 23 March 2015
For huge swathes of the novel this is really dull, not a patch on the first book in the series, and that had its 'longeurs'. The interminable conversations with other Scandinavian poets and novelists remind me of scenes with Jack Kerouac and the 'deadbeats' he hung around with and their endless aimless conversations.
While his unpleasant wife was giving birth the book burst briefly into life burst into life before resuming its dismal progress.
Knausgaard's egoism knows no bounds. He expects us to empathise with his dreary life without making the effort or having the skill to make it interesting.
I think this is seriously overhyped.
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on 11 December 2014
I am presently bogged down in the description of a family group with small children whose every word is listened to by the writer, and transmitted faithfully to the reader.
The first volume, 'A death in the Family' was compulsive reading, with wonderful atmospheric restructuring of boyhood and a father-son relationship, where you could taste and smell the small town dreariness of Western Norway - reminiscent of Ibsen's youth. I wasn't struck by the apparently exact recall, believing that we can all bring up that degree of detail if we concentrate hard enough both at the time and in the memory. I'll have to get over my desire to spank the children and speak seriously to Mr Knausgaard about his child-rearing before I can continue with the series, which, I believe, is infinitely worthwhile.
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