Monthly Archives: December 2012

How would you like to be remembered?

— ‘How would you like to be remembered?’
— ‘As someone who tried to love somebody.’
— ‘What’s love to you?’
— ‘Love to me is an active thing. It’s not a word. If you love somebody you prove it.’

Bob Dylan

A world without time

Perhaps the real problem here is the way in which time itself always serves as the measure for all politics, and all critique of politics, whether it be the bleak future, the heroic past, the desolate present, the utopian tomorrow, the shadowy past or the dawning of a new day. […] If time is a weapon used against people fighting against the speed and brutality of what is happening, we may be forced to use a different image of time – or perhaps an image of a world without time altogether – against those whose only measure seems to be the maximisation of profit in the shortest possible period. The question of whose finitude counts and whose doesn’t – a brutal marker not only of the division between life and death but between the more important distinction between those whose life/death ‘counts’ and those about whom nothing is counted at all – is played out in the only post-religious ‘infinite’ permitted to matter: permanent accumulation. The dedication to amassing at the expense of life itself reveals a terror of time so disturbing that any politics of temporal pessimism/optimism looks insignificant by comparison.

As we defend those who await trial, or write to those in prison, or sit in courts, job centres and universities as futures are crushed all around, time may be all we have left: time in which to abolish their notion of time and replace it […] with a life in which nobody seeks to make time measurable at all, for all time.

— Nina Power, ‘The Pessimism of Time

‘A day shall come’

I’ve sometimes been asked why I don’t have any thoughts or visions of a utopian country, a utopian world where everything will be good and we’ll all be good. I’d say that when you’re constantly confronted with the abomination of daily life, a paradox arises, since what we really have is nothing.

I do believe in something, and I call it ‘a day shall come’, and one day it will come. Well, probably it won’t come, because it has been ruined for us, for thousands of years it has always been destroyed. It won’t come, and I believe in it anyway. Because if I can’t believe in it any more I can’t go on writing.


Why is all this not enough?

I started just writing it as it was: the truth, no artifice, no cleverness. Reality.


I developed a new kind of language almost, of the banality of the everyday. I could write about anything.


I thought this was only interesting for me. I was ashamed even to show it to my editor.


As a person, I’m polite – I want to please. One of the reasons for that is my father; he had that grip on me. For 40 years I’d lived that tension between my inner and outer selves. Suddenly now the point was not to please, it was to speak the truth. To write reality.


I wrote this in a kind of autistic mood. Just me and my computer in a room, by myself. It never occurred to me that it might cause problems – I was just telling the truth, wasn’t I? But I was also being very naive. I sent a copy to everyone involved before the first volume was published, and then I discovered how difficult this was going to be. It was like hell.


I said it was true, they said I was lying.


[His second wife said] ‘Do it, just don’t make me boring. Use my name.’ Then when the manuscript was done she read it, on a long train journey to Stockholm. She called once to say it was OK. Then she called again and said our life together could never be romantic ever again; this was all so frank. Then she called a third time, and cried.

You know, in every couple there are things you don’t talk about, and I did. So it was very difficult. But we are adapting. We are still together.


If I had known then what I know now, then no, definitely no, I wouldn’t dare. But I’m glad I did. And I couldn’t have done it any other way. I will never do anything like this again, though, for sure. I have given away my soul, in a way.


Do you think your literature is worth your uncle, or whoever? Is literature more important than hurting people? You can’t argue that. You can’t say it. It’s impossible. But you can write about yourself and about your father. That’s my defence in all this. I did this with a pure heart. He brought me to life, he did these things to me … Danger, it seems to me, is in action, what people do, not in telling, what they say. As long as this isn’t a hate project; as long as I am trying to tell things how they really are.


The real danger is in writing about more recent times. I also wrote about my mother, you know, but much less. Because she is still alive. I couldn’t go there.


I get the rewards; the people I wrote about get the hurt.


The thing is, I was there, turning 40. I had a beautiful wife, three beautiful kids, I loved them all. But still I wasn’t truly happy. It’s not necessarily the curse of the writer, this. But maybe it’s the curse of the writer to be aware of it, to ask: why is all this, all I’ve got, not enough? That’s really what I’m searching for, in this whole thing, an answer to that question. My intention, throughout, has been to write literature.

— Knausgaard, interview

The clearing of the everyday

I don’t escape into writing, I write to escape from writing. I am what writing’s made of me, what I’ve let it make of me. I want to put an end to it, to the whole paltry and humiliating enterprise.


I am looking for something. It looks for me too, through these words: it’s already here, calling me out of myself, out of writing.  Meanwhile I write to ward it off, awaiting its arrival, biding my time in infinite detours.

— Frenet, Journal


Autumn eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.

In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.

My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon’s blood ray.

We stand by the window embracing, and people
look up from the street:
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.

— Celan (tr. Hamburger)


I often used to ask myself how people move from inside themselves into the world with such ease. From, say, reading a book to talking with people. How, say, writers walked onto a spotlit stage to speak about their work as if the back of the stage were part of the same space as the stage itself, as if they themselves bridged the two by walking from one to the other. All I remember from such events, which I now avoid, is what the rooms and faces looked like, who spoke, how hard or soft the chair was.

To go from your room to a place full of people, from yourself to others – as on a tightrope of unknown length, suspended above an unknown height… To hear your self come out of your mouth as if through the mouth of another, answered by yet another…

— Frenet, Journal


I confess my debt to kindness. Without small acts of kindness, my own and those of other strangers, I’d be crippled, cowed, alone. Soup brought to someone’s sickbed, a word of encouragement, a listening ear. Kindness is the last miracle on earth, a miracle *of* the earth, stronger than the chimera of truth and the chimera of love.

— Frenet, Journal

When I write about this kind of thing, about this kind of centrifugal situation that leads to suicide, I am certainly describing a state of mind that I identify with, which I probably experienced while I was writing, precisely because I did not commit suicide, because I escaped from that.

— Thomas Bernhard (via here)

Even with an accidental model, as I was, I think what he wanted was to create a sort of fascination to prevent us from escaping. As if we were prisoners. He wanted us to be both his prisoners and his prey, but he also wanted us to oppose him with what we were. You had to remain yourself, not to appear to be a puppet, to be controlled. You had to keep your personality while abandoning yourself to his predation.

— One of Giacometti’s sitters, here