Water. It makes up most of the human body and the earth. So it’s only natural that it would show up so often in a book, right?
While reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Autumn, I noticed something: he was referring to water in almost every chapter, sometimes indirectly but for the most part, directly.
The book is the first part of a four-part series in which Knausgaard writes letters to his unborn daughter. Will her upbringing be different—more watery—than most?
I’m not sure why he mentions water so much. Is it his environment? He lives by the sea. Does he just have an affinity for the ocean?
Maybe he’s doing it unconsciously, but I do believe if you asked him, he’d say water is important to him. It’s even on the cover of the book.
“Most of the body’s interior, its organs and moist cavities, is pale in colour. In some places almost entirely colourless, like the brain’s grey, in other places vague, watery, cloudy hues. This colour palette is typical of things that grow inside other things or beneath them. The flesh of seashells, maggots in the soil, clumps of seaweed under water.”
“The water had been perfectly limpid, the way it gets when it is cold and still, with a faint cool green tinge to it…”
“The starfish, the clustered shells, the seaweed, but most of all the space they appeared in, the sea, which on the other side of the island struck the land in long heavy rollers but which here was calm between the walls of smooth rock and the cement quay above the sandy floor of the harbour basin, which it filled with transparency.”
“...for anyone who has experienced [porpoises], rising not only out of the deep, but out of time itself, unchanged as they have been for millions of years…”
“When I again turn my attention to the grass, it is already impossible to see; the darkness lies upon it like a small lake.”
“In a large field, cows were grazing, and when the rain came, five of them went over and stood beneath a big tree.” I can see this so clearly.
“[Jellyfish] live in the ocean and have a strange, almost majestic air of dignity about them as they float through the water. They can propel themselves forward by contracting and then dilating their bodies, like a slowly pumping muscle, but their power of movement is infinitely small compared to the might of ocean streams, so their eventual destination is beyond their control.” Is water here a metaphor for life?
“When...vast cloud massifs are hanging motionless in the blue sky out on the horizon, or rain dashes against the windscreen forming its irregular patterns, which a moment later are swept away by the wipers, I can sometimes feel intensely happy. The feeling can get particularly strong in the forest by the sea on these autumn afternoons…”
“The earth is non-living, but it contains life and in this it resembles the ocean, which is also non-living but contains life."
Things I’ve learned from reading this book:
There are no rules. Use as many commas and sentence fragments as you want. But you have to know the rules well to break them.
Words can be used simply to convey beautiful complexities.
Water is everywhere.
Helpful links if you'd like to learn more about Karl Ove Knausgaard: