My eleventh graders are reading “Self-Reliance” this week:
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each man can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it.
This is part of what is so exciting about reading Knausgaard. Nobody taught Shakespeare to be Shakespeare, says Emerson. Nobody taught Knausgaard to be Knausgaard. He is in conversation with what the novel is, but he is not writing the novel as defined by anyone else.