That is the price of proximity: you don’t see it. Don’t know that it’s there. Then it is over.

The leaves of the chestnut tree have begun to fall onto the flagstone path in the garden, which is visible only here and there. The willow too has lost its leaves and needs pruning, it grows monstrously fast. The apple tree’s foliage has also thinned out, but from its boughs there are apples hanging, resembling little red lanterns amid all the naked branches. I ate one today, they are large, more red than green, and juicy, perhaps a little too sour, maybe they ought to be left for another week. I walked across the grass, long, soft and green, with the tart taste in my mouth, and thought about taste, the tastes of the various apple varieties, how old these tastes might be. When were they first crossbred? During the nineteenth century? The twentieth? Some tastes found in the world today are identical to tastes that existed two thousand years ago. The slightly unusual aroma, the out-of-the-ordinariness one can encounter in an apple from a private garden give me pleasure. I often think of my grandmother then, my father’s mother, the apples from their garden which we got every autumn, sometimes a whole crate, which lay in our cellar for weeks. Yes, and the smell in their cellar, of apples and plums. … It feels like I have started something new, something quite different, and that is this family. I think of it every day, that what matters is now, that the years we are living through now are when everything important happens. My previous life seems more and more distant. I am no longer preoccupied with my own childhood. Not interested in my student years, my twenties. All that seems far, far away. And I can imagine how it will be when what is happening now is over, when the children have moved out, the thought that these were the important years, this is when I was alive. Why didn’t I appreciate it while I had it? Because then, I sometimes think, I hadn’t had it yet. Only what slips through one’s fingers, only what is never expressed in words, has no thoughts, exists completely. That is the price of proximity: you don’t see it. Don’t know that it’s there. Then it is over, then you see it.

The yellow-red leaves lying wet and smooth on the flagstones between the houses. How the stone darkens when it rains, lightens as it dries.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from “Autumn Leaves” in “Autumn


Photo: Apple Black and White by The-Definition via DeviatArt (via Newthom)

Miracle. All of it.

When the first teeth appear, these little stones slowly pushed up through the child’s red gums, appearing at first like sharp little points, then standing there like miniature white towers in the mouth, it is hard not to be astonished, for where do they come from? Nothing that enters the baby, mostly milk but also a little mashed banana and potato, bears the slightest resemblance to teeth, which in contrast to the food are hard. Yet this must be what happens – that certain substances are extracted from this partly liquid, partly soft nourishment and transported to the jaws, where they are assembled into the material used to make teeth. But how? That skin and flesh, nerves and sinews are formed and grow is perhaps just as great a mystery, but it doesn’t feel that way. The tissue is soft and living, the cells stand open to each other and to the world in a relationship of exchange. Light, air and water pass through them in human beings and animals as well as in plants and trees. But teeth are entirely closed, impervious to everything, and seem nearer to the mineral world of mountains and rock, gravel and sand. So what really is the difference between rocks formed by hardening lava and then eroded by wind and weather over millions of years, or formed by infinitely slow processes of sedimentation, where something originally soft is compressed until it becomes hard as diamond, and these little enamelled stones, which at this very moment are pushing up through the jaws of my children as they lie asleep in the dark of their rooms? To the oldest two, growing and losing teeth has become routine. But the youngest one still finds it a source of great excitement. Losing your first tooth is an event, also your second and perhaps even your third, but then inflation sets in, and the teeth seem to just drop out, loosening in the evening in bed, so that next morning I have to ask why there are bloodstains on the pillow, or in the afternoon in the living room while eating an apple, and it’s no longer a big deal. ‘Here, Daddy,’ one of them might say, handing me the tooth.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from “Teeth” in “Autumn


Notes:

  • Photo: Kymberly Orcholski with “new teeth
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

Every single day since I was born the sun has been there, but somehow I’ve never quite got used to it, perhaps because it is so unlike everything else we know. The sun is one of the few phenomena in our existence that we are unable to get close to, if we did we would be obliterated, nor can we dispatch probes, satellites or spacecraft there, they too would be destroyed. That we cannot even look directly at the sun without being blinded or having our eyesight permanently damaged sometimes feels like an unreasonable restriction, even an insult: right above us, visible to every human being and animal all over the world, an enormous fiery orb hangs suspended, and we can’t even look at it! But that’s how it is. If we look straight at the sun for only a few seconds, the retina fills with small quivering black spots, and if we fix our gaze on it, the blackness spreads across the inside of our eyes like ink on blotting paper. Above us, then, hangs a blazing ball which not only provides us with all our light and warmth but is also the origin and source of all life, while at the same time it is absolutely unapproachable and completely indifferent to its creation. […]

