Damn these values

Knausgaard refers to himself as a nineteenth century man but cooks like a modern European. He plays softly with his children, and is patient with their anger. But he writes things like this, of a boxing club:

There the values that the welfare state had otherwise subverted, such as masculinity, honour, violence and pain, were upheld, and the interest for me lay in how different society looked, when viewed from that angle, with the set of values they had retained.

Knausgaard mixes the first two values, masculinity and honour, which could be considered positive, with the last two, violence and pain, which cannot, are not even values. It is tempting to think, when he accuses the welfare state of subverting these values, that he is being critical of his government's direction. This could be the vocabulary of a middle-Englander. But the juxtaposition of violence and masculinity and honour and pain cannot be an accident. Maybe he really does believe the welfare state has subverted them, but he doesn't appear cross about it. Rather he seems interested in social archaeology, in finding a way to look back at his own society through older eyes, or at least eyes unclouded by modernity.

Knausgaard definitely appears modern to me: his reflections on his own inability to interpret poetry land almost intuitively in the shade of cultural theory. When he refers to himself as a nineteenth century man he must mean an unsophisticated non-Swede, a Norwegian and a country one at that. He may have almost atavistic ideas about the chimera of masculinity, but he belongs to and sympathises with a world I recognise as my own.