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8.6.16

À mon chevet: 'Min Kamp 5'

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
"You can say that again," she said. "I'll be off then. Can you call me?"

What a shock. For a brief moment, no more than a second or two, I was unable to breathe.

"Yes," I said. "I can."

When, shortly afterward, I stopped at the top of the hill and saw the town beneath me, my feeling of happiness was so ecstatic that I didn't know how I would be able to make it home, sit there and write, eat, or sleep. But the world is constructed in such a way that it meets you halfway in moments precisely like these, your inner joy seeks an outer counterpart and finds it, it always does, even in the bleakest regions of the world, for nothing is as relative as beauty. Had the world been different, in my opinion, without mountains and oceans, plains and seas, deserts and forests, and consisted of something else, inconceivable to us, as we don't know anything other than this, we would also have found it beautiful. A world with gloes and raies, evanbillits and conulames, for example, or ibitera, proluffs, and lopsits, whatever they might be, we would have sung their praises because that is the way we are, we extol the world and love it although it's not necessary, the world is the world, it's all we have.

So as I walked down the steps toward the town center on this Wednesday at the end of August I had a place in my heart for everything I beheld. A slab of stone worn smooth in a flight of steps: fantastic. A swaybacked roof side by side with an austere perpendicular brick building: so beautiful. A limp hot-dog wrapper on a drain grille, which the wind lifts a couple of meters and then drops again, this time on the pavement flecked with white stepped-on chewing gum: incredible. A lean old man hobbling along in a shabby suit carrying a bag bulging with bottles in one hand: what a sight.

The world extended its hand, and I took it. All the way through the town center and up the hills on the other side, straight into my room, where I immediately sat down to write my poem.

-- Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle: Part 5, pp. 117-18
In Min Kamp, his six-volume autobiographical novel, Karl Ove Knausgård shines pitiless light on his own life and that of his family and friends. After examining his father's death (Vol. 1), the collapse of his first marriage (Vol. 2), his early childhood (Vol. 3), and his young adulthood (Vol. 4), Knausgård turns to the years of his struggle to become a writer, when he lived in Bergen from 1988 to 2002. Nothing remains of those crucial years, Knausgård writes on the novel's first page, except memories and a small stack of photographs: although he kept a diary, he burned it. It is a time of which he is not particularly proud: "I knew so little, had such ambitions, and achieved nothing." Knausgård moved to Bergen to take part in the year-long Writing Academy, and the cold-hearted skewering of the rituals and pieties of writing seminars will be familiar to anyone who has ever suffered through anything of the sort. He falls desperately in love, suffers a betrayal, and comes to think he is not destined to be a writer. Within a decade, though, he will have finished his first published novel, Ute av verden (Out of the World), which won the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature in 1998.

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