Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Karl Ove Knausgaard

Some writers can go on and on about seemingly commonplace things, that have little left to be said about them, and still compel you to read them. As if hypnotized by their language. Or the meditative nature of these writings. Even the fluency of their thoughts can be contagious, showing the path, lighting it up with their coherence.They have this ability to pick up a seemingly random thread and follow it through, and around and before you know it, they have weaved it into a beautiful section of a larger rug.

I remember this rug metaphor, that life is woven like some sort of Persian carpet, of details building up over years. From Somerset Maugham's classic, Of Human Bondage. Read it a very long time ago, early teens may be, on my pen pal's recco. I don't remember it much except an aspiring, yet dismal, dark, unhappy life portrayed in the book. I guess it was too early to read it. But I do remember the carpet metaphor, that how life is like a Persian carpet, different things that happen to us making the colours and patterns. Not sure this meaning is what the author intended, but it is one of those things from a book, some image that stays with you, carving its own space in your head.

I have been reading Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard.  He is the kind of writer I talk about above - the ones who hypnotise you with their meditative prose. Compelling you to read the commonplace. But then it is not commonplace any more in his hands. As to his writing, I get repelled often and still keen to read more from him. Part of the reason I left his "My struggle" after book 2. Some books leave you feeling righteous, virtuous, good - ideally they shouldn't but they do however. And then some which leave you sad, bitter, petty, shallow, spilling over around you. His "My Struggle" was the second category. I know I'll read the next ones sometime, but not yet.

Winter is the second book in Seasons Quartet. (First one was Autumn) - notes to his unborn daughter. In this book, they eventually become Notes to a newborn daughter. A sort of personal mini encylopaedia but essentially departure points of what he wishes to share about himself. And it is not that he has not said so much about himself already. And said it quite vividly. For a while, I couldn't think of new year without thinking of Karl Ove's new year described in such detail in his My Struggle books. Such detail which goes on and on and on for pages. Recreating the reality by pinning down every little detail.

As to this quartet of notes, I like reading such writing. The pieces touch upon many related and unrelated things and people. However, one of the delights is the way he captures the daily joys and struggles of being a parent. Those things that leave you distraught because you wish to let the kid do what they say, and you know it is not right, and part of you wishes to stop them from doing that, and part of you wants the kid to let be, to go on being happy the way they are. Hence, both are sub-optimal choices. The moment that there is a choice, the outcome itself is sub optimal compared to earlier. Ideally those little struggles won't come up. But they do. And I am not sure that you read about them often - the little daily struggles that can tear you apart, and the little daily joys that send you to the top of the world.

However, I liked Autumn better than Winter. In some pieces, it starts feeling like work. And I feel that sometimes, the beauty of art is in making you forget the labour behind it. If you can feel the work, then perhaps it still needs some more pixie dust.

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