Could I please have a short summary of My Struggle: Book One by Karl Ove Knausgaard?

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Natalie Saaris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first part of Knausgaard's memoir deals with his childhood and early adult years. It is a rather ordinary childhood: going to school, falling in love, playing in a band. He talks about his wife, his children, and his family. He explains completely banal moments, such as making tea and playing guitar, in great detail. It is not so much the events themselves as their description that is key here: Knausgaard wants to write an exhaustive account of ordinary life, one that lingers in these everyday moments and brings them to life.

In the second half, he describes returning to his grandmother's home following the death of his father. His father drank himself to death, and the grandmother is also abusing alcohol and losing her mind. The house is in a decrepit state with human waste and mold lying about. Knausgaard and his brother clean the house, and he has flashbacks inspired by the smell of the cleaning detergents. He reflects on the process of aging and the difference in perspective between a child and an adult.

This is not exactly a plot-driven book. It is, instead, better to grasp the work as a series of themes on experience, perception, and death. Knausgaard is struggling to bring meaning back into his life and to comprehend the process of aging and death. Much of what happens here occurs in the sense-making process of the author rather than in the succession of events.