16 Amazing Quotes from “My Struggle: A Death in the Family” by Karl Ove Knausgaard (English translation by Don Bartlett)

1. “For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops. Sooner or later, one day, this pounding action will cease of its own accord, and the blood will begin to run toward the body’s lowest point , where it will collect in a small pool, visible from outside as a dark , soft patch on ever whitening skin, as the temperature sinks, the limbs stiffen and the intestines drain.” (p.3)


2. “A town that does not keep its dead out of sight, that leaves people where they died, on highways and byways, in parks and parking lots, is not a town but a hell.” (p.5)


3. “As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge.” (p.11)


4. I never say what I really think, what I really mean, but always more or less agree with whomever I am talking to at the time, pretend that what they say is of interest to me, except when I am drinking, in which case more often than not I go too far the other way, and wake up to the fear of having overstepped the mark. (p.25)


5. “The immense intimacy you have with [children], the way in which your own temperament and mood are, so to speak, woven into theirs, such that your own worst sides are no longer something you can keep to yourself, hidden, but seem to take shape outside you, and are then hurled back.” (p.34)


6. “The only thing I have learned from life is to endure it, never to question it, and to burn up the longing generated by this in writing.” (p.36)


7. “When I look at a beautiful painting I have tears in my eyes, but not when I look at my children. That does not mean I do not love them, because I do, with all my heart, it simply means that the meaning they produce is not sufficient to fulfill a whole life.” (p.36)


8. “Music was not distinct from thinking, or it had nothing to do with thinking, it lived its own life inside them. When they played, they played, they didn’t mechanically repeat some pattern they had taught themselves, and the freedom in that, which was what music was actually about, was beyond me.” (p.100)


9. “Who cares about politics when there are flames licking at your insides? Who cares about politics if you are burning with desire for life? With desire for the living?” (p.158)


10. “I remembered hardly anything from my childhood. That is, I remembered hardly any of the events in it. But I did remember the rooms where they took place. I could remember all the places I had been, all the rooms I had been in. Just not what happened there.” (p.191)


11. “In recent years the feeling that the world was small and that I grasped everything in it had grown stronger and stronger in me, despite my common sense telling me that actually the reverse was true: the world was boundless and unfathomable, the number of events infinite, the present time an open door that stood flapping in the wind of history. But that is not how it felt.” (p.219)


12. “There were several other things he avoided but which I had never considered, had never seen, because what a person does always overshadows what he does not do, and what Dad didn’t do was not so conspicuous, also because there was nothing at all neurotic about him.” (p.246)


13. “I saw him in my mind’s eye, when we went skiing together once, in Hove, gliding in and out of the trees, and in every clearing we could see the sea, gray and heavy and vast, and smell it too, the aroma of salt and seaweed that seemed to lie pressed up against the aroma of snow and spruce, Dad ten meters in front of me, perhaps twenty, because despite the fact that his equipment was new, from the Rottefella bindings to the Splitkein skis to the blue anorak, he couldn’t ski, he staggered forward almost like a senile old man, with no balance, no flow, no pace, and if there was one thing I did not want it was to be associated with that figure, which was why I always hung back, with my head full of notions about myself and my style, which, what did I know, would perhaps take me far one day. I was embarrassed by him. At that time I had no idea that he had bought all this skiing equipment and driven us to the far side of Tromøya in an attempt to get close to me.” (p.249)


14. “The box of Kleenex was a sign that here weeping and death had undergone inflation.” (p.282)


15. “However extreme life had been for her over recent years, it barely constituted a tiny part of all the things she had been through. When she had looked at Dad she had seen the baby, the child, the adolescent, the young man; the whole of his character and all of his qualities were contained in that one look, and if he was in such a drunken state that he shat his pants while lying on her sofa , the moment was so brief and she so old that it would not, compared with all the immense span of time together that she had stored, have had enough weight to become the image that counted.” (p.397)


16. “Now I saw his lifeless state. And that there was no longer any difference between what once had been my father and the table he was lying on, or the floor on which the table stood, or the wall socket beneath the window, or the cable running to the lamp beside him. For humans are merely one form among many, which the world produces over and over again, not only in everything that lives but also in everything that does not live, drawn in sand, stone, and water. And death, which I have always regarded as the greatest dimension of life, dark, compelling, was no more than a pipe that springs a leak, a branch that cracks in the wind, a jacket that slips off a clothes hanger and falls to the floor.” (p.441)

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