"My Struggle: Book Three" by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Archipelago Books,...

"My Struggle: Book Three" by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Archipelago Books, June 2014). Credit: Archipelago

I pulled the bedroom curtain aside and peered out. The trees in the forest, above which the sun had just risen, cast long, dark shadows over the shimmering tarmac. Then I put on my clothes and went into the kitchen. There was a bowl of cornflakes in my place, with a carton of milk beside it. Dad wasn't there.

Had he gone to his study to get his things together?

No. I heard him moving in the living room.

I sat down and poured milk over the cornflakes. Dipped the spoon in and put it to my mouth.

Oh my God.

The milk was off, and the taste of it, which filled all my mouth, caused me to retch. I gulped it down because at that moment my father came across the floor. In through the doorway, across the kitchen, over to the counter, and leaned against it. He looked at me and smiled. I took another spoonful from the bowl and put it to my mouth. The mere thought of the taste made my stomach turn. But I breathed through my mouth and swallowed it after only a couple of chews.

Oh, yuk.

Dad showed no signs of wanting to leave and I continued eating. If he had gone to his study I could have emptied the dish into the bin and covered it with other rubbish, but as long as he was in the kitchen, or on the first floor, I had no choice.

After a while he turned to open a cupboard door, took out a bowl of the same kind as mine and a spoon from the drawer and sat opposite me.

He never did that.

"I'll have some, too," he said. Sprinkled some golden, crispy flakes from the box with the red-and-green cockerel on it and reached over for the milk.

I stopped eating. Knowing that a calamity was looming.

Dad placed his spoon in the bowl, filled it to the brim with milk and cornflakes, and put it to his mouth. The moment it was inside, his face contorted. He spat it out into the bowl without chewing.

"Ugh!" he said. "The milk's off! Oh, good grief!"

Then he looked at me. I would remember that look for the rest of my life. His eyes were not angry, as I had expected, but amazed, as though he was looking at something he just could not comprehend. Indeed, as though he were looking at me for the very first time.

"Have you been eating cornflakes with sour milk on them?" he said.

I nodded.

"But you can't do that!" he said. "I'll get you some fresh milk!"

He got up, poured the carton of sour milk into the sink, shaking his arms wildly as he did so, rinsed it, scrunched it up, put it in the trash can beneath the sink, and grabbed a fresh carton from the fridge.

"Let me have that," he said, taking my bowl, emptying the contents into the sink, scouring it with the washing-up brush, rinsing it again, and putting it back on the table in front of me.

"There we are," he said. "Now help yourself to more cornflakes and milk. OK?"

"OK," I said.

He did the same with his dish and we ate in silence.

From "My Struggle: Book Three," by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Archipelago Books, 2014. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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