Categorized as a novel, but this is the first of six volumes published with the title Min Kamp, My Struggle. In English Hitler's memoir is known by its German title, Mein Kampf. But the English translation is My Struggle, and the author of this "novel" starts his 3,500 page six volume exploration by giving it an incendiary title. The author goes on to analyze himself and those nearest to him with an attempt at complete honesty. While writing the private lives of those closest to him outraged much of the Norwegian public, there is no sensationalism anywhere in the book. Events and people are examined without magnification, without editorializing. "Art does not know a beyond, science does not know a beyond, religion does not know a beyond, not anymore. Our world is enclosed around itself." The author is constantly striving to understand what he is seeing and experiencing, and how that fits in with what others are simultaneously experiencing. While the result is different, very different, than that obtained by Proust, there is a similar refusal to prettify or objectify. "Nostalgia is not only shameless, it is also treacherous."
The example quoted most often to demonstrate the inappropriate content of the book is the factual discussion of his grandmother's incontinence. It is clearly presented as a fact, and given the age and general mental and physical condition of this woman, to be expected. The author doesn't hide this fact, why should he? But he spends more time examining the phenomena of a bodily function hidden that is now not hidden, yet is instead simply ignored by family members. Better not to mention an embarrassment than to actually deal with it. And he freely admits that while he haphazardly cleans up the results, he also does virtually nothing to actually acknowledge that there is a problem requiring affirmative action. The woman needs a new mattress, clean clothes and a diaper. But because these are personal, intimate, female details, they are beyond the male members of the family. So maybe he breaks some Norwegian taboo about making things public, but what he is really exploring is his own ineptness, innocence, and fear.
There is a time shift between when he is a father with young children who he avoids in order to get some work done and a young boy wanting his father to both notice him and leave him alone. Between these is the time slot where most of the book takes place: returning to his grandmother's house with his brother the day after their father dies. They have returned to clean-up the physical mess while at the same time trying to wade through the psychological damage caused by their father.
The background narrative is the author's continual struggle to be a writer. "Modernist literature with all its vast apparatus was an instrument, a form of perception, and once absorbed, the insights it brought could be rejected without its essence being lost, even the form endured, and it could then be applied to your own life, your own fascinations, which could then suddenly appear in a completely new and significant light."
The author successfully examines his life in a literary novel that definitely sheds "new and significant light" on how we perceive ourselves within the context of our lives. I hope the entire 3,500 pages are translated into English.