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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

Monday, January 19, 2015

A third aspect to Karl Ove Knausgaard's struggle: Not being his father

At around p. 250 of volume 3 of My Struggle Karl Ove Knausgaard surprises us with one of the moments in his narrative - describing his boyhood (the title of this volume) on the Norwegian island of Tromoyo (sp?) - when he jumps into the near-present, and offers some perspective, as the narrator, on the significance of these minutely detailed events of his life. He tells us, astonishingly, that he can hardly remember his mother, that all the detail that he includes in this volume doesn't feel like something he's called up from memory but like something someone has told him about his mother, at a later date. He lived his entire childhood in the shadow of his father; his mother made the house livable and tolerable - and he notes that he no doubt would have killed himself had he lived solely with his father - but he tells us that every single moment of his childhood was imbued with fear of his father, as has become abundantly clear to any reader of this volume by this point: not just his father's evil temper and petty tyranny, but his inconsistency - veering at a moment's notice from the good-guy pal, taking the boys skiing, for example, to a monster set off by the slightest infraction (grabbing KOK by the ears and screaming at him because he lost a sock at swim practice, e.g.). KOK makes the sorrowful but no doubt true observation: his entire fatherhood (4 kids, as the dust jacket says) has been focused on not being his father, and he believes his children have never been afraid of him. His goal, he says, would be for them to look back from some time in the future and say that they could hardly remember their father, just as he can hardly remember his mother, and then he will gladly accept that as success and know he's done his job. How sad is that. But we see in this a 3rd element to KOK's struggle: the struggle to not be his father (and the act of writing these volumes and exhuming these memories and sharing them with the world of readers is part of that struggle, essential to the struggle).

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