Not Knowing How to Write

Karl Ove Knausgaard, “Completely Without Dignity: An Interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard” by Jesse Barron, The Paris Review Daily 26 December 2013

Did you keep diaries when you were young?

Yes, I did, but I burned them when I was twenty-five or twenty-six.

Why?

I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t stand it. It’s the same with Min Kamp, I can’t stand it. If I could I would burn that, too, but there are too many prints, so it’s impossible.

Life develops, changes, is in motion. The forms of literature are not. So if you want the writing to be as close to life as possible — I do not mean this in any way as an apology for realism — but if you want to write close to life, you have to break the forms you’ve used, which means that you constantly have the feeling of writing the first novel, for the first time, which means that you do not know how to write. All good writers have that in common, they do not know how to write.

[See Roland Barthes and Thomas Mann.]

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