But while conceptions of reality rise and fall, flare up and fade away, reality itself is unyielding, its conditions immutable: day dawns in the east, slowly darkness yields its ground, and while the air fills with birdsong, sunlight strikes the back of the clouds, which change from grey to pink to shining white, while the sky that only minutes before was greyish-black now turns blue and the first rays fill the garden with light. It is day. People walk to and from their daily tasks, the shadows grow shorter and shorter, then longer and longer, as the earth turns. When we eat dinner outside, beneath the apple tree, the air is full of children’s voices, the clatter of cutlery, the rustle of leaves in the mild breeze, and no one notices that the sun is hanging right above the roof of the guest house, no longer blazing yellow but orange, burning silently.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from “The Sun” in “Autumn” (Penguin Press, August 22, 2017)


Notes:

Miracle. All of it.

28 August. Now, as I write this, you know nothing about anything, about what awaits you, the kind of world you will be born into. And I know nothing about you. I have seen an ultrasound image and have laid my hand on the belly in which you are lying, that is all. Six months remain until you will be born, and anything at all can happen during that time, but I believe that life is strong and indomitable, I think you will be fine, and that you will be born sound and healthy and strong. See the light of day, the expression goes. It was night outside when your eldest sister, Vanja, was born, the darkness filled with swirling snow. Just before she came out, one of the midwives tugged at me, You catch, she said, and so I did, a tiny child slipped out into my hands, slippery as a seal. I was so happy I cried. When Heidi was born one and a half years later, it was autumn and overcast, cold and damp as October can be, she came out during the morning, labour was rapid, and when her head had emerged but not yet the rest of her body, she made a little sound with her lips, it was such a joyous moment. John, as your big brother is called, came out in a cascade of water and blood, the room had no windows, it felt like we were inside a bunker, and when I went out afterwards to call his two grandparents, I was surprised to see the light outside, and that life flowed on as if nothing in particular had happened. It was 15 August 2007, it may have been five or six o’clock in the afternoon, in Malmö, where we had moved the previous summer. Later that evening we drove to a patient hotel, and the day after I went to pick up your sisters, who amused themselves greatly by placing a green rubber lizard on top of John’s head. They were three and a half and nearly two years old at the time. I took photos, one day I’ll show them to you.

That’s how they saw the light of day. Now they are big, now they are used to the world, and the strange thing is that they are so unalike, each of them has a personality entirely their own, and they always did, right from the start. I assume that’s how it will be with you too, that you already are the person you will become.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, “Letter to an Unborn Daughter, August 28.” Excerpt from opening story in his new book titled “Autumn” (Penguin Press, August 22, 2017)


Notes:

Happy Belated Birthday

zeke-vizsla-sleeping-dog-pet-adorable

I’m on the couch reading, or quasi-reading and surfing – flicking through May Sartons’ journals in The House By the Sea and Knausgaard’s essay in The New York Times Magazine on The Terrible Beauty of Brain Surgery.

Yet, I’m wrapped by the beat of something bigger. Sun beams pour through the windows, warming, and then disappear with cloud cover.  The bird feeder hangs on a cast iron hook and swings ever-so-gently to and fro in the northerly breeze which gusts to rattle the windows.  And Knausgaard from his essay,  “I didn’t understand the words, but the sound of them filled the air with mournfulness and humility. Man is small, life is large, is what he heard in the ring of that voice.”

Then there’s Zeke, napping, after his six-mile morning walk, drawing Sarton’s short breaths, in a ‘rhythm, a kind of fugue poetry.’

The couch, books by world class writers, a sleeping dog leaning in and a morning free of all commitments – Oh, the bliss of Saturday mornings… [Read more…]

They’re simply too good. Better to close your eyes and carry on with your own work.

