Friday, April 12, 2013

Noted: Karl Ove Knausgaard

This passage comes from volume one of Karl Ove Knausgaard's novel/memoir, My Struggle (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett):
Looking back on this, it is striking how she, scarcely two years old, could have such an effect on our lives. Because she did, for a while that was all that mattered. Of course, that says nothing about her, but everything about us. Both Linda and I live on the brink of chaos, or with the feeling of chaos, everything can fall apart at any moment and we have to force ourselves to come to terms with the demands of a life with small children. We do not plan. Having to shop for dinner comes as a surprise every day. Likewise, having to pay bills at the end of every month. […] However, this constant improvisation increases the significance of the moment, which of course then becomes extremely eventful since nothing about it is automatic and, if our lives feel good, which naturally they do at times, there is a great sense of togetherness and a correspondingly intense happiness. Oh, how we beam. All the children are full of life and are instinctively drawn to happiness, so that gives you extra energy and you are nice to them and they forget their defiance or anger in seconds. The corrosive part of course is the awareness that being nice to them is not of the slightest help when I am in the thick of it, dragged down into a quagmire of tears and frustration. And once in the quagmire each further action only serves to plunge me deeper. And at least as corrosive is the awareness that I am dealing with children. That it is children who are dragging me down. There is something deeply shameful about this. In such situations I am probably as far from the person I aspire to be as possible. I didn't have the faintest notion about any of this before I had children. I thought that everything would be fine so long as I was kind to them. And that is actually more or less how it is, but nothing I had previously experienced warned me about the invasion into your life that having children entails. The immense intimacy you have with them, the way in which your own temperament and mood are, so to speak, woven into theirs, such that your own worst sides are no longer something you can keep to yourself, hidden, but seem to take shape outside you and are then hurled back. The same of course applies to your best sides. . . (pp. 36-37)

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