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Im Sommer by Karl Ove Knausgård
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really liked it
bookshelves: from-the-north-country, might-tell-you-the-truth

Summer season's greetings from this peculiar Norwegian writer.

Karl Ove Knausgård’s tetralogy of seasons books ends in summer (which is only logical as it started in the fall). Strangely, the German version was published in May 29th (the other three in the season they belong to), so I had to restrain myself and not devour it prematurely. After the spring edition I was hoping was something similar here. I liked the short essayist vignettes from “autumn” and “winter”, yet I much preferred the continuous narrative from “spring”. In “summer” you’ll get both. It’s a kind of a mixture of the two approaches. There are these essaylets; eighteen of them for all of the three months, with a wide range of subjects like lawn sprinklers, rosebay willowherbs (a.k.a. fireweed), or cynicism. Once again, KOK uses his respective topics only as a springboard for further, deeper, thoughts. Not all of those 50+ pieces worked for me, but many of them did.

The heart and soul of this book, however, are two longer texts. Together they make up a little over 50% of the book. Those are diary entries for the months June and July 2016. Once again his youngest daughter, who is now two years old, is addressed directly most of the time. He tells her about the days they spend together or apart, about what he experienced and thought, and about what she did (because he believes she won’t be able to remember) and said (because “language has finally found you”). There’s also a longer section about his trip to Brazil (for business reasons), he took together with his son. And then there is a story, told by a different narrator, a different “I”, which is spread out across the diary and whose premise sounded familiar to me. I was lucky to find the starting point of this story in Min Kamp #5. I wonder if this is a real story, or something that KOK made up entirely. With this guy you’ll just never know.

At one point he says: “It is the possibilities of narrative, in which terms such as fiction and non-fiction fall short, they are too coarse or not what it is about. It's not the whole point. It is often said that fiction can be truer than reality, that truth is understood as a kind of sublime meaning, as something crystallized and universal. Poetic truth, it was once called. That the truth of reality, that is, the events that have taken place, are bound to the ego that tells them, with all the limitations that this entails. I believe in that, it is true. Poetic truth, though not necessarily greater, is in any case more important than reality. But you don’t need to write much about self-experiences to realize that this is the same principle as poetic truth. Not in the sense that you add or make up something, but when you consider how the story is shaped, which version you accept. It’s almost like an equation; the more universal truth, the less personal truth. It is all about what space is built up in the narrative, how much of the ego is visible and to what extent the narrator identifies with that ego. If the identification is total, the personal truth will be greater, but then only it will be expressed, and that is exactly what the old rule of thumb meant that literature has to be personal but not private.” [translated by me]

I guess you could apply these rules to pretty much anything KOK wrote, including his Min Kamp novels. One thing that struck me was the absence of names of family members. I don’t think the children’s names ever get mentioned, and the wife and mother's name, “Linda”, only appears twice in the whole book. Maybe a breakup is already happening, because the couple divorced only three months later, in November 2016. And maybe, KOK decided to tell the fictional/non-fictional story within his diaries for the exact same reason, as it deals with a woman of three who ... [spoiler removed] ... ?

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Reading Progress

March 30, 2018 – Shelved
March 30, 2018 – Shelved as: to-be-considered
March 30, 2018 – Shelved as: from-the-north-country
June 18, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
June 18, 2018 – Shelved as: might-tell-you-the-truth
July 4, 2018 – Started Reading
July 6, 2018 –
29.0% "Können Sie sich vorstellen, Trump zu treffen, fragte [der Redakteur der NYT]. Mir lief vor Schrecken ein Schauer über den Rücken.
Nein, sagte ich.
Okay, sagte er.
Warum graute mir so bei dem Gedanken, ihn zu treffen?
War es die Macht, der Ruhm, die Menschenverachtung?
Sicher, aber vor allem das Autoritäre an ihm. Angesichts meiner Furcht vor Autorität kann ich mir keine grauenvollere Begegnung vorstellen.[…]"
July 8, 2018 – Finished Reading

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