I was sorry, because I wanted to spend time in this space rural Norway, mostly, with ventures into Oslo and Sweden I wanted to spend time with the narrator, Trond, whose name rarely emerges in the text and who we follow when he is fifteen and when he is sixty seven, with ventures elsewhere in his life.
It s the story of a man who, growing older and having suffered a terrible loss, retreats to an old cabin in the country He tells no one where he s going, not even his daughters, who he loves, and not because he didn t want them to know, exactly, he just didn t think of it The old cabin needs a great deal of work, especially as winter comes, and Trond welcomes it He has a few neighbors, a dog, his Dickens novels, and it is in the middle of the night that he encounters one of those neighbors and comes to realize that this man was a child he d known, a child from a family that figured meaningfully into his life during the summer of 1948, when he d been a teenager This was the summer the child had instigated a wrenching accident This was the summer that Trond, who was staying with his father in rural Norway, first met the mysteries that would obsess him and us readers for his life.
This is a wonderful book, and I love it.
See for yourself I could have paid a carpenter, I am far from skint,but then it would have gone too fast I want to use the time it takes Time is important tome now, I tell myself Not that it should pass quickly or slowly, but be only time, be something I live inside and fill with physical things and activities that I can divide it up by, so that it grows distinct to me and does not vanish when I am not looking I am particular impressed with how Petterson manages work in the novel through physical tasks, the push and pull of the body as it cuts and mends and builds in the natural world, Petterson s reticent characters engage with one another and meet the sort of companionship that satisfies them best.
And time Petterson s collage of chronology plays like a human memory, feeding on associations and surprising juxtapositions, making the familiar revelatory It is crafted of many long lines and leaps of moodiness and knowing There is suspense and mystery in Out Stealing Horses but it hardly moves like a step by step thriller Petterson performs the writerly miracle of making mysterious what we already know has happened And that what that has happened isn t itself easily defined, even as I can feel it s wait It s rather like someone asked me what has happened in my life I couldn t tell you But I feel it s weight.
In my own writing, I ve felt challenged by writing a first person narrator who is a quiet sort, inwardly directed, hardly the sort to ramble on in any kind monologue, internal or not Petterson shows how it can be done.
See for yourself I picked up the jug and poured a little milk into my cup That made the coffee smoother and like the light and not so strong, and I shut my eyes into a squint and looked across the water flowing past below the window, shining and glittering like a thousand stars, like the Milky Way could sometimes do in the autumn rushing foamingly on and winding through the night in an endless stream, and you could lie out there beside the fjord at home in the vast darkness with your back against the hard sloping rock gazing up until your eyes hurt, feeling the weight of the universe in all its immensity press down on your chest until you could scarcely breathe or on the contrary be lifted up and simply float away like a mere speck of human flesh in a limitless vacuum, never to return Just thinking about it could make you vanish a little This is the first Per Petterson book I ve read Hell, it s the first Norweigan book I ve read, and many thanks to the Anne Born, the translator, and last year s Reading the World, which first brought it to my attention, for getting it into my hands.
I m hardly the only one who s noticed its worth it s string of glowing reviews and honors include being one of the ten New York Times Book Review s notable books of the year, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Norweigan Critics Prize, and so on While I m late to the wagon, it seems Europeans have been big fans of Petterson s writing for years.
Is it worth all that See for yourself.
What do we see when we look back over our lives Are we the hero of our own story Looking into that mirror, can we really see ourselves, or is our view doomed to be perpetually blocked, offering maybe a Maigret image of only the backs of our heads A man, 67, Trond, lives alone in a small house by a lake in east Norway and contemplates his past We travel back and forth between the present, 1999, and 1948 when he was a fifteen year old, living with his father in a summer place The events of that summer defined his life in many ways This is his coming of age story I was very much of two minds about this book For the first half, maybe two thirds, I loved it, thought it might be a masterpiece There is a rich store of allusion here, imagery that fills, language that offers structure and beauty in support of its aims, story telling craft that mostly worked very well But I found that the back third left me dry If I could I would have given it 3.
There are events in the story that call for some drama in how Trond reacts, yet he often seems incapable Maybe that was the author s intent I don t know, but I found it unsatisfying Too many questions were left up in the air for my comfort The book made me wonder, though, if the author s great gifts have been put to satisfying use in other works I was impressed with how Petterson modulated the pace and tone of his words I loved the sparse, clipped sentences that open the book Early November It s nine o clock The titmice are banging against the window.
There is a reddish light over the trees by the lake It is starting to blow This reflects well the starkness of the character, how his life is as stripped down as the words.
