Once more into the fascinating (but slightly tedious in places) breach
I read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s ‘A Death in the Family’ at the beginning of this year, and when about halfway through, and still held by the novelty of his way of writing every single bloody thing, I bought the next book in the 6 volume series, ‘A Man in Love’. I then didn’t bother with it all year, but as soon as I finish ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’, I will get right on it. Although his style can be a bit draining, I have recently found myself wanting to get back into his world, a world where you not only know the main character is having fried eggs for breakfast, but how just how many, and if the yolks broke or not.
Knausgaard has been compared to Proust, but apart from writing a very long personal memoir, I think it stops there. Proust doesn’t assert general truths aggressively, but his own, and eloquently. Whereas, Knausgaard annoyed me a few times, to the point of having arguments in Guardian comments section with people thinking he’s some kind of Scandi-genius, and when he strokes his scraggly beard, golden eggs of wisdom fall out.
As much as I remember some of the astute observations, I also remember some of the daft. For example, in the first book he speaks at length about funeral directors, and the treatment of the dead, and how we are desperate to push death away and underground as quickly as possible. And so, that’s why the mortuary is in the basement of the hospital, and funeral directors don’t have offices half the way up tall office buildings. If anyone were to think about that for five minutes, they would quickly realise that it’s practical considerations that govern these things. Bodies are heavy, they must be moved in lifts, why on earth would you take them up and down levels? Refrigeration equipment and chemical storage are heavy, so cause structural issues, and dead people aren’t fussed about windows, so of course the basement of a hospital is the best place for a mortuary.
In the UK we are seeing a rise in people who want their loved ones to rest at home, the coffin in the dining room or bedroom, as was the norm before the world wars came along. More people want to view their loved ones in rest rooms, sometimes visiting them for hours on end, so if anything we are getting less squeamish and realising it’s still Auntie Mabel, and we want to get her a pretty frock sorted and say goodbye.
That is just one instance of Knausgaard annoyance, and in the next book, I’m sure there’ll be more.