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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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The end of Book 5 of My Struggle - and back to the begining

The end of Book 5 My Struggle is crisp and clear and brings us right back to the first page (like 2nd movement in Beethoven's 9th or 3rd act in La Boheme ...): That's how I left Bergen. We look back to the first page, where Karl Ove Knausgaard quite ludicrously states that he has no memory of his 14 years in Bergen. As if. What strikes me most about the last 50 pages or so, during which his (first) marriage breaks apart in part because of his infidelity - a lurid episode that he quite bravely recounts in painful, anguished detail - but also because of the way his writing draws him away from his marriage, away from all his friendships and social life - for KOK writing is all-consuming, and for anyone with him must accept the fact that he will withdraw into his writing for months, even years at a time - whether the writing is going well or poorly. He describes 3 years of so-called writer's block, during which he spends some time on an island, away from Tanje, and even when with her he is in frequent agony and despair about his inability to write; then, when it's going well, he writes hundreds of pages at a stretch. Either way, writing for him is all consuming and obliterates every aspect of life - not something Tanje (or KOK for that matter) could really have understood when their marriage began. Additionally, he still, well into his 30s, spends many nights out until dawn getting blind drunk - it's actually amazing that T. put up with that for so long, perhaps a measure of her own insecurity. Much of the last section concerns the death of KOK's father and his great sorrow, even though he loathed and feared his father. He discusses some of this with the priest who performs the funeral service, and to his surprise he finds solace and comfort - which made me think it's surprising he never sought counseling, though perhaps he feared that would douse the pain that fuels his imagination. I'm struck by how different the Book 5 account of his father's death was from the Book 1 account, at least in my memory: in Book 1 there was much anger at family members who let father and grandmother decline so precipitously, did so little to help after the death; much discussion about the difficult task of cleaning the decrepit house; much discussion about the sordid conditions, the recognition that grandmother is also an alcoholic, that father may have fallen and spent days on the floor before dying - all that passed over entirely in the Book 5 account which is almost entirely about KOK's sorrow and tears. As noted in yesterday's post, by this time we understand that his is mourning for the sadness and humiliation in his own life. We would not, could not have understood that in Book 1.

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