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À mon chevet: 'Min Kamp Fjerde bok'

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

book cover
'Karl Ove, grandma rang while you were out.'


'Yes. It wasn't a pleasant conversation, I'm afraid. She said . . . well, she said you weren't to go there any more. She said you'd never had anything to eat whenever you turned up, you were shabbily dressed and were always asking them for money.'

'What?!' I said.

'Yes,' mum said. 'She said it was my job to look after you and not theirs. It was my responsibility. So now they don't want you to go there.'

I started crying. I couldn't help myself, the tears came with such force. I turned away from her, my face contorted into ugly grimaces, I covered it with my hands, and even though I didn't want to, I sobbed.

I took a saucepan from the cupboard and filled it with water.

'This has got nothing to do with you,' mum said. 'You have to understand that. This is about me. It's me they want to hurt.'

I put the pan on the stove, barely able to see through all the tears, raised my hand in front of my face again, bowed my head. Another loud sob rolled out.

She was wrong, I knew that, this was about me. I had been there, I had physically felt all the silences and all the unease I carried with me, and in a way I understood them.

But I said nothing. The convulsive twitches in my face let up. I took a few deep breaths, wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my jumper. Sat down on a chair. Mum didn't move.

'I'm so angry,' she said. 'I don't think I've ever been so angry before. You're their grandchild. It's difficult for you now. It's their duty to support you. No matter what.'

'It isn't difficult,' I said. 'I'm fine.'

-- Karl Ove Knausgaard, Dancing in the Dark (My Struggle: Book 4), pp. 265-66 (trans. Don Bartlett)
The only problem I have with reading Min Kamp, the six-volume Norwegian novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard, is the lag in time between publication of the volumes in their English translation. I inhale each volume that arrives and then have to wait far too long for the next one. After examining his father's death (vol. 1), the collapse of his first marriage (vol.2), and his early childhood (vol. 3), Knausgaard turns to his young adulthood in the fourth volume. The book opens with his move to northern Norway, at age 18, to take a job as a teacher, where he begins his work as a writer. While there, he reflects back on his later teenage years, at one point acknowledging that he writes about those years not as a teenager but as a much older man. Multiple perspectives come into play, as we learn more and more about friends and various members of his family, like his father, whose disastrous collapse into alcoholism is traced further, and in this section quoted from the book, a painful episode involving his father's parents.

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