Petterson s style grows appropriately breathless when painting a haying scene As the wire gradually unrolled it became easier, but by then I was that much exhausted, and there was suddenly an opposition to everything that was physical and I grew mad and did not want anyone there to see I was such a city boy, particularly while Jon s mother was looking at me with that blinding blue gaze of hers I d make up my own mind when it would hurt, and if it should show or not, and I pushed the pain down into my body so my face would not gibe me away, and with arms raised I unrolled the reel and the wire ran out until I came to the end of the meadow, and there I put the reel down in the short stubble of the newly mown grass, the wire taut, all as calmly as I could and just as calmly straightened up and pushed my hands into my pockets and let my shoulders sink down There are many references that add a feeling of substance and connection to the work, references to Dickens, Oedipus, Maigret, the River Styx Petterson likes to mirror events and images Being run off the road is used several times, crossing the river Styx from one life to another, several watery baptisms But while the imagery satisfies the thinness of Trond leaves one wanting something.
De Jarige Trond Trekt Zich Terug In Een Huisje Aan De Oostkust Van Noorwegen Na De Dood Van Zijn Vrouw Heeft Hij Zijn Bedrijf En Zijn Huis Verkocht Nu Woont Hij Alleen Met Zijn Bastaardhond Hij Brengt De Tijd Door Met Praktisch Werk Reparaties, Voorbereidingen Voor De Winter Een Ontmoeting Met Een Oude Kennis Maakt Herinneringen Los Aan De Zomer Van , Toen Trond Een Jongen Van Vijftien Was En De Vakantie Samen Met Zijn Vader Doorbracht De Titel Paarden Stelen Verwijst Naar Een Code Uit De Tweede Wereldoorlog En Naar Een Kwajongensstreek Van Lang Geleden What in the hell just happened here What in the hell I am completely flummoxed by my own reaction to this book.
So, quick back story on this About 3 years ago, I was hiding out in the kitchen at a neighbor s New Year s Eve party My husband had become trapped against the wall in the den, stuck in a conversation with several other men, forced to listen to a man give the play by play on how he had just tiled his floors I saw that I couldn t save my spouse, so I had slipped into the kitchen unseen and quickly discovered the best bottle of Pinot Noir I ve ever had in my life Moments later, another woman entered the kitchen with a declaration of Bloody hell so I poured her a glass of the precious wine Naturally, she took a seat When I asked her the question that I ask of all normal appearing strangers, What are your top 5 books of all time she surprised me by answering, I have only one book that I remember, Out Stealing Horses It s like the best book I ve ever read in my life Out Stealing Horses Turns out it s a book written by a Norwegian author, translated nicely into English, and I recently found a copy at a thrift store.
So, I started reading the book this week, and I was almost cursing the woman from the kitchen What in the hell The beginning like almost the entire first part was totally WEIRD There is almost ZERO character development and the story is dominated by one dimensional male characters Only three women appear in the entire novel, and they might as well be pet turtles or lizards, they are so woefully unformed I can t even say I EVER understood the protagonist or could predict what he would do in a particular scenario.
And, did I mention that dialogue is almost non existent and is comprised of mostly a whole lot of Yeps and Nopes Oh, and may I add that it contains possibly the MOST awkward nude scene I ve ever encountered Oh yes, there is a rain storm, and the grown father and the almost grown son strip off all of their clothes, lather up their bodies with soap and then perform handstands together in the rain For a while I ve never thought about male genitalia than I did during this scene Personally, I ve come to think of it as a torture scene And let me cap off this part of my review by telling you that many, MANY paragraphs are filled with very BORING descriptions of cutting down and hauling trees.
Soooo many things are wrong here Soooo many kisses of death exist here for me as a reader.
And yet, despite all of these issues, this book contains some of the deepest, heart achingly beautiful descriptions of aging and longing and abandonment and joy and regrets I feel like I d need to read it at least two times to grasp what is really, really wonderful here.
It s a story of an aging man and his dog who is better written than almost all of the humans , and, in the end, it knocked me out KNOCKED ME OUT And here I am, giving this weird book five stars.
The book that began with an ending, ended up winning me over If you look back on your life what will you see Will you be happy with your relationships Will you be proud of your actions Will you be haunted by past events that forever changed your life Actions have consequences How do consequences affect a person for life I read this book when it first came out with my book club and it blew me away in a very quiet subtle way Par Peterson is an award winning Norwegian writer who introduces us to 67 year old Trond Sander who is living an isolated lifestyle He lives in a rustic cabin and is determined to spend the rest of his life living in virtual isolation His second wife has died and he has forgotten neglected to tell his adult daughters his whereabouts He has a meeting with one of his neighbors someone from his past and that meeting causes him to reflect back on his life He specifically looks back at the summer of 1948 when he was living in a cabin with his father.
