The End

Karl Ove Knaus­gaard Harvill Secker; $32.99

The Monthly (Australia) - - THE MONTHLY — NOTED - by Stephanie Bishop

Much of the no­to­ri­ety as­so­ci­ated with Karl Ove Knaus­gaard’s mon­u­men­tal se­ries, My Strug­gle, is due to its au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal claims, which oc­cur on an ex­trav­a­gant scale. In these ex­haus­tive, tell-all nov­els, Knaus­gaard pur­ports to be ac­cu­rately de­scrib­ing his life, and the peo­ple in it. Books One to Five cover the bulk of Knaus­gaard’s life: from child­hood, through to ado­les­cence, the al­co­holism and death of his fa­ther, life with his chil­dren, his sec­ond wife’s ill­ness, and his artis­tic am­bi­tions – re­count­ing in great de­tail ev­ery­thing from the eat­ing of corn­flakes to the ap­pear­ance of his own shit. This vol­ume, The End, is the sixth and fi­nal book in the se­ries, bring­ing My Strug­gle’s over­all word count to some­thing close to 1 mil­lion.

Through­out the project, Knaus­gaard has demon­strated his on­go­ing pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with what he calls “ex­treme form” – put to­gether, the nov­els are so mas­sive and un­wieldy that they risk the ap­pear­ance of hav­ing “no form”. It is an aes­thetic, Knaus­gaard ar­gues, that brings us “closer to a real ex­pe­ri­ence”. But what hap­pens when Knaus­gaard’s claims to ve­rac­ity, and his com­mit­ment to the raw rep­re­sen­ta­tion of life, are sud­denly called into ques­tion? The real ex­pe­ri­ence that this fi­nal vol­ume at­tends to is the pub­li­ca­tion of the My Strug­gle se­ries. The book opens in 2009, shortly be­fore the first vol­ume is due to ap­pear. Knaus­gaard is in the process of send­ing out the man­u­script to fam­ily and friends, and seek­ing their per­mis­sion to pub­lish the work. What emerges from this cor­re­spon­dence, how­ever, brings the whole project into doubt. It be­comes in­creas­ingly clear that what was ex­pressed in the pre­vi­ous vol­umes as com­pre­hen­sive and ac­cu­rate rec­ol­lec­tion is no such thing. If the “very premise” of the project lay in “de­scrib­ing re­al­ity”, in this vol­ume Knaus­gaard’s am­bi­tions are swiftly un­der­mined. He spi­rals into cri­sis, and ul­ti­mately ac­knowl­edges that the project “has been an ex­per­i­ment, and it has failed”.

The chrono­log­i­cal nar­ra­tive deal­ing with the fall­out of the project book­ends the novel. But the bulk of The End con­sists of a bizarre es­say­is­tic di­gres­sion, last­ing more than 500 pages, in which Knaus­gaard dis­cusses his fas­ci­na­tion with Nazism and its re­la­tion­ship to his project, and his in­ter­est in Stefan Zweig, Friedrich Hölder­lin and James Joyce, among many oth­ers. He also spends much time dwelling on the po­etry of Paul Ce­lan: “the ques­tion posed is this: how to name that which is noth­ing with­out mak­ing it some­thing?” We swerve in and out of an in­di­gestible rant, where nar­ra­tive con­ti­nu­ity is down­played for the sake of his to rico philo­soph­i­cal ru­mi­na­tion. Fre­quently be­moan­ing our loss of the sub­lime – a di­men­sion of ex­pe­ri­ence that “has be­come al­most ex­tinct” and has been “aban­doned” by con­tem­po­rary art – The End does not nar­rate a life in the way of pre­vi­ous vol­umes so much as en­deav­our to re­in­state the pri­macy of this ex­pe­ri­ence through the gi­gan­tean form of the novel, and by di­vulging the con­tent of the mind at work be­hind it. What the reader en­coun­ters is some­thing so vast, im­mer­sive and be­wil­der­ing that it seems to threaten an­ni­hi­la­tion, as only the sub­lime can. M

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.