In the final sentence of My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autofictional six-volume opus, the author declares, ‘I will revel, truly revel, in the thought that I am no longer a writer.’ In the six books that have followed the English translation of this finale, Knausgaard has focused his energies on essays of varying length and subject. The Morning Star, his first novel since he ceased to be ‘a writer’, is a 650-plus-page roman à thèse that doesn’t quite resolve whether we should take him at his word.
In The Morning Star, a new celestial body has appeared in the Norwegian sky, initiating a series of increasingly supernatural twists to the domestic travails of the novel’s nine narrators. This is Knausgaard’s most ambitious narrative experiment yet, in which narrators overlap, tangle or sometimes just slip past one another as a maybe-apocalypse builds steam. But intent is unclear. There’s the occasional feel of an ecocritical parable: the temperature is unnaturally warm; the son of one narrator concludes, ‘I was thinking of the environment’ after performing an unsettling play for his parents; and there is an ‘animals are always the first to know’ vibe that is hard to ignore. At other times, we are bogged down in domestic melodrama. Perhaps most dominant is an ominous threat of supernatural reckoning, like a kind of warning against closed-minded secularism, though Egil, one of two spiritual loci in the novel, seems unsure whether to expect Jesus or Satan descending from the firmament.
The novel’s epigraph, from the Book of Revelations, suggests it is indeed Satan that we should worry about: people have stopped dying and the star is getting brighter. While never quite a plague of armoured locusts, the animals are getting weird: crabs swarm forests and roads, gangs of