Eighteen years old and fresh out of high school, Karl Ove Knausgaard moves to a tiny fisherman's village far north of the polar circle to work as a schoolteacher. He has no interest in the job itself - or in any other job for that matter. His intention is to save up enough money to travel while finding the space and time to start his writing career. Initially everything looks fine: He writes his first few short stories, finds himself accepted by the hospitable locals, and receives flattering attention from several beautiful local girls. But then, as the darkness of the long polar nights start to cover the beautiful landscape, Karl Ove's life also takes a darker turn.
The stories he writes tend to repeat themselves, his drinking escalates and causes some disturbing blackouts, his repeated attempts at losing his virginity end in humiliation and shame, and to his own distress he also develops romantic feelings toward one of his 13-year-old students. Along the way there are flashbacks to his high school years and the roots of his current problems. And then there is the shadow of his father, whose sharply increasing alcohol consumption serves as an ominous backdrop to Karl Ove's own lifestyle.
©2010 Karl Ove Knausgaard (P)2015 Recorded Books
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5 out of 5 stars
By W Perry Hall on 02-06-17

The Tormented Teen Male Mind

Press Release for Immediate Publication, June 2, 2017
Committee for Understanding Priapism In Development (CUPID)
Re: Award of 2017 Prize to Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard

The Committee for Understanding Priapism In Development ("CUPID") takes much pleasure in announcing that our 2017 Award will be presented to Karl Ove Knausgaard for his contributions to a better public understanding of the Chronic Hell of Uncontrollable Bulges that all men suffer in their formative years (CUPID's CHUB Award).

We selected Karl Ove for the first five volumes of his most upstanding My Struggle, recently published in the United States, primarily for his semi-autobiographical novel, My Struggle, Book 4: Dancing in the Dark, in which he accurately and brilliantly portrays the tormented mind of the male in his late teen years. In the novel, Mr. Knausgaard describes his year as a nineteen-year-old teacher on the northern coast of Norway during which his mind was chronically cluttered with carnal cacoethes, so much so that he developed a crush on one of his female students and allowed his virginity to be taken by a wanton woman a year his senior.

The Committee believes such truthful depictions of the male developing into manhood are much needed for females of the western world to gain a more complete understanding of the male's brain it matures under an ominous terror brought upon him by the constant conflict between his moral compass and chivalric aspirations on the one hand and, on the other, the involuntary demonic thoughts arising within him and the uncontrollable reaction of his body. As Sir William Osler, father of modern medicine, so veriloquently stated, "The natural man has only two primal passions -- to get and beget."

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Darwin8u on 20-12-15

Dancing in the Dark" or "Drunk, Cold & Unsatisfied

"But there was something about the darkness. There was something about this small, enclosed place. There was something about seeing the same faces every day. My class. My colleagues. The assistant at the shop. The occasional mother, the occasional father. Now and then the young fishermen. But always the same people, always the same atmosphere. The snow, the darkness, the harsh light inside the school."
- Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle: Book 4

Book four of Knausgård's literary six-pack centers on Karl Ove teaching at a small, remote school in Håfjord Norway. This isn't a simple narrative, so it jumps back to periods with both his mother, his brother, and his family. It also allows Karl Ove time to wallow in the premature ejaculations of his youth. At once, this is a novel about a young man working out who he is as an artist, a man, and a member of his family. He has gained some independence, but doesn't always use this independence wisely. He has started to publish musical reviews his last year in gymnasium and takes a job in Håfjord to save up money so he can later tour Europe. He struggles with girls. Like most men of 18, Karl Ove is super-focused on getting in the pants of the opposite sex, but circumstance, his own lack of control, and sometimes his own unwillingness to compromise makes this journey a long one for him.

Not my favorite book of the series, so far, but still an interesting one. This novel is both a Bildungsroman and a Künstlerroman of sorts. I would probably point to this novel as being primarily a coming of age novel (so Bildungsroman) and it sounds like the next book will focus more on his attempts at publishing his first novel (so Künstlerroman?), but since Knausgård jumps around and the boundaries between the books in this work are often arbitrary, I'm not too concerned with labeling. I enjoy how Karl Ove focuses on the darkness and claustrophobia of the place:

"I had always liked darkness. When I was small I was afraid of it if I was alone, but when I was with other I loved it and the change to the world it brought. Running around in the forest or between houses was different in the darkness, the world was enchanted, and we, we were breathless adventurers with blinking eyes and pounding hearts.

When I was older there was little I liked better than to stay up at night, the silence and the darkness had an allure, they carreid the promise of something immense. And autumn was my favorite season, wandering along the road by the river in the dark and the rain, not much could beat that.

But this darkness was different. This darkness rendered everything lifeless. It was static, it was the same whether you were awake or asleep, and it became harder and harder to motivate yourself to get up in the morning."

- Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle: Book 4

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