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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Memory v experience - the conclusion of volume 2 of My Struggle

Finished volume 2 of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle -almost impossible to summarize the achievements of this novel or series of novels or to convey the unusual qualities of KOK's insights, thinking processes, narrative strategies, honesty and courage, and compendious remembrance - but will mention a few thinks that struck me in the last pages of this volume. First, I was surprised that this volume ends, more or less, with his beginning to write honestly about himself and his life - that is, he is beginning to write some of the scenes that make up volume 1: the death of his father, early days in grade school in Norway, even portraits of his wife (are they married?) and young children. Honestly, I thought beginning to write My Struggle would be the conclusion to the whole series, that is to the as yet untranslated (into English) volume 6 - so was surprised that at the end of vol 2 he's already writing volume 1. So what will the subsequent volumes be about? One gap in his life story to date is his first marriage, to Tonje (sp?); also we know relatively little about his mother, in fact we don't know if she's still alive as he's writing, and she gets the last words in volume 2, so I would guess that will be a major subject of a later volume - a contrast w/ his loathed father, as well - and perhaps much like Proust's nearly volume-long account of the death of his grandmother. The final pages of volume 2, A Man in Love, also include his first return - with friend Geir, to give reading and lecture - to the towns and houses of his youth, w/ which we're v familiar from vol 1: he has the reaction that many people experience on return to home town: not overwhelmed w/ emotion or feeling but somehow abstracted, everything looks so small - and sometimes shabby and incommodious compared with our memories. A very striking passage of the novel, not beautiful in any conventional sense but very truthful - and after all beauty is truth, truth beauty. Recollections are often, maybe always, more powerful and poignant than experience re-created - that surely is part of the consciousness that Proust has bequeathed to all readers, and writers.

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