I started writing reviews in the year Josipovici's review was published (1996) and had not read a book by an author entirely new to me that I believed was a masterpiece. As I read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, I thought that this is perhaps the closest I will ever get. Such is the reach of the word masterpiece beyond craft and industry considerations, my instinct was not to review at all but to thrust the book into the hands of friends for whom reading is absolutely central to their lives (not many).
But I must write something. Reading My Struggle was often like reliving fragments of my own life – an intensity resonating in a void – and a review would mean explicating this in formal terms, and that wouldn’t be right. Yet the terms available seemed too personal, something to be shared only by handing the book over in silence. How then to recommend? This is perhaps the gift of reading: others can open doors. Josipovici spends most of his Sebald review describing a twenty-page short story rather than racing through a summary of all four:
Like all good art, the form and the style bring into being what would otherwise have remained in darkness and silence for ever, so that a mere account of what the story was ‘about’ would not have begun to do it justice.This is good advice for any reviewer: stick to what you believe is important. My Struggle (published in the UK as A Death in the Family) is 471 pages long and is ‘about’ the relatively normal, middle-class life of a Norwegian male born in 1968, so even an extended account would say very little (almost nothing), and while Knausgaard’s ability to make the unremarkable resound means the detail is vital, it is its framing that brings the book to vivid life.