Samir’s Selection 03/26/2015 (p.m.)
Knausgaard or Ferrante? >>>
In both Knausgaard and Ferrante, this writerly struggle of confronting the past is superimposed over the youthful struggle of oppression and resistance. These are books about young people struggling to free themselves from what they have inherited, written by older people struggling to come into a proper relationship with their younger selves. The luminous quality of these novels-the sense that every paragraph, no matter its content, is vital-is a result of that doubleness. Once, they seem to say, I was young, and despite my fear I resisted the world that was handed to me. Now, I’m older, and my own past is what I must either resist or accept. Or perhaps there’s an alternative to resistance or acceptance: these novels seem to be building toward metaphysical ideas about how our present-day selves relate to the whole sweep of our lives. Those ideas may become clearer in the volumes to come…My suspicion, though, is that the differences run deeper than that. In the early pages of Book One, Karl Ove, as a small child, watches, on television, a search-and-rescue operation at sea. In the waves, he thinks he sees a face-“I stare at the surface of the sea without listening to what the reporter says, and suddenly the outline of a face emerges,” he writes. He’s so fascinated, so transported, that he runs to tell his father, who chastises him (“Now let’s not be hearing any more about that face”). As adults, he writes later, “Our world is enclosed around itself, enclosed around us, and there is no way out of it.” All the same, he is drawn to the idea that there is something beyond the enclosing world-“something that didn’t speak, and that no words could grasp, consequently forever out of our reach, yet within it, for not only did it surround us, we were ourselves part of it, we were ourselves of it.” Part of the magic of “My Struggle” is that it goes, from time to time, into this other, unknowable world. Unlike Ferrante, Knausgaard is nostalgic for his childhood, because while he was at his most vulnerable then he was also at his most receptive. This scene, placed right at the beginning of “My Struggle,” lays out the stakes for the novel as a whole: it will take place in an expansive, unknowable universe, and it will be an exploration of receptivity, in all its varieties…
A fiery dissenter rethinks her views >>>
“You can’t bomb bad ideas out of people’s heads”
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