bookforum talks with karl ove knausgaard – bookforum.com / interviews

Good interview. My Struggle sounds so strange. Here’s Knausgaard talking about the magic that happened when he stopped filtering and perfecting his writing, and just started going for sheer volume:

When I was nineteen, I went to a yearlong course in creative writing. There, some simple rules dominated, and the most important one dealt with quality: if a sentence was bad, you removed it. If a scene was bad, you removed it. The critical reading of the texts always resulted in parts being deleted. So that was what I did. My writing became more and more minimalist. In the end, I couldn’t write at all. For seven or eight years, I hardly wrote. But then I had a revelation. What if I did the opposite? What if, when a sentence or a scene was bad, I expanded it, and poured in more and more? After I started to do that, I became free in my writing. Fuck quality, fuck perfection, fuck minimalism. My world isn’t minimalist; my world isn’t perfect, so why on earth should my writing be? I then did the same thing with every other rule. Show, don’t tell? What happens if you do tell, really try to tell EVERYTHING, and don’t give a damn about subtext? Something else happens, something you can’t control. No matter how explicitly you describe a person or a scene, there is always a shadow in the text, a kind of tone or sound, and that tone or sound is the important thing. When I freed myself from these restrictions and started to insist on quantity instead of quality, my texts started to get long. Not necessarily good, but long!

Reminds me of Borges on the baroque style: “The Baroque is that style which deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its possibilities and borders on its own caricature.” In a similar section of the interview I liked, he talks about the balance of family and ambition, and how he started being easier on himself, in a way:

Karen Blixen, the Danish writer, said something like “you can’t go hunting the Grail with a pram.” And she’s right. When I started to write this book, I was deeply frustrated and alienated. We had three kids in four years, and the dominant feeling for both my wife and me was that of living on the edge of chaos. There was a lot of quarreling going on, and at the same time, I was not able to write anything. So at one point I decided to let go of all ambition whatsoever and just write about that: The domestic world, the banality and tristesse of everyday life. I really hated the idea, because I didn’t want trivialities, I wanted the Grail, and when I started to do this, I was ashamed of my writing. The struggle was really to overcome the shame. But taking care of kids and writing do not exclude each other—I would start to write at 4am, then either my wife or I would take them to Kindergarten at 8, and then I would write until 3 pm and spend the rest of the day with them. It’s not Hemingway’s way—as I understand, he wrote from 6 till 12, then started to drink—but it is a way, if not to reach the Grail, then at least to finish some pages every day.

bookforum talks with karl ove knausgaard – bookforum.com / interviews