6 years. 6 volumes. 1,371,255 words, 3,770 pages.

3 children, 2 marriages, 1 life-defining death.

212.5 coffees drunk, 217 cigarettes smoked.

Since A Death in the Family was first published in English in 2012, we’ve spent over 125 hours* reading My Struggle. We’ve followed Karl Ove through childhood into adulthood, through first love and heartbreak, through becoming a father, becoming a writer, through the highs and lows of life.

And we haven’t been able to stop. The End is a masterpiece, bringing the whole series into sharp focus as Knausgaard looks back on how his writing about an ordinary life became one of the most extraordinary literary projects of our times.

* That’s nearly five days straight, assuming you read 30 pages an hour…

My Struggle Book 1: A Death in the Family

The one about grief: and where it all started. This is the beginning, published when few readers outside of Norway were aware of the towering novelist/Viking soon to become the talk of literary pages across the world. In this first volume, Karl Ove’s father passes away and the fallout is felt keenly throughout. The extended scene in which his vacant house is emptied and cleaned has become iconic, representing Knausgaard’s hyperreal and compelling writing style. Many begin here, but who will stay the course through to Book 6?

My Struggle Book 2: A Man in Love

The one about new life and love: Karl Ove leaves his first wife and everything he knows in Oslo for a fresh start in Stockholm. There he strikes up a deep and competitive friendship with Geir and pursues Linda, a beautiful poet who captivated him years ago. This second volume sees Knausgaard write of tempestuous relationships, the trials of parenthood and an urge to create great art. The episode in which he endures a humiliating parent and child jam session is a firm favourite of My Struggle fans – masculine frustration, bourgeois horror and not a little self-deprecating humour.

My Struggle Book 3: Boyhood Island

The one about childhood adventure: for the young Karl Ove, new houses, schools and friends are met with both excitement and creeping dread. Adults occupy god-like positions of power, benevolent in the case of his doting mother, much less so in the case of his tyrannical father. The third volume of My Struggle is about family, memory and how we never become quite what we set out to be. Few writers have been able to recapture the feeling of being a kid so vividly.

My Struggle Book 4: Dancing in the Dark

The one about teenage years: where he sets off to a first teaching job in a lonely fisherman’s village in remote northern Norway. Music-obsessed Karl Ove has his own flat, a space to write, the attention of some beautiful teenage girls, and all seems to be going quite well. But at 18 he’s still a virgin stuck in an Arctic backwater, and how many humiliations will it take for that to change? And what happens when he develops feelings for one of his younger students? After one particularly heavy night of boozing, he looks back in anger and tenderness on his alcoholic blackouts, linking them to his father’s own terrifying demise.

My Struggle Book 5: Some Rain Must Fall

The one about becoming a writer: and Knausgaard’s 14 years living in Bergen. As the youngest student at Bergen’s writing academy, Knausgaard’s early faltering attempts at poetry and prose are torn apart. Outside the classroom, he drinks, throws up at parties, gets into fights and falls out with girlfriends. As he says himself, ‘I knew so little, had such ambitions and achieved nothing.’ But then he meets Tonje, who will become his first wife, and life changes. He turns out to be a thoughtful and insightful literary critic, and finds his first publisher. All with a Knausgaardian-helping of shameful agony.

My Struggle Book 6: The End

The one where it all comes together: and Knausgaard faces the consequences of his project. The first volume of My Struggle is about to be published, and Karl Ove waits nervously, obsessively checking his email while trying to be a good parent to his three young children, anxious to hear back from friends and family as they read the manuscript. Most approve or accept, but his uncle Gunnar threatens to sue in the most savage terms. Then comes a near 500-page essay, on naming and individual and collective identity, the power of language, Hitler and Paul Celan’s poetry. After My Struggle is published, Knausgaard must navigate literary fame, aggressive reporters, family holidays, and Linda’s deepening depression.

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