“I Write to Create Something That is Better Than Myself”: Reading Karl Ove Knausgaard
Like a lot of people outside of Scandinavia, I discovered Karl Ove Knausgaard’s epic, extended memoir series a few years after it was a huge bestseller in his native Norway.
So far in my reading, the six-volume, 3,600 page (!) series has covered the extremely intimate and granular experiences of childhood, burying his alcoholic father, leaving a marriage and entering a new relationship with a woman who suffers from bi-polar disorder, all in a kaleidoscope of words and paragraphs about what could be termed the joy and trauma of ordinary life.
Yep, I’m a fan.
Knausgaard’s writing was aptly described as “that close attention to life as it actually is lived.” When asked by the Paris Review if the work produced what he was hoping for, here’s how he answered:
“I can’t speak for other writers, but I write to create something that is better than myself, I think that’s the deepest motivation, and it is so because I’m full of self-loathing and shame.
Writing doesn’t make me a better person, nor a wiser and happier one, but the writing, the text, the novel, is a creation of something outside of the self, an object, kind of neutralized by the objectivity of literature and form. The temper, the voice, the style. All in it is carefully constructed and controlled. This is writing for me—a cold hand on a warm forehead.”
Also: Total Recall