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

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The weirdest children's party in world literature: Volume 2 of My Struggle

After the longest and weirdest narrative account of a children's party in the history of world literature - clearly, this is meant to be and is a hilarious "take" on the long diner parties in Proust, but instead of dukes and marquis discussing J'accuse we get toddlers clinging to parents and saying "can we go home now? - Karl Ove Knausgaard describes his "struggle," essentially the heart of this six-volume series, My Struggle: his complete alienation from those around him, his sense that he is different from others and needs to be different, his intense need for solitude and isolation - and his need to reconcile these needs and drives with the counterbalancing desire for recognition, acclaim, fame, and inclusion. He wants to be "like everyone else" yet he views the world around him with suspicion and contempt. He has moments and even period in his life when he is or has been happy - his falling in love with and courtship of 2nd wife, Linda; the birth of their daughter Vanja - but these period pass and then he feels that his life is consumed with diurnal routine. He reflects on the time when he agrees to be the primary caretaker of the infant Vanja, taking her through the day to various play groups etc., and in return wife Linda had promised him an hour to himself - time he uses to go to a coffee bar and read, in this instance the dark works of Dostoyevsky; in fact, he won't go to the same coffee bar too often because he doesn't want people to see him as  a "regular" and try to initiate conversation. One of the funniest and strangest sequences - in volume 2, A Man in Love - is his taking Vanja to the Rhythm Playgroup at the Stockholm library, during which he is horrified and mortified by this what to most would be an innocuous play activity; he is also, however, very attracted to the group leader, which leads to his extensive wondering about his need or desire to "connect" - that is, just make passing eye contact - with pretty women he sees around Stockholm - what is the need for this? He's not being flirtatious or thinking about an affair? He loves his wife? - but it is a way to feel a connection with others, a recognition of his attraction, without any cost or investment or involvement. He also speculates about a world in which people are truly connected to nature and to the seasons and yearns to live in the 17th century when this was so - albeit recognizing that life then was brutal and short, there was a lot of oppression, childhood death, suffering. Some astonishingly great passages and reflections throughout this volume - interestingly, it's all in the near-present, describing his life during his 2nd marriage, in Stockholm and, later, in Malmo - no reflection (yet) on family background and childhood, which was the dominant theme in volume 1. This volume could be read independently, but it's so much richer knowing what we know about the sufferings of his youth in his seemingly ordinary but in fact quite strange - perhaps like all families - family.

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