Karl Ove Knausgård: Moj boj, šestič

Zadnjič. The End. Težko pričakovani konec Knausgårdovega avtobiografskega pisanja, ki pa preostalim delom ne seže niti do kolen; dobra tretjina knjige je za moj okus namreč povsem odveč. In ja, tista tretjina. V preostanku tisoč sto petdeset strani dolgega zapisa pa je tu in tam kljub temu moč najti tudi kakšen uporaben odsek. To je nekaj njih.

I thought about Heidi and smiled. She invariably wanted to be carried. If it was up to her she would never walk a single step. She had always been like that, right from the start. I was so close to her then, after she was born. Vanja was jealous and claimed Linda’s attention as much as she could, while I carried Heidi around until she was eighteen months and John came along. It stopped then, our closeness to each other. Every now and again I felt a twinge of sadness about it. But that was how kids were, everything came in phases, and phases came to an end. Before long they would be grown up and the children they used to be, whom I had loved, would be gone. Even seeing photos of them from as recently as a year before could make me feel sadness at the fact that the children they were then no longer existed. But mostly they took up so much of our lives now and whirled up our days with such intensity there was no room left for such feelings. It was all here and now with them.

But then, on the Friday, I picked up some of the photos we’d taken that summer. I sat with Vanja, Heidi and John at the café at Triangeln where we went every Friday after nursery, they has ice creams while I sat with a coffee, and we looked through the photos together. One was of me standing on a beach over in Österlen with John on my arm. I looked unusually good, I thought to myself, there was something about the beard and the sunglasses that made me seem … well, so masculine. And with John on my arm to complete the picture, I looked like … well, dammit, yes, like a dad.

Then as now I was unable to fully grasp the connection between us, mostly I looked upon them as three little people with whom I shared my home and life.

When I’d finished washing their hair I ordered them to stand up, took three cloths off the pile on the shelf, put soap on them and washed all three of them between their legs. It felt like an assault, that was the thought that came to me every time. Imagine if someone came in and saw what I was doing, what would they think? A perverted father rubbing the crotches of his daughters? It was a thought only a man who had witnessed the incest hysteria of the 80s was capable of thinking, I knew that, but all the same it didn’t help, the feeling was there and couldn’t be ignored, and when they sat down again and I rinsed the cloths, wrung them and hung them over the radiator to dry, I was as relieved as ever that no one had come in and seen me.

I felt like I did when I was a little boy and had done something wrong. I was afraid dad was going to come and be angry with me. There was nothing worse in all the world. After I left home and became an adult, the fear remained, it was with me all the time, and I did everything I could to keep it from breaking out. Dad was no longer around, and mf fear of his rage had been transferred onto others; I was twenty years old and scared stiff of other people being angry with me. It never went away. When I left everything behind and moved to Stockholm at the age of thirty-three the fear was still inside me. Linda, who I met soon after and later had children with, was temperamental and often unreasonable in her outbursts, and yet I allowed myself to be intimidated completely, even the slightest raising of her voice was enough to fill me with anxiety, and the only thing I could think about would be to make it go away. Even as a forty-year-old, sitting on the balcony on a morning in August 2009, I was scared of someone being angry with me.

‘Even if you succeed, like my dad did – and I’d say he was an ideal father – the ideal doesn’t necessarily get passed down. What happens then is that the sons haven’t got anything to make up for. So you’re a better dad than your own father, while I’ll be a poorer dad than mine, and when it gets to Njaal’s turn he’ll be compensating for that in the way he relates to his own kids, who for their part are going to be just as hopeless as me, their grandad. The ideal doesn’t get inherited, that’s the point.’

It’s easy to be rich if you’ve got lots of money, and being good is easy enough for those who are whole, but for those who are not whole, good isn’t even within their horizon; indeed, perhaps no horizon exists for such people, no up, no down, no good, no bad, only anger or pain or loathing, because something inside them is broken, truly fucked up, and they are so deeply entangled in all sorts of unmanageable emotions, struggling for life with their backs to the wall, unless they’ve resigned themselves and given up completely. So many struggle for life, so many give up, and the rest, who know nothing of such pain or anger, watch TV in the cosy warmth of their own goodness.

If I had been responsible for only myself there would have been nothing to consider. I would manage whatever the circumstances. But I had three children with Linda and didn’t want them to grow up in a home that was hidden away, didn’t want them to believe that hiding was an acceptable way of engaging with the world. All I could give them was what I was giving them now, and this wasn’t given through what I said but what I did. I wanted them to be surrounded by people, I wanted them to become independent and fearless, able to develop their full potential, by which I mean to be as free as possible within the unfree limits of this society. And, most important of all, I wanted them to feel secure in themselves, to like themselves, to be themselves. At the same time they had the parents they had, I thought, and we couldn’t change our personalities in any fundamental way, which would have been both senseless and catastrophic: having two parents who pretended to be something they weren’t would obviously just bring more misery. This was about our living conditions. They were fixed, but not immutable. The way I had behaved during the first three or four years of having children, when, much too often, I took out my frustrations on them, must have affected their self-esteem, the one thing in them you, as a parent, mustn’t fuck up. I had got out of this, it hardly ever happened any more, we never argued in front of them now and I never lost my temper, but I said a silent prayer almost every day that this hadn’t left any marks, that what I had done wasn’t beyond redress. Oh, I imagined that their self-esteem was a beach, I had left my footprints there, but then the waves washed ashore, the sun shone, the sky was blue and the water, so fantastic at adapting to its environment, covered everything, erased everything, salty and cold and wonderful.”

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