Why is all this not enough?

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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