The greatest of writers, of course, hoodwink us the most effectively making us believe they are simply relating a life, but if you look carefully they never are.
The first volume of Knausgaard’s trilogy, called “A death in the Family,” in my Vintage edition, reads as though we have real life before us, an artless attempt to write an autobiography. Yet this is not a first book at all, nor is it really autobiography. There is nothing artless about it. It is actually cleverly structured with all the necessary elements that a book needs to grasp our attention: the use of tension ( things hinted at from the start but not divulged) and the use of repetition and reversal which holds the book together, as well as the wonderful precision of detail and creation of scene.
We have the title ( or at least my English volume does) and then we start here with death: a powerful beginning about a heart beating. There is a virtual essay about death told with such authority: how we are both bombarded by it in the modern media and that it remains at the same time hidden. All of this draws us in with the high stakes--death versus life--the heart pumping for as long as it can in its basic struggle for life. The question we ask and which keeps us reading on through the detailed and credible portrait of life given here, is who is going to die? We presume the father, and we wait for it to happen and it does, of course, but 200 pages further.