Friday, 24 April 2015

DANCING IN THE DARK by Karl Ove Knausgaard

This is volume 4 of Karl Ove's 6 volume auto-biography, and I feel like I've been waiting forever for it to come out. What is his translator taking so long about? This one is about his year as a trainee teacher in the far north of Norway. Well, that's what it's about in terms of plot. In reality, it's about how incredibly badly he wants to have sex. He is 19, which apparently by Norwegian standard is incredibly late to still be a virgin. In typical Karl Ove TMI fashion, which I love, he tells us that he has wet dreams three times a week. Can this be normal? I would like to ask my male friends but it seems a bridge too far. Here he is:
I would have given absolutely anything to sleep with a girl. Any girl actually. Whether it happened with someone I loved, like Hanne, or with a prostitute, made no difference, if it happened as part of a satanic initiation ceremony with goat's blood and hoods I would have said, yes, I'm up for that. But it wasn't something you were given, it was something you took. Exactly how, I didn't know, and then it became a vicious circle, for not knowing made me unsure of myself, and if there was one thing that disqualified you, one thing they didn't want, it was a lack of self-assurance. That much I had understood. You had to be confident, determined, convincing. But how to get to that position? How in God's name could you do that? How did you go from standing in front of a girl in full daylight, with all her clothes on, to sleeping with her in the darkness a few hours later?"

Later, he begins to get pretty close, managing to get quite a few girls' clothes off while disturbingly drunk. But then he has a major problem with premature ejaculation. This, he hypothesizes, is because he never masturbates. TMI! TMI! TMI! And yet this is why I love these books; I was about to write 'love Karl Ove', because they really seem one and the same. It's so rare that someone you know, either in life or in literature, really tells you what it was like for them. I'm not sure people are really keeping it secret. I more think it's very hard to know what it has all been like. A single day, maybe yesterday, we can do: but to convey your whole life, as Karl Ove's attempting: it's amazing.

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