Sometimes a book can be so beautifully written that each sentence requires the reader to pause and think about what was written, and possibly reread the sentence again. This happened to me many times when I was reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Autumn.
As such the idea behind the book (the first in a quartet) is simple: Knausgaard picks a random topic, meditates on its beauty or ugliness and then places said object in a philosophical context. Take the story ‘Lice’ as an example.
Knausgaard’s daughter contracts lice, which in the past was shameful as it was a sign of poverty. Knausgaard himself doesn’t care and washes them out of his daughter’s hair. Two weeks later the whole family is infested and then he is ashamed noting that now they are like a poor family.
Basically all the short essays follow this structure and it makes for entertaining reading. However when Knausgaard is describing nature, the passages just shine. He knows how to take something simple like autumn leaves and make it thought provoking.
It’s an also a strange coincidence that Ali Smith has also written a seasonal quartet and although the approach is different both authors manage to be philosophical about the subject, sure Smith has a more satirical edge but are channeling their innermost thoughts through a season.