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"...the silence of the living is quite different from the silence of the dead"
- Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book 5
Book 5: Some Rain Must Fall
First, just a quick observation. I'm a little perplexed by the photo on the cover of the Archipelago English edition. Isn't that Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty? Wait. I've been there. How does a giant earthwork, counterclockwise coil shooting into the Great Salt Lake fit into this novel? Beautiful, certainly, but odd.
Ok, back to the novel. Back to Knausgaard's strange, boring, brilliant, spiraling, frustrating 5th book in his 6 book übernovel. In many ways, it is fairly standard Künstlerroman. A young artist is trying to find his voice, to mark his own path, to open his eyes, open his mouth, find that literary rhythm. The amazing thing is after 5 books, I still care about Knausgaard, even after he has exposed, again and again, an often irritating and destructive side. I'm not sure if my affection is because he resembles in some ways my own brother, or because there is something warm and attractive about his strange sense of brutal honesty (as brutally honest as a fictional biography can get). I'm not sure being his brother or mother would be a job I'd volunteer for. He is fairly aware of his indulgent side, but this is one guy you might want to remove sharp items from once he starts to drink.
In the novel I was most interested in his relationship with family and his relationship with women (oh, and the scenes at the clinic are amazingly strange). I think the technique he uses to explore these relationships can be described as an inversion. What is inside of Knausgaard gets put outside. Things most rational and sane people would not expose to the world, he exposes. At the same time he chews inwardly on the outside. He brings in as almost an emotional experience the water, the weather, the cold, the ground, birds, geography. Knausgaard describes this fascination after he writes a poem:
Two leather chairs
in the wind
noise from a town
You have left.
The girl disappears
into the girl.
He follows the poem with a line that perhaps hints at some of his larger themes, "ever since I was small I had been fascinated by the relationship between the inside and the outside, when what was supposed to be inside was outside, and vice versa." Knausgaard struggles throughout most of this book to find his voice between the inside and the outside. He literally struggles with friends and family and other writers to speak. He struggles to write. He wants to write literature buy seems destined to write nonfiction. Insecurities, distractions, women, school, and his own competitiveness seem to constantly pull at his desire to be a writer. He seems trapped in the Hamlet paralysis. Caught between to be or not to be. Between the sky and the not sky.
And like a levy breaking, one day it opens up. He finds his voice. He is able to catch the fire, to hold the flame. All those clichés about writing seem to find form in the text. In this way his writing is a pharmakon (a means of producing something). In this way, writing for Knausgaard is both a cure and a poison, a blessing and a curse. Like his constant struggle with drinking too much alcohol -- which allows him to speak but also inspires him to commit horrible and often destructive acts, Knausgaard seems through-out most of the novel to be at the cliff-edge of writing. He is afraid at both his need for the drug and afraid of what will be released when he finds his voice and lets go. But, this wouldn't be a novel about the development of a writer, if he didn't, in the end, jump.
12 of 16 people found this review helpful
A good writer like Karl Ove has to know when enough is enough. This book that is related with his 20th years is bad, he drinks too much, he talks about the time working a mentally hospital, boring time of his life, relations with girlfriends that does not mean anything. Everything of this book is boring, to the point I was not able to finish.