So finally, after a loooong wait (the library tried to buy a copy after having lost it´s own - stolen perhaps - but eventually decided to borrow it from another library) I have got my hands on Finn Skårderud´s "Känslosamma resor, En bok om livet i rörelse" (my translation: "Emotional journeys, a book about life in motion"). Skårderud, a Norwegian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, has, as far as I can tell, only two books translated to English, one book about eating disorders and one about Fellini. A few years ago I read a book of his about anxiety and I thought it was brilliant. So I was really looking forward to this one.

This is a collection of essays, on the general theme transition. It´s about travelling or escaping as a way to deal with anxiety, a symptom of modern society. He tells stories about people who are ill, but more often than not, it´s very easy to identify with his patients. The line between normally fucked-up and disorderly fucked-up is very fine indeed. He knows this of course, it´s why he writes his books, I guess, to help those of us who are too well-adapted to ever come in contact with psychiatry, but might benefit from some of it´s insights. In a way, the book is an emotional landscape in itself. I read my way through it, stop in some places, go past others without pause. I like that he often refers to literature, both Paul Auster, Göran Tunström and W G Sebald get a lot of room and I now have a lot more on my to-read-list.

There are a lot of good quotes in here that I have written down for later reflection. It´s a personal selection, of course, but I also think it pretty well represents some of the core points that Skårderud is trying to make. I´ll give you one example, in my own translation:

"We risk being over-stimulated by relationships, information and possiblities, and in such a state we can loose the relationship with ourselves. One strategy is to reduce, to stop, to phase out, to get rid of and to clean, an ascetic movement. The no is an active yes to a life with boundries. These literary characters are existential dieters. As often in dieting there is book-keeping, both by Perec and Loe. Perec´s ascetic is twenty-five years old, has twenty-nine teeth, three shirts and eight socks. To write lists can give an illusion of order."

This immediately made me think of the minimalist movement and some of it´s expressions, like The 100 things challenge. And look here. And here. There is an ocean of stuff like this. And here, one page where people post pictures and detailed descriptions of what´s in their bags. I personally find some of these ideas very tempting (I do have a bit of a pathology with order and list-making), but at the same time it´s incredibly boring. I mean, who cares what you own? These people expose every sock, every pot, and every hairpin in their lives, and they feel that it makes them free. I get the idea that too many things can weigh you down, but why showing it to the world? There is something extremely narcissistic about it. At the same time, there is a clearly expressed ambition in these people to get over themselves, to have time and focus for what really matters: most often art or politics or travel. Doing some good.

Perhaps this is a sound reaction to media´s constant requests that we look at ourselves, compare ourselves with others, find our faults and improve ourselves. Always the answer is a suggestion to buy something, a dress, a car, a book. Many minimalists are concerned with getting out of consumer debt. Good for them. But it´s a bit funny that the reaction results in an even more intense preoccupation with Things. It´s like being anorexic: you don´t want the stuff, but you can´t live without at least a minimum of it.

I wish Skårderud was available to everyone, in every language. Highly recommended.

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