New book - A Man in Love, by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Returning to Knausgaard's world is like looking in the mirror. Him and I seem to be very different people, but I am a man and a father and we have much else in common: we're European, we're white, we grew up in democracies, listening to pop music, in the late 20th century and we both lived as expatriates and witnessed the fading of a culture we remember from our youths. If an alien came down they'd think we were more or less the same person. But the events he describes are detailed enough to be recognisably not my life, and his reactions certainly not mine. For example I find the 'feminine' softness of sitting on the floor and singing with my children a welcome respite from the demands of an office, not an excruiating and humiliating experience. But the pages draw from me as a reader a general sympathy that runs beyond the clarity of the individual scenes. I feel kinship with him, and distance. He writes of generalities which never suggest the archetypes or the tropes of fiction. So is it not just someonw writing about his life? Clearly not, because he divines the details from memory as if watching himself on video. Maybe it's an autobiographical framework that is filled in carefully with fiction.
Regardless, this is a story about him, his life, and the way he chooses to tell it. It isn't possible to accurately critique A Man in Love without thinking about reader response, without thinking about the mirror. Any other critical tool would miss the point.