On Struggle


Mouse Book Club

My favorite book right now is a six-volume fictionalized autobiography by the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. He tries to tell his entire life story in roughly 4,000 pages. It is a global bestseller, a prize winner multiple times over, and an inspiration to many. These books are changing the landscape for writers of all stripes (this one included). Knausgaard has given the series the intentionally provocative title “My Struggle.”


I was aware of Knausgaard’s project years before I began reading Volume 1 this December. The photographs - the long hair, the beard, the ruddy face, the cigarette - embodied struggle. I knew the novels addressed the difficulties of growing up full of shame and grief, whether you have an abusive family (like Knausgaard’s) or not. I knew the novels also addressed the difficulties of pursuing your dreams in the throes of parenthood. Knausgaard is doing all this, as he reviews his memories like nestled Russian dolls. The project is nothing short of a spiritual exercise, if not an exorcism, and to read it is to undertake one for oneself.


The notion of struggle evoked by this series of Mouse Books is different. We imagined the series containing accounts of a more public kind of struggle - for rights, justice, dignity, etc. In this way we wanted it to be open, globally-minded, cross-cultural. It was going to contain the best of protest literature from across time and around the world. But for me, things become real when we look behind the eloquence and wisdom and truth, and we see the personal struggle of the kind that Knausgaard writes about. These two types of struggle are connected. Knausgaard is not a “freedom fighter” the way that many of the writers in this series were. But his endeavor to tell his entire life story, and to frame it as a “struggle,” creates a sense of solidarity. Indeed, life is a struggle, regardless of your background, circumstances, inclinations, decisions. To recognize that we all struggle is to see each other differently. It becomes more difficult to judge and condemn. When we see life as a struggle for everyone, we accomplish what so many of the writers in this series set out to accomplish anyway - we move toward peace.   

Brian Chappell, Mouse Editor
December 2017

Mouse Books STRUGGLE Series:

 The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass 

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau