Saturday, October 16, 2021

Knausgaard's pessimism

The above is a review in The New Yorker  by Brandon Taylor of Knausgaard's The Morning Star.  I get hard-copies of The New Yorker, and I get emails as well, presumably in a few days I'll get the hard-copy containing this review.  Presumably also, you'll be able to read the above even if you don't subscribe, but I'm not sure about that.  Sometimes, in regard to such things, one must be a member and "sign in."  I didn't "sign in" to read the above, but sometimes if I don't sign out I remain signed-in until I have a computer malfunction.

In any case I was impressed with the review.  I especially noted that Taylor says that The Morning Star reminded of Bolano.  Several years ago I read quite a lot of Bolano and commented quite a lot about the various novels at the time.  Taylor mentions The Savage Detective which I read.  He also mentions 2066 which I began but don't think I finished. 

I then recalled that I bought the first volume of Knausgaard's My Struggle, an unfortunate title in my opinion.  But perhaps the title in Norwegian would would have a different connotation than it does in English, but perhaps that is the fault of the translator Don Bartlett and not that of Knausgaard. I don't know. 

I picked up my copy of My Struggle and see that I hadn't gotten very far into it.  The English language translation was published in 2012.  It would have been sometime after that I would have encountered a review, and of course Susan died on July 4th, 2015; so, whenever I got the novel, we would have been in the throes of attempting to get her qualified for a liver transplant.  That was a hardship for her and in retrospect she probably thought it wasn't worth the trouble.  If it had been completely left up to her, she would have been content to die right away rather than be driven to the various facilities throughout the region having the various obligatory tests conduction so she could be closer to being eligible for a liver transplant.  At some point during this process, I wanted her to live more than she wanted to.

The "liver transplant process," it eventually developed, was a macabre joke on the part of the medical bureaucracy.  Eventually she had been approved and we were invited to a meeting in which we learned that there weren't enough livers available for everyone in the room.  Those who would be chosen first were those who had liver cancer.  I recall one fellow happily raising his hand to indicate that he had cancer.  Then too, one needed to be healthy (except for the liver) enough to survive the operation and be able to live on for many years afterward.  Susan, we soon understood was never going to get a new liver.

Thus, I would have been in some part of the process with Susan when I read the beginning of Knausgaards macabre description of the death process in volume one of My Struggle.  He is only 52 now; so, he would have been 40 when My Struggle was published in English.  Why would he find it so agreeable to concentrate so fully on the process of death?   When I was 40, I was dating Susan and had no interest in it whatsoever.  And this isn't a matter of self-deception.  At one time I read that pessimistic people were more likely to get cancer than optimistic ones -- William James "Sick Souls" as opposed to his "healthy souls."    Healthy-souled people simply don't dwell upon pessimistic matters to the extent that Knausgaard seems to.  I looked Knausgaard up on Wikipedia at some point and saw how young he was and wondered if he would be able to generate enough optimism to finish his "struggle."  After reading the review of The Morning Star, this morning, I checked and found that Knausgaard had published his sixth and last volume of My Struggle" (The English edition) in September 2018; so perhaps enough time has passed for me to resume reading volume 1The subtitle of Taylor's review of The Morning Star, states "In 'The Morning Star,' the Norwegian novelist gives voice to the feeling that something terrible is coming for us all."  Thus, Knausgaard seems not to have abandoned his pessimistic ways.  I would advise him, if I had the opportunity, that he should have himself checked regularly for signs of cancer. 


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