Since reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s novel last May, I’ve been checking compulsively for news of when Don Bartlett will complete the translation into English from the original Norwegian the remaining volumes. This week I learned that Archipelago will be publishing Book Two of My Struggle next May (2013). And in my surfing for information about Knausgård I’ve found a few more articles online, reviews, including one on The Millions titled “Searching for the Meaning of Life” by David Masciotra (16 July 2012).
Masciotra calls, in his first sentence, My Struggle a memoir, a term which Knausgård has disavowed. True the book is drawn from Knausgård’s experience, but he has used the tools of a novelist to construct a story that goes beyond the artistic license of the memoir.
Also, Masciotra says that Knausgård has retired from writing, a statement I’m suspicious of given that Knausgård addressed this point in his public reading at the Lillian Vernon Writers Center on the third of May, a reading and discussion I attended with my friend Rasan. What I recall Knausgård saying was that he is no longer an author, or at least the narrator of My Struggle is no longer an author, suggesting a distinction between authors and writers. Knausgård himself, as was implied, might carry on writing hefty tomes for the foreseeable future. Although there is something appealing in this idea of the great refusal, the conviction to put down the pen and not write another word. It’s possible that Knausgård has the strength to join the legion of great literary Bartlebys. On the other hand, after writing a 3,600 page book in the space of three or four years, he just might need the rest.
Another way of thinking about the author / writer distinction is that Knausgård, by speed writing and minimally editing and possibly not even rereading whole sections of his book after a day of feverishly pecking away at the keyboard, was operating in the mode of a writer, a typist taking dictation from his (sub?)conscious. If he were to act as an author, the process of bringing My Struggle into existence would have been a more deliberate one and probably would have resulted in a more distilled product, a mere 1000 pages, say. I suspect that the narrator of My Struggle reaches the end of his labors and realizes that he has not acted as an author. Unfortunately, I can’t test my idea against the text of Book Six since (at this rate) I probably won’t see the English translation until 2017.