I finally got to see Knausgaard speak at the Fleck Theatre in Toronto on October 25th. The highlight was definitely at the end when I had him sign his autograph of one of my favourite excerpts on page 69. He briefly gave me a smile of hilarity since I had underlined almost all of two pages. The funny thing is that when I was asked before by a worker there to pick out my favourite page and have if ready for him to sign, I was almost overcome in trying to pick my favourite excerpt. There are pen underlinings all over my personal version of this novel. In the end, nothing more effective can be used as an instrument to measure my liking for any piece of literature.
In part because I had just finished the first book of "My Struggle", but also because Knausgaard's strengths of form as a writer continued, I found Part 2 easily immersed with Part One. The themes that arose in Part One when Knausgaard talks about his father's traumatic death ranged from topics like solitude, drinking, writing, memory and family. In Part Two, he maintains the same rich Proustian style while opening other spectrums, as we look at the narrative of life with his wife Linda. One of these spectrums is his emotional struggles in accepting fatherhood and departing from past individual freedoms. The crux of his struggles and the duty of his survival was nourished by the never ending search for meaning. He shows us we often have to search among the banal, intrinsic and daily occurrences for these meanings. Knausgaard is able to still provide richness to his interior self from these sources. The evolving stages of a lifetime commitment to another is presented in all shades and colours by Knausgaard. Internal pendulums swing at various speeds back and forth. Longing corrupts full enjoyment of this life stage of parenting children and household tasks, but is also perhaps necessary to provide sources of hope, purpose and meaning.
Knausgaard entangles the theme of death from Part One with birth in Part Two. The reflections are a middle-aged man's perspective. The longings and regrets about the past come with the fears and unease about the future. Many of these feelings are forcefully bottled up and are perhaps only expressed in an extroverted manner through Knausgaard's joyful alcohol consumptions and conversations with his fellow writer friends.
The essay style he possesses is able to synchronize perfectly with the narrative. It is somewhat of a philosophical journey of various ideas, thoughts and theories, that not only resemble Proust but also emanate other great writers like Borges or Bolano. Like a true existentialist, all Knausgaard can do is attempt to derive meaning from what he knows is a life of uncertainty. As he says, "the life around me was not meaningful. I always longed to be away from it. So the life I led was not my own. I tried to make it mine, this was my struggle."
There was no letdown in Part 2 from the brilliant work of Part One. In fact Part Two is a 21st century, ground-breaking classic. Life is truly experienced through Knausgaard and his everyday experiences and thoughts. This is what every writer can only hope to accomplish. Knausgaard is one of the few that have.