For Hospitals All Hearts Are the Same

The fifth volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's "My Struggle" is out in English translation.  I am almost through it and then will, once again, be bereft of Knausgaard's struggle until the final volume is available in English translation or until I teach myself to read Norwegian, whichever comes first. Don't think I haven't considered it.

There is a beauty to Knausgaard's careful examination of the events of his life, often repeatedly, from the vantage of different times in his life that seems Proustian to me. It is almost unspeakably touching to hear him reflect on his youth from the vantage of near youth, young adulthood, and even middle age. Each telling is the same and yet it is different, offering a meditation on the nature of memory, meaning, and the construction of a self. In Knausgaard's words: "Meaning requires content, content requires time, time requires resistance." (Book One, "My Struggle")

In Book Five, Knausgaard works in various health care facilities for a while, complete with harrowing stories of his work, but it is as visitor to his grandfather — a cardiac patient — that we encounter his meditation on the nature of objectification in health care. Struck by the highly compartmentalized nature of services in the hospital, Knausgaard visits his grandfather in the cardiac ward and reflects on how his grandfather is both objectified as a heart patient and reduced to his identity as a heart patient in the facility, becoming someone less than Knausgaard knows him to be in the process. Once we decide to "collect all physical suffering in one place" and categorize the suffering by organ, it is inevitable we would need to see the organ's host somewhat objectively.  "[F]or hospitals all hearts are the same." (Book Five, "My Struggle")

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