Spring into Spring with Knausgaard

Book review

Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix
Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Washington, D.C.

Spring (2018) is the third book in the seasonal quartet of the highly praised Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. If you have read Autumn (2017) and Winter (2018), you will probably expect Spring to be similar in structure and content. You will be surprised. It isn’t! 

Spring - Karl Ove Knausgaard

Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Knausgaard does continue to address his daughter, who appeared as an unborn in the first book and is now a 3-month-old infant. This is not, however, a tri-part collection of 60 essays that focuses on his observations of nature and a wide variety of manmade objects. Although containing several striking descriptions of nature, he primarily tells stories to his daughter about herself, her family, and the people and places around them. Some examples follow.

He tells her that something very serious happened when her mother was pregnant with her. For this reason he must continue to check in at the Child Protection Service on a regular basis. We are not told why, but we remain on alert for the answer as we read on.

He talks about love. He explains that it is not a word he uses very often because “it seems too big in relation to the life I live, the world I know.” He is certain that he would horrify his mother or brother if he told them he loved them. “I would have laid a burden on them, violently upsetting the balance between us.”

He reflects on a garden that they saw one day. “The garden was a small, artificial, pretend world, nature in it was pretend nature, and it lacked necessity, nothing was created there other than a sense of inner satisfaction, which was no doubt a pretend satisfaction, since it derived from something artificial.”

He ponders his dislike of the technification of life, including the internet. “Yes, damn it, there was something fundamentally wrong, even about the internet, I felt. Well, wasn’t there? We should have traveled by horse and carriage!”

He spends several pages discussing suicide, citing his grandfather’s interest in it and the people he knew who had actually committed suicide. He emphasizes that one must have attachments. “You see, the beauty of this world means nothing if you stand alone in it.”

He considers the relationship that existed between parents and children when he was young. “I myself had grown up during the 1970s, and I remembered how separate the adult world had been. It was as if it had played out on a plateau, while the children lived their lives in the valley beneath, where we were allowed to do as we pleased.”

He tells her about family visits to Fȧrö. He lets her know that he did not meet Ingmar Bergman, who had his villa there, and didn’t want to. He has never wanted to meet any artist or writer, because “the appeal in their works is always so much more direct and personal than in reality and feels much closer there than it can ever be face to face.”

He reminds her of a disastrous car trip. They were far from home, when he noticed that his car was almost out of gas. When he finally found a station and stopped the car, she woke up and immediately started screaming because she was hungry. Much to his dismay, he soon realized he had left her prepared bottle of milk at home. When he went to pump the gas, he also discovered that he had left his credit card at home. The problem was serious, but eventually solved.

With Spring Knausgaard has written a more personal book than the previous two in this series, but he continues to show his mastery of observation, not only of nature and manmade objects but also of people, his family in particular. What truly stands out, however, is his love for and his delight in his four children.

Near the end of the book, he tells his daughter that he lives for her and his writing. “I had never had as much reason to work, I have never had as much reason to live.”

Read Christine Foster Meloni’s reviews of the entire quartet:

Part 1: Autumn

Part 2: Winter

Part 4: Summer

This article originally appeared in the April 17, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.