One year after the last instalment in Karl Ove Knausgaard's critically acclaimed My Struggle cycle comes the next one.

Part Four is called Dancing In The Dark, and as we immerse ourselves in it we realise just how many bases that elastic title covers. There is the direct musical reference: this time round we are in the mid-1980s and Knausgaard is a record-obsessed 18-year-old. There is the "dark" of his temporary new home, a remote fishing village far north of the polar circle that enjoys precious few hours of sunlight. And there is a final, figurative meaning, a second type of darkness, that of the cold shadow cast once again by his tyrannical father.

Book Three, Boyhood Island, opened with the Knausgaard family moving to southern Norway. Dancing In The Dark begins with teenage Karl Ove venturing north to work as a teacher and informing us that his family has fragmented - his parents have separated and his older brother Yngve has flown the nest. Knausgaard, thrilled with his freedom, moves into digs supplied by the school, gets to know colleagues and locals, and proceeds to bluff his way through lessons (he is only two years older than some of his pupils) while in his spare time concentrating on what he hopes will be his true vocation: writing.

His short stories come easily, inspired in part from his avid reading - Hemingway, the "exuberance" of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "the physicality and the realism" of Knut Hamsun. But when not at his typewriter or teaching at the gymnas he finds himself in thrall to "a new subdivision" in his life, namely "booze and hopes of fornication". Alcohol saps his inhibitions ("problems disappeared like blackboard chalk beneath a wet sponge") but frequent binges result in blackouts and disgrace. Romantic encounters, though many and often, culminate in sexual frustration and non-fulfilment.

Just as we are getting used to Knausgaard's rhythm and routines he jolts us by breaking off and taking us back to his last two adolescent years. He regales us with accounts of a school trip to a Danish island and a football training camp in Switzerland, the implications of his parents' divorce and visits to his grandparents, and evokes the angst suffered with his first love Hanne and the jubilation of his first job as a record reviewer for a small newspaper.

A 1980s soundtrack accompanies this middle section and there is a string of wild parties and happy alliances. But tempering the joy and highlighting Knausgaard's insecurities is the doom-like reappearance of his father. A new wife and child do nothing to regulate his mood swings and soon his sons are shocked by his increased drinking. At one point, Knausgaard the writer, aged 40, interrupts his own narrative to relate how after his father's death he discovered his notebooks. Throughout them all his father had registered his arguments, phone-calls and alcohol consumption. "I don't understand why he documented how much he drank," Knausgaard says. "It is as if he was logging his own demise."

Knausgaard's turbulent relationship with his father is one of several unifying links in the My Struggle series. Dancing In The Dark also sees him reprising his long, meandering sentences, and continuing his trademark blend of the quotidian and the metaphysical. One minute he is telling us in exhaustive, finicky detail about his meals - "[I] boiled a whole packet of spaghetti, fried all the old potatoes I had in the fridge, and soon I was in the sitting room with a steaming mountain of spaghetti and browned potatoes on a plate in front of me, I applied ketchup liberally and wolfed it down" - and the next, on the same page, he is taking us deep inside a weird dream.

Newcomers to Knausgaard may feel inclined to run a mile from this seemingly incontinent, unedited and untelescoped prose. However, there is something strangely mesmeric about his minutiae-clogged storytelling, and we relish each insightful observation and candid declaration - the majority on this outing being avowals of love and lust, and a hilarious catalogue of sexual mishaps. Once again, thanks to Don Bartlett's expert translation, Knausgaard comes across as flawed, endearing, human, and his "struggle" feels vividly real.

How real all of it actually is, presumably the reader will never know. Knausgaard's books are classed not as memoir but fiction, although "fictionalised autobiography" might be more accurate. Whether fashioned from hard truth or with creative licence, it really doesn't matter when the end result is something so intense, so passionate and so compulsively readable.