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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

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Boyhood (not the movie but Volume 3 of Karl Ove Knausgaard's masterwork)

Volume 3 of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle, called Boyhood (not to be confused with the excellent movie of same name), begins at the earliest part of the narrative, with KOK (author, narrator, central character) recalling the very few scenes he can remember from his earliest childhood, first six years of life, just a few moments that are more like snapshots than scenes or events, but it's all he has retained of those first years - which to readers who have come this far with KOK is kind of funny, because we know that, about his later years, he can recollect and re-create even seemingly mundane moments and events with extraordinary detail (obviously, he makes up some stuff, too - this is a novel, not memoir, so he's free to use extensive dialogue, for ex., which pure memoirist would not do). His inability to recall details of earliest years is significant: these few snatches of memory that he "summons up" are not like Proust's madeleine - quite the opposite in fact. They don't open up the gates of memory, flooding the mind with associations; rather, they are all that he has, so his early years, instead of being rich with actual memories is built around a few stray moments, none especially significant, even to KOK - and that leads him to some further speculation, wondering why, for example, we don't have different names that we bear through each phase of our life: is he really the some person as the 6-year-old KOK? Even when he cannot recall more than a single scene or two over the six-year span? The idea he's putting forward is that our sense of who we are is composed of fragments of memories - just as our sense of who others are is composed of fragments of recollection and encounter. If you were to be asked to tell all that you knew of your best friend, how far could you go? How much could you say? What would come to mind? A scene, an anecdote, a mood, a scent, what? We are bits and pieces to one another, and even to ourselves - but literature, the act of writing (same may be so for some types of psychotherapy) as an attempt to build a sense of a singular, whole, complete person from the fragments that we maintain.

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