Category Archives: Knausgaard

When I was asked to do this exhibition, they took me down to basement of the Munch museum, which has I think a thousand paintings, and they pulled out these huge plates with different paintings on them. And it was shocking to me, because everything was kept when he died, he donated these paintings, so it’s like a work in progress that’s kind of frozen. And the way you saw it was like masterpieces, terrible paintings, sketches, unfinished things. It was like everything was there, and the energy in that was great because you could almost see him working.

Knausgaard on Edvard Munch

In the hall of our apartment I opened the door to the bedroom where Vanja and Heidi lay asleep. Their regular breathing, their limp arms and legs and their total insensibility to their surroundings, where almost anything could happen without them reacting, had fascinated me from my first moment with them. It was as though they lived a different life, were connected to another world – to the dark, vegetal realm of sleep. It was so obvious where they came from, the unseeing existence inside their mother’s body, and they clung to it long after their birth, when they just slept and slept. Their state wasn’t dissimilar to when they were awake because their hearts were beating, their blood was circulating, nutrients and oxygen were being supplied, blood corpuscles created and destroyed, in their insides fluids and organs gurgled and pulsated, and even their nerves, the lightning of the flesh, shot through their own dark pathways as they slept. The sole difference was consciousness, though even this was present in sleep, except that it was turned inwards rather than out. Baudelaire wrote about it once in his diaries, I recalled, what courage it took to cross the threshold into the unknown every night.

They lived as trees live, and, like trees, they didn’t know. Tousled and heavy with sleep they would open their eyes the following morning, ready for another day, without giving a second thought to the state they had been in for almost twelve hours. The world was wide open for them, all they had to do was run out into it and forget everything, as the premise for openness is forgetting. Memory leaves trails, patterns, edges, walls, bottoms and chasms, it fences us in, ties us up and weighs us down, turns our lives into destinies, and there are only two ways out: insanity or death.

But my children were still in the open, free stage. And then I went and obstructed them! I was strict, said no, told them off! Why was I so keen to destroy the best thing they possessed? Which they would lose anyway.

— Knausgaard, My Struggle, Vol. 6 (tr. Bartlett and Aitken)

If I had been responsible for only myself there would have been nothing to consider. I would manage whatever the circumstances. But I had three children with Linda and didn’t want them to grow up in a home that was hidden away, didn’t want them to believe that hiding was an acceptable way of engaging with the world. All I could give them was what I was giving them now, and this wasn’t given through what I said but what I did. I wanted them to be surrounded by people, I wanted them to become independent and fearless, able to develop their full potential, by which I mean to be as free as possible within the unfree limits of this society. And, most important of all, I wanted them to feel secure in themselves, to like themselves, to be themselves. At the same time they had the parents they had, I thought, and we couldn’t change our personalities in any fundamental way, which would have been both senseless and catastrophic: having two parents who pretended to be something they weren’t would obviously just bring more misery. This was about our living conditions. They were fixed, but not immutable. The way I had behaved during the first three or four years of having children, when, much too often, I took out my frustrations on them, must have affected their self-esteem, the one thing in them you, as a parent, mustn’t fuck up. I had got out of this, it hardly ever happened any more, we never argued in front of them now and I never lost my temper, but I said a silent prayer almost every day that this hadn’t left any marks, that what I had done wasn’t beyond redress. Oh, I imagined that their self-esteem was a beach, I had left my footprints there, but then the waves washed ashore, the sun shone, the sky was blue and the water, so fantastic at adapting to its environment, covered everything, erased everything, salty and cold and wonderful.

I thought about this, but I knew I should never intervene directly, I should never let these concerns, which all parents feel, take on a form that they would notice and react to.

— Knausgaard, My Struggle, Vol. 6 (tr. Bartlett and Aitken)

The duty of literature is to fight fiction. It’s to find a way into the world as it is.

Knausgaard

The only genres I saw value in, which still conferred meaning, were diaries and essays, the types of literature that did not deal with narrative, but just consisted of a voice, the voice of someone’s own personality, a life, a face, a gaze you could meet.

Knausgaard

The everyday with its chores and routines was something I endured, not something I enjoyed, not something that gave me a sense of meaning or made me happy. It wasn’t a question of not wanting to wash the floor or change nappies, but of something more basic, namely that I didn’t experience the value of daily life but always longed to escape and always had. The life I lived wasn’t my own. I tried to make it mine, that was the struggle I was engaged in, because of course that was what I wanted, but I failed, the longing for something else completely hollowed out everything I did. What was the problem?

Knausgaard, My Struggle, vol 2 (my trans.)

The site of art

The simultaneity of presence in the moment and distance from the world is the site of art. The meditative and religiously coloured experience of the now, this tremendous concentration on the moment, which triggers enormous waves of feelings of connectedness with the world, and perhaps says nothing more than ‘I exist’, is only possible if the world becomes visible as the world and not as the world of the self, and it does so only when that self is outside of it. In one and the same movement, art takes us out of the world and brings us closer to it.

— Knausgaard, The America of the Soul

Conceit

I knew that to be human was to be inadequate, to fail, to never be good enough. Everywhere weaknesses, everywhere flaws, which often hardened into self-righteousness. If there was one consistent character trait I saw in people, it was self-righteousness, conceit, smugness. Humility, that word that everyone in the public sphere was always tossing off, was something hardly anyone knew the meaning of anymore.

— Knausgaard, My Struggle, Vol. 6 (my tr.)

Something was sucked out of me

When I was with her, it was as though something was sucked out of me. The dark got brighter, the stunted straighter, and the strange thing was that it didn’t come from the outside, it wasn’t that she lit up the dark, no, it was something that happened in me, because I saw myself with her eyes and not just my own, and in her eyes there wasn’t anything wrong with me, on the contrary. That was how the balance changed. When I was with Gunvor, I no longer wanted to do harm to myself.

— Knausgaard. My Struggle Vol. 5 (my tr.)