Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Reading Norwegian novelists



The above is a review in The New Yorker  by Brandon Taylor of Knausgaard's The Morning Star

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 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 which I just now picked up 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, and if it were left up to her she would have been content dying right away rather than being driven to the various facilities throughout the region, and 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 did.

The "liver transplant process," it eventually developed, was a macabre joke.  She was eventually 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 rather smugly raising his hand to indicate that he had that 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" comes to mind.    Healthy-souled people simply don't dwell upon pessimistic matters to the extent that Knausgaard seems to.  I looked Knausgaard up in Wikipedia 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 oneThe 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. 

No comments: