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

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

The evolutoin of Karl Ove Knausgaard's style

Following long post yesterday and summarizing as best I can the stages of Karl Ove Knausgaard's literary development, as we piece it together from Book 5 and its predecessors in My Struggle. Like most writer, his earliest attempts are somewhat realistic accounts of childhood adventures and misadventures - I believe there is one episode of boys playing in the woods and getting into some trouble that we read both as a direct account in My Struggle and, later, as part of a novel that the teenage KOK is writing. Then he enters the Writing Academy, in Bergen, at age 19 - a Norwegian equivalent of entry into the Iowa Writers Workshop, with the difference that there doesn't seem to be an undergraduate writing program in Norway, at least at that time - but KOK is the youngest by far accepted into the program (I think there are only 8 per class). There, two things happen: the teachers push him toward writing in other forms (poems, plays) and they exhort the students to "make it new" and to read a wide range of avant garde literature (not all contemporary, includes the French symbolists, for ex.) and his work is severely criticized as immature and cliche'd, which it no doubt is - he's only 19! The writer he most admires - the American "brat pack" of the 1990s, so-called, who wrote in clipped, disaffected prose about the emptiness of their lives, are out of favor with his professors and he doesn't try to imitate them, probably wisely, as he is by no means a minimalist, So it appears that he moves to a more experimental style - tho we don't see an examples of it, he begins talking about a novel involving angels come to earth - and that will clearly be his 1st published novel (I ony know it had Angels in the title). But sometime later in his career he must have done a turnaround and began to write the multi-volume, memoir-like re-creation of his life that has formed My Struggle, both admired and in some corners denounced for its attention to detail, even trivial detail, and for its almost shocking honesty. He has come full circle - writing about his life but with an acuity and maturity that he could never have approached had he tried to so at an earlier stage, and no doubt he would have burned through his material. I greatly admire this work - it's not exactly Proustian, though all memoir-novelists are in some debt to Proust, because he rarely philosophizes or generalizes and engages in aesthetic and psychological expostulations - the books begin with a great meditation on death, but that's an exception rather than the norm - but no other novelist working today has laid his soul so bare for all to see, and to learn from.

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