Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Literary and real-life struggles

It's been a long time since a piece of literature has moved me like Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård's ongoing six volume epic Min kamp (My Struggle) about his own life does me now. Through reading the first three volumes (only the three are out yet), the level of reflection over my own childhood is what has most notably been boosted. His detailed memories, which cannot be distinguished from his fictionally empowered vague or incomplete recollections, are in themselves quite striking, but what has been really freeing for me is the way he looks straight at his own earlier life, not filtering or trying to escape the shame and embarrassment which often follows in the wake of childhood memories. He is looking directly, unsentimentally and quite painfully at his own childhood, warts and all (literally so). Embarrassing moments, every fear he has had, every shortcoming and every blunder; all is portrayed and layed out for the reader to see.

From this description, Knausgård's project may sound like social pornography, or like a man seeking complete attention for who he is down to his most petty flaw, but I can't see it like that. For one, this author is rather withdrawn, not even wishing to do interviews when his books are published, or even really caring about appearing for collecting awards (although he does do all these things). Secondly, this six-volume work is really good literature. I don't know any better way of describing his writing than as being really good literature. His writing is epic, novelistic, essayistic, confessionalistic, but all in a mix that is quite uniquely Knausgårdian and carrying the mark of high quality. This is a novel whose content is played out on wide screen rather than on a normal screen, that's what it is. Far more detailed, plunging, playful, broadly scoped and painfully more honest than most well-written literature. It's even silver screen writing for what I know.

So, where does all this leave me? Amongst all the moments of elated reading and painful recognition, I am left in a state of influence. His way of fearlessly taking in who he is and used to be, is nothing less than inspiring and somewhat paradigm-changing to me. This is something which rarely happens, but all the more enjoyable when it actually does: that something I read enters my own life or personal space for real. Turning mental pictures and ideas into reality. That's what good art does to me.