A Yearning To Escape From Myself

When we were growing up, I chatted all the time with Yngve and we never had any secrets, but at some juncture, perhaps as early as when I was at gymnas, this changed: from then on I was immensely conscious of who he was and who I was when we were talking, all spontaneity vanished, every statement I made was either planned in advance or analyzed retrospectively, mostly both, apart from when I was drinking, then I regained the old freedom. With the exception of Tonje and my mother, that was how I behaved with everyone: I couldn’t sit and chat to people any more, my awareness of the situation was too acute, and that put me outside it…Often it felt to me as if I were false, or deceitful, since I never played with an open deck, I was always calculating and evaluating. This didn’t bother me any more, it had become my life, but right now, at the outset of a long car journey, now that dad was dead and so on, I experienced a yearning to escape from myself or at least from the part that guarded me so assiduously.

– Karl Ove Knausgaard, Death in the Family (My Struggle, Book One), p. 225


To Judge

Asbjørn had a nose, that was his great talent, I had never met anyone with such sureness of taste as him, but what use was it, apart from being the hub student life revolved around? The essence of a nose is judgment, to judge you have to stand outside, and that is not where creativity takes place.

– Karl Ove Knausgaard, Death in the Family (My Struggle), p. 225

You Receive Them Directly

You have a kind of receptivity to those with whom you have grown up and to whom you have been close during the period when your personality is being shaped or asserting itself, you receive them directly, without thought as a filter. Almost everything you know about your brother you know from intuition.

– Karl Ove Knausgaard, Death in the Family (My Struggle), p. 225

Vulnerability and Community

But he never went to the hairdresser’s; he always cut his own hair. He never travelled by bus. He hardly ever did his shopping at the local shop, but always at the large supermarket outside town. All these were scenarios where he might have come into contact with people, or have been seen by them…he consistently avoided these social situations. What was it they had in common? That he might be assimilated into a community with no more than chance as its basis? That he might be seen in a way over which he had no control? That he was vulnerable sitting on the bus, in the hairdresser’s chair, by the supermarket till?

— Karl Ove Knausgaard, Death in the Family (My Struggle), p. 220

Why Should You Live In A World Without Feeling Its Weight?

Even though the case was heavy I carried it by the handle as I walked into the departure hall. I detested the tiny wheels, first of all because they were feminine, thus not worthy of a man, a man should carry, not roll, secondly because they suggested easy options, short cuts, savings, rationality, which I despised and opposed wherever I could, even where it was of the most trivial significance. Why should you live in a world without feeling its weight? Were we just images? And what were we actually saving energy for with these energy-saving devices?

– Karl Ove Knausgaard, Death in the Family (My Struggle, Book One), p. 210

The Unfathomable

Our world is enclosed around itself, enclosed around us, and there is no way out of it…Everything has become intellect, even our bodies, they aren’t bodies any more, but ideas of bodies, something that is situated in our own heaven of images and conceptions within us and above us, where an increasingly large part of our lives is lived. The limits of that which cannot speak to us — the unfathomable — no longer exist. We understand everything, and we do so because we have turned everything into ourselves…For us everything has been turned on its head, for us the real is unreal, the unreal real. And death, death is the last great beyond. That is why it has to be kept hidden. Because death might be beyond the term and beyond life, but it is not beyond the world.

— Karl Ove Knausgaard, Death in the Family (My Struggle, Book One), p. 201

Give It, Give It All, Give It Now

One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

–Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, p. 78

Launch Into The Deep

The world’s spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unneeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. “Launch into the deep,” says Jacques Ellul, “and you shall see.

–Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p. 32

Accept The Mystery

Fanny Brawne: I still don’t know how to work out a poem.
John Keats: A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept the mystery.
Fanny Brawne: I love mystery.

–from “Bright Star” written by Jane Campion