A few days ago I wrote about an unusual six-volume autobiography I am currently reading by Karl Ove Knausgaard entitled My Struggle. Today I am sharing a final paragraph from his third volume, Boyhood, in which he describes in relentless detail his sometimes painful, sometimes ecstatic childhood years from age 8 months to age 12 in a small “development” on the island of Tromoya in Norway.
It’s not that his experiences are unique…they are actually quite typical with many of the growing pains we have all endured. What is unique is his “tell all” stream-of-consciusness style of writing. He is unabashed in writing about his emotions and thoughts as he experiences them. His honesty is rare and often uncomfortable for the reader.
The final paragraph of Volume Three ties the whole book together. He and his family have just piled into their car to leave his childhood home on Tromoya Island forever. They are moving somewhere else because his father has been offered a better teaching job elsewhere. His closing suggests that none of us realize the imprint are early lives will make on us and therein lies the powerful message of his story.
“After the moving van had left and we got into the car, Mom, Dad, and I, and we drove down the hill and over the bridge, it struck me with a huge sense of relief that I would never be returning, that everything I saw I was seeing for the final time. That the houses and the places that disappeared behind me were also disappearing out of my life, for good. Little did I know then that every detail of this landscape, and every single person living in it, would forever be lodged in my memory with a ring as true as perfect pitch.”
For me, that image is so powerful…how we live somewhere and soak up all the details without even realizing it. Then we move on and think we’re leaving “forever,” but the memories and experiences stay with us and have a certain “pitch” to them even decades later. At least I have found that to be true in my life.
And that is why I will probably continue to read his 4th, 5th and 6th volumes out of sheer curiosity as to how he will maintain that pitch.