Karl Ove Knausgaard on Why Literature Makes Bad Propaganda

Karl Over Knausgaard, the author of the worldwide bestselling series, My Struggle, recently talked with Louisiana Channel and shared some insightful commentary on why literature is most useful for developing new and different opinions. Coming off the heels of a historically controversial election here in the states, it seems people people are rearing to disagree with one another at every opportunity. If you’re getting tired of bitter rhetoric and debate, Knausgaard makes the case that literature is a safe space to engage with new ideas. 

When we look at something, films, pictures or whatever, they are conveyed and we form an opinion. Distance is the key word. When you read there is no distance, you take in strange things that you otherwise distance yourself from, compelling you to articulate them with your own voice. I have my own opinion about gender; about man, woman and family. If I see something on TV that doesn’t fit into that, I just turn it off or I get mad, you know. But then I read a great book by American author Maggie Nelson and her view of the world is far away from my own. But when I read it, I articulate it with my own voice, my own feelings, and I’m compelled to think about it in an intimate way. I like it, but it’s also a struggle. So many things go on. And that’s because there’s just me and her. I don’t know her, but she wrote this in her language, and I read it. Only literature can pull you in like that. But it can be exploited as well. Hitler knew that literature was a bad medium for propaganda. Literature disintegrates and breaks down and isn’t as effective as visual impressions that enthrall you. You always put yourself into literature, it’s an important part of it.

Check out the full interview:


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