Category Archives: Knausgaard

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.

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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.

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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.

*

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.

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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

I’m no longer an author

That sentence was the only thing I knew, all the way, [throughout] those 3,600 pages. I wanted the book to end with that sentence, and I wanted to be in a mental state where I could say that and mean that: ‘I’m no longer an author’. Because this is also a book about wanting to be a literary writer, having ambition to be a writer, it’s about literature and life and where they mix, and the problem for me in my life is that I don’t think I live my life as I should. I live it in literature, I live it in reading, and I want that to end.

— Knausgaard, interview

The life I lived wasn’t my own

I put the glass back on the table and stubbed out the cigarette. There was nothing left of all the feelings for the people I’d just spent several hours with. The whole lot of them could have burnt to death without my feeling anything for them. That was a constant in my life. When I was with other people I was bound to them, I felt an incredible intimacy and empathy, so much so that their wellbeing was always more important than my own. I subordinated myself almost to the point of self-effacement: I put whatever they might feel or think before my own thoughts and feelings based on some uncontrollable inner mechanism. But the moment I was alone the others meant nothing to me. It wasn’t because I didn’t like them or found them repugnant, on the contrary, I liked most of them and always found something valuable in the ones I didn’t like at first, some characteristic I could sympathise with or at least find interesting, something that could occupy my thoughts while I was with them. But the fact that I liked them wasn’t the same as being concerned about them. It was the social situation that bound me, not the people. Between those two perspectives there was nothing. There was the small and self-effacing and there was the large and distancing. And in between the two, well, that was where the everyday unfolded. Maybe that was why I had a hard time living in it. 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.)

A feeling of boundlessness

Drinking was good for me; it set things in motion. And I was thrust into something, a feeling of… not infinity exactly, but of, well, something unlimited. Something I could go into, deeper and deeper. The feeling was so sharp and distinct. No bounds. That was what it was, a feeling of boundlessness.

– Knausgaard, A Death in the Family/My Struggle (tr. Bartlett)

— This book started out with a feeling of meaninglessness, which is a death sin in the old, you know… It’s the worst thing you can do, to see the world as a meaningless place, because life is a gift, you know…
— Life is a gift?
— Yes, and you throw it away…
— From God?
— I’m not aware, I can’t answer that, but I’m just saying that…
— You’re not a religious person?
— Yes, in a way I am, I’m very interested in those subjects, I’ve written a lot about it, but that also has to do with meaning, of course, and if you’re searching for meaning you have to deal with religion, of course. But before that we were talking about meaninglessness as an art…

— Knausgaard, interview