Inadvertent by Karl Ove Knausgård

“…I myself was so removed from the world, I was never really in it – perhaps because I had once benefited from protecting myself against it, and had never come out of my defensive position – and in literature I had found a way in. That is why presence and closeness were always what I sought there.” (36)

Inadvertent is the second of the Windham-Campbell lectures that I have read, the first being Patti Smith’s Devotion – an equally beautiful meditation on the art and interiority of the writing life. Over the past six years or so, Knausgård has easily become one of my favorite writers of all time as I plowed through whatever I could get my hands on (as it was released/published in English). I have been enthralled by his virtuosity and the ease through which he wove his life as a dream for his audience – his autofiction of the most tender, downloadable-to-the-mind execution. I’ll happily grab insight into his process, development, inspiration, and revision process as often as I can. 

This lecture was fascinating. It covered much of the work and thinking of (if I remember correctly) the fifth My Struggle novel. For this talk, Knausgård illuminates his inspiration from the heroes of the form, namely War and Peace and In Search of Lost Time. In this way, he happens-upon his craft inadvertently acknowledging when it works and when it doesn’t, but noting it is the immediacy of time and experience that drives his prose. This comes from two main sources: knowing he is going to die, and knowing the difference between wanting to be heard and recognized in a lasting legacy and executing the most truth he can in his work. He even discusses the evolution of his work in terms of his feelings for and reaction to and reflection on his relationship with his late father. 

This lecture allowed me to look under the hood and see how his work is built almost in the sense of a masterclass and being shown the schematics of where the nuts and bolts fit into the six novels of My Struggle to make it run. He is the father showing me this, so when I build my own novel, I am ready to do it on my own. To do this in so few, so masterful, so direction-driven words is a testament to the dedication to his craft. In many ways, his work is not at all inadvertent, but utterly purposeful, and it is in this irony that he has delivered a beautiful and razor-sharp lecture on what we all strive for. 

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