Karl Ove Knausgaard and writing and the city

So irritating. I picked up My Struggle, volume 1 out of 5 of Karl One Knausgaard “autobiographical novel”–whatever that really means–and expected to find it god-awful. I didn’t. There was a point, when he took us step-by-step through an awful, tedious, boring teenage party scene, when I thought eh, this I can put down. But I stuck with it because the language is, simply, remarkable.

I’ve been rewarded with new ways of thinking about things, like writing.

From page 192:

Writing is drawing the essence of what we know out of the shadows. That is what writing is about. Not what happens there, not what actions are played out there, but the there itself. There, that is writing’s location and aim. But how to get there?

If there is a good description of writing, it’s this. That shadowy feeling you know something, followed the struggle to write that something down, to really find out what it is you think you know and can communicate to others.

And a good description of the city, in this case, Stockholm, on pages 194-195:

Chaos and unpredictability represent both the conditions of life and its decline, one impossible without the other, and even though almost all our efforts are directed toward keeping decline at bay, it does not take more than one brief moment of resignation to be thrust into its light, and not, as now, in shadow. Chaos is a kind of gravity, and the rhythm you can sense in history, of the rise and fall of civilizations, is perhaps caused by this. It is remarkable that the extremes resemble each other, in one sense at any rate, for in both immense chaos and a strictly regulated, demarcated world the individual is nothing, life is everything. In the same way that the heart does not care which life it beats for, the city does not care who fulfills its various functions. When everyone who moves around the city is dead, in a hundred and fifty years, the sound of people’s coming and goings, following the same old patterns, will still ring out. The only new thing will the faces of those who perform these functions, although that new because they will resemble us.

And another priceless bit about writing:

Writing is more about destroying then creating.

This is in reference to one of my favorites, too, Rimbaud.

And now, crap, I’m hooked and I’ll probably spend the rest of this year reading the whole thing. Damn you, Karl Ove!!

No clue on how to read Norwegian…but Don Bartlett surely deserves a shout-out as translator. The English prose is really worth reading.