in their near-microscopic focus on the object under consideration, as in
this entry about “Buttons”:
For if there is one thing that characterises nature, it is abundance, a
wild opulence of leaves and grass, petals and stems and branches, an
unrestrained waste of chlorophyll, which the button, as it neatly and
modestly yet firmly holds the shirt together, is the direct opposite of.
This becomes evident on those occasions when one is overcome with
desire, and with one’s throat thick and one’s sex throbbing is unable to
wait the time it takes to undo all the buttons, but instead grabs hold of
either side of the shirt or blouse and rips it open in one violent motion,
thus entering the world of the boundless, wild and wasteful.
Clearly, this is over the top, but just as often the writing is extremely
poignant and subtle, as in the opening of Spring:
You don’t know what air is, yet you breathe. You don’t know what sleep
is, yet you sleep.
You don’t know what night is, yet you lie in it. You don’t know what
a heart is, yet your own heart beats steadily in your chest, day and night,
day and night, day and night.
Though Knausgaard made his reputation with the dense, philosophical, and syntactically complex passages that comprise My Struggle, the
prose of his seasonal quartet is frequently breathtaking in its utter simplicity—yet another common element of “tiny” writing.
In addition to the quartet of books by Knausgaard just described
that read tiny, 2018 also saw the publication of a slim volume by Knausgaard that is a physically tiny book. Like Adichie’s, it is based on a lecture. Inadvertent is
Knausgaard’s entry in the new Why I Write
series launched by Yale University Press in conjunction with the Windham-Campbell Prizes,
administered by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book &
Inadvertent (Why I Write)
by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Yale University Press,
2018, 104 pp. (hardcover)