Interesting take here on the quotidian in My Struggle. I admit, this is an aspect of the book that gave me the most pause regarding Knausgaard’s style. For those who haven’t read the book, there are many, many quotidian details that an editor might have easily wiped out as irrelevant. (At one point he even includes a piece of dialog where one character asks another to pass the salt.) While I think all these details do establish a nice rhythm and lend the book a feel of the everyday, I did wonder whether or not they amounted to filler. Anyway, the take at This Space is a legitimate, if perhaps a little generous, interpretation. I think time will tell:
We can say Kafka’s work has more in common with Knausgaard’s in terms of style, that is, in its comparative disconnect from style. In both we are drawn more to the specific events described, their curious and horrific banality, rather than to immersion in aesthetic bliss, while at the same time we feel compelled to draw back and seek an organising principle, to imagine such events as part of a containable world view, and then to resubmerge in a newly configured aesthetic bliss. However, Kafka’s is the prime example of a body of work that is never quite enough, a lack into which it is impossible to submerge. The deluge of secondary texts does this for us. Maurice Blanchot asks what needs to done to rescue Kafka from this fate, one to which Kafka himself contributed, and his answer is to recommend regarding his work as Kafka had wanted: in its absence. He observes that, with the publication of the Diaries, Kafka the writer was placed in the foreground and he is the one we look for in the work. He wonders if Kafka foresaw such a disaster and that is why he wanted his work destroyed. The opposite is true of My Struggle: knowledge of Knausgaard life saturates the page and the interviews and reports of the scandalised response in Norway offer no room to move away in relief: there is nowhere else to look but the work. But what then is the work?
This commonplace disaster. It certainly isn’t the everyday content of life. This is as much the subject of My Struggle as ice is the subject of Scott’s journey to the South Pole. An overwhelming sense of imminence is evoked by Knausgaard so that its banality becomes, as James Wood says, celestial. For example, when he walks home in the dark after a day of writing and describes his route with such precision that only an event of great significance would seem to justify it. As the event doesn’t occur, another world makes itself felt instead; a possible world, just out of reach. This imminence has itself been promised by occasional epiphanies, which appear to open the work to its final destination, as well to align the author with the experience of Proust. But they are frustrated epiphanies, without message, each one a scintillating blank. The face in the sea and the inexplicable tears evoked by a patch of sky in an old painting appear as offerings of transcendence, but not an affirmative transcendence. Why not?
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