Shamed Into Writing

Karl Ove Knausgård talks to The Believer about how shame influenced the writing of his six-volume autobiographical series My Struggle:

BLVR: I’m thinking that shame has a function for you: it pushes you to write.

Knausgård: Well, that’s really interesting: what shame is and what it does to me. It’s constructed for social purposes, to protect us and make us behave well to others. But for me, the shame has become a bit extreme. However, if you take for example my mother, you’ll see that she’s driven by moral values – meaning that you should behave and shouldn’t behave in certain ways, and not trespass any limits. If you go back further, to my grandmother, you’ll see that she’s even more like that: driven by shame and the thought that you shouldn’t think you’re someone special… but now, society has become almost shameless. That’s actually good since it gives a kind of freedom. We consider the old, functionless shame destructive. Today, if you have a strong sense of shame you also have a strong desire to overcome it. And that’s when you can write.

BLVR: Maybe you must overcome your sense of shame to be able to be individual and personal.

Knausgård: Yes, I think so. Shame tells you when you’ve gone too far. Then you try if it’s okay to go too far. And it might be so that shame was right. You can never, never know that.

Previous Dish on Knausgård here.