Geist - - Endnotes - —Michael Hay­ward

It’s time to check in again on the Nor­we­gian writer Karl Ove Knaus­gaard, whose six-vol­ume mem­oir-as-novel is be­ing re­leased in an­nual in­stall­ments in an English trans­la­tion by Don Bartlett. In the 2016 episode, Some Rain Must Fall (Knopf), vol­ume 5 of his on­go­ing strug­gle, we find our hero at age twenty, about to be ad­mit­ted to a pres­ti­gious writ­ing academy in Ber­gen. In this vol­ume we see Knaus­gaard wres­tle with am­bi­tion and envy, self-doubt and de­spair, lust and shame. You can­not over­state the ur­gency of Knaus­gaard’s de­sire to be­come a writer: it is all-con­sum­ing. “What was the point of look­ing,” he asks at one point, “if you couldn’t write about what you saw? What was the point of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any­thing at all if you couldn’t write about what you had ex­pe­ri­enced?” As in the ear­lier vol­umes of My Strug­gle, Knaus­gaard demon­strates his re­mark­able abil­ity to make ev­ery ba­nal de­tail, and each mi­nor de­ci­sion, seem height­ened by his at­ten­tion to it: “Surely this in­ci­dent must be cru­cial to the nar­ra­tive, or it wouldn’t be in­cluded.” And yet it al­most never is cru­cial: “This opera we call life,” we con­clude with some sur­prise, “is sim­ply one or­di­nary event fol­low­ing an­other.” And so we beat on, boats against the cur­rent, borne back cease­lessly into the past.

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