Did you keep diaries when you were young?
Yes, I did, but I burned them when I was twenty-five or twenty-six.
I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t stand it. It’s the same with Min Kamp, I can’t stand it. If I could I would burn that, too, but there are too many prints, so it’s impossible.
But isn’t burning a novel different from burning a diary? Burning a diary is repudiating a former version of yourself.
It’s one thing to be banal, stupid, and idiotic on the inside. It’s another to have it captured in writing. When I started to write more systematically, I just couldn’t stand that bastard diarist-self, and I had to get rid of it. So I did, alone in my student apartment, page after page.
But as anyone with the least knowledge of literature and writing—maybe art in general—will know, concealing what is shameful to you will never lead to anything of value. This is something I discovered later, when I was writing my first novel, when the parts that I was ashamed like a dog to have written were the same parts that my editor always pointed out, saying, This, this is really good! In a way, it was my shame-o-meter, the belief that the feeling of shame or guilt signified relevance, that finally made me write about myself, the most shameful act of all, trying to reach the innocence of the now burned diarist—self.
— Karl Ove Knausgaard interviewed by Jesse Barron for The Paris Review