Inadvertent by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Book Review)
Updated: Feb 17, 2019
As an author myself, I have a keen interest in the craft of writing and how fellow authors feel about this mysterious craft. Firstly Knausgård debates why he writes and then branches out into what writing actually is. He writes about this truthfully and lucidly, while offering numerous examples from childhood where he first discovered reading and the way a good storyteller can take you out of this world. He also explains the difficulties he has with even summarising or expressing how he actually feels about the form. I especially enjoyed the sections where he talks about how his strong inner visions, or anyone's for that matter, can never come out on the page as vividly as they exist in the mind. How the struggle with writing is to bring those two opposing worlds of the inner and the outer closer together. I was impressed with his honesty throughout, and this is, he explains, one of the most important aspects of writing. One cannot think about their potential reader's response to their prose, for to do so would only weaken it.
His influences are many, from Flaubert, Ursula K Le Guin, Tolstoy & Joyce, among others, although he admits struggling with Joyce and perhaps only enduring his prose so that he could maybe learn something from its complexity. But it is with Marcel Proust and reading his seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time, that he believes first helped him on to the path of becoming a real writer. It was the influence of this work that finally gave him his first published novel. This put an end to the jealousy he felt over two close friends who reached this goal much earlier in their life than he. He believes they were blessed with a naturalistic talent, while his own was always one of grinding and difficulty. Yet this isn't the whole of the story, for he still struggles with his craft, unable to write another novel until long after his first. In fact, he confesses he didn't really find freedom as a writer until he started to write confessional prose without censorship. This I assume is what led him to eventually write his six autobiographical novels for which he is best known.
This is a personal and insightful account of one author's struggle and desire to write, but by no means is it a book on how to write, and there is no final resolution as to what writing actually is. It is, however, a very honest, interesting and self-effacing essay that gives enough space and wisdom for us to answer these potentially pretentious questions ourselves and in our own way.