Karl-Ove-Knausgaard

Before I begin this review, I have to make a small confession. I have never read Michel Houellebecq’s books. This is odd, I concede, since Houellebecq is considered a great contemporary author, and one cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading his work. His books have been recommended to me ever since 1998, most often “The Elementary Particles,” by one friend in particular, who says the same thing every time I see him. You have to read “The Elementary Particles,” he tells me, it’s awesome, the best book I’ve ever read. Several times I’ve been on the verge of heeding his advice, plucking “The Elementary Particles” from its place on my shelf and considering it for a while, though always returning it unread. The resistance to starting a book by Houellebecq is too great. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, though I do have a suspicion, because the same thing goes for the films of Lars von Trier: When “Antichrist” came out I couldn’t bring myself to see it, neither in the cinema nor at home on the DVD I eventually bought, which remains in its box unwatched. They’re simply too good. What prevents me from reading Houellebecq and watching von Trier is a kind of envy — not that I begrudge them success, but by reading the books and watching the films I would be reminded of how excellent a work of art can be, and of how far beneath that level my own work is. Such a reminder, which can be crushing, is something I shield myself from by ignoring Houellebecq’s books and von Trier’s films. That may sound strange, and yet it can hardly be unusual. If you’re a carpenter, for instance, and you keep hearing about the amazing work of another carpenter, you’re not necessarily going to seek it out, because what would be the good of having it confirmed that there is a level of excellence to which you may never aspire? Better to close your eyes and carry on with your own work, pretending the master carpenter doesn’t exist.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from his review of Michel Houellebecq’s “Submission


Since the emergence of the six volumes of My Struggle, which began in 2009 and continues as the books are translated into dozens of languages, Karl Ove Knausgaard, 46, has become one of the 21st century’s greatest literary sensations. […] It was jarring to think that this unassuming guy, driving a scuffed van cluttered with toys, old CDs and a baby seat, is quite probably in line to receive a Nobel Prize in literature for his epic saga of what he describes as “the tormented inner life of one male.”

~ Liesl Schillinger, Why Karl Ove Knausgaard Can’t Stop Writing

What is it that has etched itself into you?

Karl Ove Knausgård

“In the window before me I can vaguely see the image of my face.  Apart from my eyes, which are shining, and the part directly beneath, which dimly reflects light, the whole of the left side lies in shade.  Two deep furrows run down the forehead, one deep furrow runs down each cheek, all filled as it were with darkness, and when the eyes are staring and serious, and the mouth turned down at the corners it is impossible not to think of this face as somber.

What is it that has etched itself into you?”

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard (My Struggle: Book 2: A Man In Love. P.553)

 


I (finally) finished Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book 1 and My Struggle: Book 2.  Highly recommended.

Related Post: That is when time begins to pick up speed (Karl Ove Knausgaard quote and bio)
Image Source: dagsavisen

That is when time begins to pick up speed

Karl Ove Knausgård

“As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed.  It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know what is happening we are forty, fifty, fifty…Meaning requires content, content requires time, time requires resistance. Knowledge is distance, knowledge is status and the enemy of meaning.”

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book One (p.14-15)


Karl Ove Knausgård (born 6 December 1968) is a Norwegian author, most known for six autobiographical books, called Min Kamp. While Knausgård´s two first books were well-received, it was with the “Min Kamp”-books that Knausgård became a household name in Norway, due to the books large success, as well as the controversy they raised.  In 2009, Knausgård published My Struggle – First Book, the first volume of a total of six autobiographical novels, which were published in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The six books total well over 3500 pages.  The “Min Kamp”-books caused massive controversy when they were released, and whether Knausgård goes too far in exposing the private lives of his friends and family, including his ex-wife, has been much debated in Norway. The books have nevertheless received almost universally favourable reviews and were, even before the final book’s publication, one of the greatest publishing phenomena in Norway ever. (Source: Wiki)

James Wood at the The New Yorker titled his book review “Total Recall“: “There is something ceaselessly compelling about Knausgaard’s book: even when I was bored, I was interested.”  Wood nails it.  I’m 50 pages in and I find myself spellbound by his life story.

Credits: Quote Source: My Struggle: Book One @ amazon.com. Bio Source: Wiki. Image Source: dagsavisen
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