Saturday, April 05, 2014

Books: My Struggle - Part 1. A Man in Love - Part 2. A Novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard, 2012, 2013

I resisted liking My Struggle. It won me over slowly after I had finished the first half of the book and at the end of it I was convinced that it is one of the best books I have come across recently. The ending of the first part of My Struggle (the events following the death of Karl Ove's father) is an example of some truly great writing without even trying to be one. This is actually the secret of the book - it is great literature pretending to be a documentary account of simple everyday events. The book has some of the magnificent qualities of  Scandinavian literature - the somber tone, the harrowing honesty to oneself to the point of self-flagellation and to the point of cruelty when it concerns the others, the fearless embrace of life. It is written in the great tradition of Ibsen, Strindberg and Bergman...And of course, it owes a lot to Proust but in a sense, it is also quite anti-Proustian. This book deals with the nature of memory but not in the narcissistic way that can be so boring in Proust. It dwells on the minutiae of life with a sense of desperation - the desperation that life has no essence, that there is nothing beyond the string of fleeting moments which can never be satisfactory because one is always speeding towards the next moment dreaming that it would be more complete. The sense that the present cannot be truly experienced because one always is in want of something else. 

I have never been so conscious of the oppression of small talk and socializing as after reading Knausgaard. His account of a child's birthday party is more valuable than a book with dozens of fictional characters vainly searching for happiness. His descriptions of a drive home after a failed attempt at vacationing with his family, or a Christmas party with friends, or trying to return a soup in a restaurant, or just smoking outside his apartment building and observing the kids' play, etc. etc. -- are more insightful than hundreds of pages of many (critically acclaimed) novels.

Sometimes, the emotions conveyed are so true, so close to reality, that because of that lack of fictional distance between the narrator and the reader, one just wants to close the book and cry.

I don't want fiction, I want to read Knausgaard.
                                                                                                                             "Too much desire, too little hope"

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