Saturday, April 4, 2015
alone and unchanged, however surrounded and accompanied
Reading the first of Knausgård's six volumes I remember John Pistelli's post about the similarities to Richardson's Pilgrimage (Anthony linked to it on twitter) and feel uneased by the comparison -- not the details of the comparison, simply the fact that the comparison exists -- seeing, strongly, the two writers placing themselves distinctly in separated isolation, and their views of themselves different, Richardson serious about her "joy," diagnosing a tragic abdication of people from the challenge of joy and believing that it is her duty not to abdicate from joy (not questioning that assumption but trusting it) ; and therefore working, working with a conscious effort to maintain her own access, having a plan for it, avoiding marriage because of it, living and walking in places where she hopes she will find it -- whereas Knausgård describes himself as a haphazard clown who has the vaguest ideas about anything that he might want, and almost no plan to get it, feeling desires instead of plans; he would like to be cool ("cool" is his word, in the translation by Don Bartlett) but he is ordinary; he does everything that he doesn't want to do; he is "feminine" when he wants to be masculine, he cries when he doesn't want to cry, he is a bad musician when he wants to be a talent, he capitulates to people, he has studied art but he can't tell you why he likes a painting ("It was a fantastic picture, it filled me with all the feelings that fantastic pictures do, but when I had to explain why, what constituted the "fantastic" I was at a loss to do so" -- where Richardson will tell you how she comes to appreciate a piece of music); his little success in journalism is an accident and he junks it by being cocky, then he knows that he has been cocky: his cockiness is revealed to him: and his humiliation is constantly revealed to him and refreshed with a new event as if this is Fawlty Towers and he is Basil, "I was getting drunk too often, and I did not flinch from harassing someone once I got the idea in my head," also with Basil Fawlty's pettiness: "Usually something to do with their appearance, or small, silly mannerisms that I might have observed."
Richardson meanwhile perceiving transcendent vigour or insight in "small, silly mannerisms," and the transcendence of the world is up to the person who is perceiving it, that's her belief : anything is some sort of gateway, even a bit of light; and there is a question of things having or not having a hold -- "Immediate things had lost their hold" -- whereas the hold-having for Knausgård has dissolved with childhood; it is impossible now, he is too adult. The petty emotions in her can flow into a whole, and are restructured by their relationships: "But even as she felt this jealousy's deep-seeking manipulations, the vision of Amabel alone and unchanged, however surrounded and accompanied, sent it to its death [...] Released, she could seek those to whom she belonged."
She has what you could call a better self. She can be rescued, she can rescue herself, but he can't, and here is part of his clown atmospheric in My Struggle, the impossibility of self-rescue, and the undisciplined disappointment of that.