So, my feelings remain pretty mixed now that I've finished volume two. There is a great deal that impresses me about Knausgaard's writing, especially his ability to genuinely keep you engaged when narrating the most mundane aspects of life. Moving from daily life to big ideas, he somehow manages to blend the ordinary with the profound in a way that genuinely feels very real. It's this that keeps me reading.
Nonetheless, I do continue to struggle with how introspective he is. I mean, I get it, this is a six-volume series dedicated to narrating one person's life, it is obviously going to reach pretty peak levels of self-absorption. But lives are so bound up with others! And, beyond that, with society, class and politics. Of course all of these things feed into Knausgaard's writing but they are so strikingly secondary to himself; everything short circuits back to him so quickly and I just wish he'd stepped back more, because it would have enriched the work in my opinion. And while I don't at all believe that a writer is obligated to write about a particular subject matter, I do nonetheless think it's important to think critically about the choices writers make when it comes to what they will and won't focus on. Especially when it comes to a series as celebrated as this one, with so many critics treating Knausgaard as if he provides a blueprint for everyone to learn about themselves. I'm not going to go into it here because I don't have space, but I can't imagine a female writer being praised in the same universal terms that he has been. Instead, the commentary would be framed around issues of gender and the domestic.
This all probably sounds a lot more critical than it's meant to (and that's possibly because not enough people write critical opinions about books on here imo, but that's another conversation). I don't at all regret reading Knausgaard and I'll certainly keep doing so because he intrigues and frustrates me, and I need books that do that sometimes. And I'm definitely looking forward to hearing him speak in London next week, although going by what he writes in here, it sounds like he hates literary events and talking to people 😬