“I began to understand what it meant to read. Reading is seeing the words as lights shining in the dark, one after another, and to engage in the activity of reading is to follow the lights into the text. But what we see is never detached from the person we are; the mind has its limitations, they are personal, but cultural too in that there is always something we cannot see and places we cannot go. If we are patient and investigate the words and their contexts carefully enough, we may nonetheless identify those limitations, and what is revealed to us then is that which lies outside ourselves. The goal of reading is to reach these places. This is what learning is, seeing that which lies outside the confines of self. To grow older is not to understand more but to realise that there is more to understand.”

— Karl Ove Knausgaard, The End (trans. by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett)

The last sentence of this fragment, so elegant a formulation of the increasing uncertainty that comes with maturity.

“Humility, a word so often bandied about in public contexts, was something hardly anyone knew the meaning of any more. Only those who had every reason to be conceited, those of real calibre, showed no trace of conceit, only they were humble. Conceit and self-righteousness were part of a defence mechanism without which a person would be crushed under the weight of their own weaknesses, shortcomings and flaws, and that fact underlay almost every discussion I witnessed, verbal as well as written, in newspapers and on television, but also in my immediate surroundings, in the private sphere. Such weakness would not be admitted, since so much would be lost, and the form of those discussions and the power of the media resolved it by endowing it with their strength. That was why opinions were so important in society, through opinions we appropriated a strength and supremacy we did not possess. That was the function of form here, to obscure the weakness of the individual.

— Karl Ove Knausgaard, The End (trans. by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett)

“A morality that proceeds from the community of an all, that proceeds from we, is dangerous, perhaps more dangerous than anything else, because committing to an all is to commit to an abstraction, something existing in language or the world of ideas, but not in reality, where people exist only as separate individuals.”

— Karl Ove Knausgaard, The End (trans. by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett)

“And writing was such a fragile thing. It wasn’t hard to write well, but it was hard to make writing that was alive, writing that could prise open the world and draw it together in one and the same movement. When it didn’t work, which it never really did, not really, I would sit there like a conceited idiot and wonder who I thought I was, supposing I could write for others. Did I know any better than anyone else? Did I possess some secret no one else possessed? Were my experiences particularly valuable? My thoughts about the world especially valid?”

— Karl Ove Knausgaard, The End (trans. by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett)

It is characteristic that Knausgaard would think and express this sentiment in his book. (At a much lower level, it is a thought constantly on mind as I contribute in any way to blogging and other social media.)

“If the thought really yielded to the object, if its attention were on the ­object, not on its  category, the very objects would start talking under the lingering eye.”

— Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 150

“Language is aired, we grow into it, and the forms we use it in are also shared, so irrespective of how idiosyncratic you and your notions are, in literature you can never free yourself from others. It is the other way around, it is literature which draws us closer together. Through its language, which none of us owns and which indeed we can hardly have any influence on, and through its form, which no one can break free of alone, and if anyone should do so, it is only meaningful if it is immediately followed by others. Form draws you out of yourself, distances you from yourself, and it is this distance which is the prerequisite for closeness with others.”

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Man in Love: My Struggle, Book 2 (trans. Don Bartlett)