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Keyboard and thought

Experience on the edge
Alexander Carnera merges writing and thinking together exemplarily. 

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

That writing is an integral part of what the author writes om, is not always as obvious, at least not viewed from the outside. But in the essay genre, this relationship is defining, says the Danish writer Alexander Carnera, who describes writing essays as "a digestive process where you go through something", ie experience something.

Memoirs do not delve into the writing so deeply, he states: “Recalling past events from one's life, gruesome events or unhappy childhood episodes rarely turns into writing other than anecdotes. To give life to an event requires it indlæjres in the time of the story. Literature as a space, a framed space. ”

Essay as a way of life.
Carnera describes her own writing well here, too the material moisture meter shows you the is far from anecdotal, but rather thinking in realtime, where something is at stake, and where the twists and turns of the brain are articulated through the "digestive process" of writing. Carnera is an outstanding writer, but it is the proximity of life and art, pen and head, that really sets him apart.

In the introductory chapter to his latest book Experience on the edge, which can be considered as a kind of instruction manual for the essays – call it a manifesto, if you will – he elaborates on his thoughts on the essay. He asks the reader to follow him on the journey as co-writing when he further asks us to "try to regard the essay as a form of migratory life – the writing practice of the essay as a way of living and thus a way of exploring other values, ways of using oneself, being alive".

The writing experience. It is also this investigative writing business, in which he tries out thought writing by twisting words and pictures, that Carnera comes closest to his own description of essayism. The fact that writing is not about dosing over something you can before, but about exploring what you do not master but are curious about, is also the setting Carnera writes these texts with. Writing is an experience, a journey through unfamiliar landscapes, a discovery of something that did not exist before you, at least not in this form.

This "thinking writing" gives the texts two pages that cannot be separated: on the one hand, the texts are case-oriented, on the other they are part of the author's own self-examination. Not an analysis of one's own subject, but an intensely curious way of thinking. In other words, the texts never become private or revolving about Carnera himself, although it is his exploratory desire that lies behind them. experience, this term Carnera constantly comes back to, is a process in which the whole that is eventually formed was not given in advance and therefore could shape the one who "lives" it, in this case the writer and the reader.

The concept of experience derives from Carnera from (among others) Walter Benjamin, Richard Sennett and John Dewey, and it is about the acquisition of a knowledge that is heartfelt and experienced, not mechanical and lecturing. In her text on Benjamin, Carnera discusses, among other things, the "loss of experience" that Benjamin described in his essay "The Narrator."

Carnera writes: «Information and accumulation of data today replace experience. The events that reach us do not benefit the narrative; almost everything is useful. What is lost is the ability to pass on what has been said. A listening community is a place where you weave and spin when you listen to what is being said. ”

I listen and weave on, because these are thoughts I myself have a close relationship with.

Crafts and everyday life. It gets even closer when Carnera links the concept of experience to the craft, as formulated by Richard Sennett (who has been given a separate text in the book). For the reason that experiences decline in status in favor of information, is that experience is the processing of what we experience through the craft, something we master, or at least will be able to master by practicing it.

Wanting to master something, or actually mastering it, makes the knowledge a part both of our action and thought life at the same time, because we do not repeat the knowledge as it is communicated to us, but process it, deal with it, through it. There is sometimes a vulnerability, almost a nudity, in Carnera's essays, which is not so often seen in this type of scholarly literature. Carnera is not afraid to wonder, no, he seeks out the wonder in an adjacent to naïve way rather than posing as an intellectual. It is a sympathetic and healthy attitude – which also makes him a better thinker. For where there is no room for doubt, there are rarely good thoughts. With the essay as medium and the craft and the experience as a method, Carnera also gets an unusual amount of artwork that has been mentioned countless times before. Musils, Kafkas and Benjamins, to name a few.

Information and accumulation of data is replacing today experience.

Best of all, I like the slightly quirky tribute of essayist Geoff Dyer and his book Neighborhood, which is about Andrei Tarkovsky Stalker. This circulation between the two artists, with a tour of William James and Carnera himself on the road, opens up for interesting trade-offs, which er the essay, and these are the ones we must go to get where we are going: to thought experience. Yes, for "raising our awareness requires the activation of a selfless imagination which in turn allows one to see one's fellow human beings, the world, things."

Kjetil Røed
Freelance writer.

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