From obscure author to literary legend—that’s the transition Karl Ove Knausgaard has made in recent years thanks to his acclaimed autobiographical work, My Struggle. In that six-volume series, he delivers a meticulously detailed chronicle of his upbringing in Norway and his life as a writer, husband and father.
Knausgaard has a gift for making the quotidian seem compelling. His inclusivity and exactitude of detail, along with his tendency to follow narrative tangents to their exhausted ends, allows him to replicate on the page the nature of his own experience in a way that feels both expansive and microscopic. This effect enlivens his new book, Autumn, the first of four essay compilations, each of which will be named for a season.
Autumn was written as Knausgaard awaited the arrival of his fourth child, Anne, and it serves as a sort of introduction to the material world. Knausgaard offers musings on items encountered during the routine business of living—from plastic bags, bottles and rubber boots to the drum kit he keeps in his office. He also focuses on nature and its power to astonish and on the mysteries of the human body. Whether he’s writing about a rainstorm (“the sound of thunder always heightens the sense of being alive”) or teeth (“miniature white towers in the mouth”), the scrutiny Knausgaard applies to everyday objects renews them for the reader.
The essays in this perceptive collection are no more than a few pages in length, and Knausgaard’s prose style throughout is unembellished and precise. But the book also has an underpinning of tenderness. Of his children, Knausgaard writes, “I want them to relish life and have a sense of its abundance.” In Autumn, he captures that sense—and much more.