I lay on the beige textile corner sofa thinking that I should start writing my review for A Death InThe Family, My Struggle Part 1. I sit up, unplug the laptop from the white charger and sit back down. I open the lid, punch in the password and click on the Notes application icon. A new blank page is revealed to me. I then start to look at the empty screen and realize I am hungry. I sit up again and take an orange form the fruit basket who also containes pears, apples, bananas and kiwis. I reach
Here is an example of his detail at its worse: “I joined Yngve, who was standing in front of the house hold detergents section. We took Jif for the bathroom, Jif for the kitchen, Ajax all-purpose cleaner, Ajax window cleaner, Mr. Muscle for extra-difficult stains”– and he goes on and on with the things he bought. Yes, he wrote almost half a page about his shopping choices in a local supermarket.
The first few times I heard of this book and the omnipresent comparison with Proust, I thought that it is the kind of book literature “snobs” would read because of its originality and to prove their endurance with an unreadable novel. In short, I ran away from it with all my might. Gradually, after reading more and more positive reviews from friends my attitude became a bit more accepting and I became even interested. While on holiday in beautiful Norway, I bought a couple of Norwegian novels , this one included. I was surprised by the fact that I was drawn in the Karl Ove Knausgaard’s memoir from the first sentence.
“For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops. Sooner or later, one day, this pounding action will cease of its own accord, and the bloody will begin to run towards the body’s lowest point, where it will collect in a small pool, visible from the outside as a dark, soft patch on ever whiter skin, as the temperature sinks, the limbs stiffen and the intestines drain.” Creepy but fascinating in the same time.
It took me two months to finish the first of this massive six volume fictionalized autobiography. I felt that I could not be rushed. Even though the book is filled with unnecessary mundane details about the author’s life and it does not have an obvious plot I found it strangely readable and fascinating as a literary Big Brother can be.
The volume is structured in two parts, the first one deal with the author as boy growing up with bits and pieces from different periods while the 2nd part discusses the death of his alcoholic father and the burial preparations which trigger more memories from childhood. There is also a part about him as a struggling writer struggling to be affectionate to a pregnant wife and to also find the much needed solitude to write. The narration shifts between painfully detailed memories of everyday activities including banal dialogues between family and friends to deep philosophical insights.
“Writing is drawing the essence of what we know out of the shadows. That is what writing is about. Not what happens there, not what actions are played out there, but the there itself. There, that is writing’s location and aim? But how to get there?”
Knausgaard is an amazing writer, a wizard who manages to keep one interested and absorb all his written words. His sincerity is shocking and disarming. We get to see him as a self-absorbed man who is sometimes a jerk with the ones around him, who loathes his father and wants him dead but is destroyed by his death. A man of who likes to be alone and is afraid to talk to people but writes a 7 volume memoir about himself. It was fascinated to enter Knausgaard mind with all its contradictions and flaws.