One day Trond s friend Jon shows up and asks him to go on an adventure with him An adventure which begins with going for a ride on borrowed horses and ends in tragedy A loaded gun tragically changes the lives of not just the teens but their families as well Initially, I thought this tragedy would be what transforms this man s life but it was only the catalyst Young Trond learns that there is to his father then he initially thought This book is about relationships and how we view our relationships and the truths we learn about our relationships and those we are in a relationship with Whew One death destroys already damaged relationships Relationships that have been previously damaged by activities during wartime A time War ravaged the world A time when a teen learns about his father s involvement during the Norwegian resistance during the war A time when a man falls in love with a married woman A time when a young man learns about the harsh realities of life, when you learn your parents have faults and aren t everything you think they are A time when people disappear from our lives and an abandoned teen is faced with life altering decisions.
This book goes back and forth between the present time 1999 and 1948 There is such eloquence and beauty in the storytelling of this novel The Author shows us Trond s adolescent and adult interpretations of the events of his life I have used the word subtle a lot in this review, but I can t think of a better word to sum of the beauty of this book it is subtle Minimalistic is a word often used while describing this book as well Trond experiences strong emotions but has difficulty or is perhaps resistant to expressing those emotions Petterson allows the reader to make interpretations to those emotions He shows us a man, we see his loses, his pain, his suffering but yet do we truly know him I find myself recommending this book over and over again This book is not a BIG book but it is a powerful one I love books that cause me to think and feel I also love books where the environment landscape is also just as much as character as the living ones in the book This book was not only beautifully translated into English, it is beautifully melancholy just as melancholy as Trond himself This book is about love, acceptance, loss, secrets, regrets, decisions, tragedy, lust, yearning, and growth.
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com My copy of Ut og stj ler hester has a little tear in the dust jacket, and when my girlfriend sees it she looks at me reproachfully, she respects books in a way I cannot, as physical objects, and she had bought me this elegant first edition as a present, but now I had carelessly used the dust jacket to mark my page and put too much strain on the paper, it had not been important to me, for I respect books in my own way and was lost in the author s words, in his unique way of using the Norwegian language, which to me is the most beautiful in the world, even though I do not speak it particularly well You could have taken a bookmark from the pile, we have any number of them, my girlfriend says, and, full of remorse, I look on top of the bookcase in the corner of the kitchen and there are indeed several bookmarks diagonally over from the shelf where she has stacked the small frying pans, which must never be put in the dishwasher or scrubbed using a brush but only wiped gently with a soft cloth, and I choose a marker with a picture of Les jumeaux, the heavenly twins, that I remember buying last year at Percho, the artist s studio in Carouge, when the owner had told us shyly that she had just finished a major commission, a life size ceramic cow which would stand outside the entrance to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and next time we visited the hotel to meet our Russian friend K, the cow was indeed there, in the bright naivist colors which Percho always uses, and I gave it a nod of recognition before we went in and ordered tea, which they bring with considerable ceremony in glass teapots over little spirit flames but always forget the milk, an astonishing omission for what is supposed to be a five star establishment Now, on the last day of 2015, I slide the laminated bookmark between the pages at the end of a chapter, for the book is so densely textured that I can only read one chapter at a time, and I think about how to review it, to convey to others its unusual charm, but I see there is no way, I can only talk about things and people, so I decide to do that, I read the final chapter and write down the text that has been quietly growing in my mind as I progressed through the book, almost without my realizing, and I post it and wish all my online friends a very happy New Year, it will have to be enough.
The only negative thing I can say or, accurately, am willing to say about this novel is that it begs to be read by the fireplace, and not everybody has a fireplace I don t have a fireplace.
Early November It s nine o clock The titmice are banging against the window Sometimes they fly dizzily off after the impact, other times they fall and lie struggling in the new snow until they can take off again I live here now, in a small house in the far east of Norway A river flows into the lake It is not much of a river, and it gets shallow in the summer, but in the spring and autumn it runs briskly, and there are trout in it I can just see it from my window once the birch leaves have fallen.
It is here that Trond Sander finds the solitude, the peace and quiet he s been longing for with Lyra, his dog It is here, as well, that he comes to realize that with solitude comes reflection, introspection In his case, rumination of nearly seventy years, a lifetime of memories Some good, some haunting.
The year he was fifteen, an incident occurred that returns to him, a friend s life forever changed, and the aftermath affected them all Ripples of grief and guilt, affect them both, and their families draw even closer together It is this incident that has wormed its way back into his mind, reminding him of that summer, the summer he worked, moving lumber along the river.
Spare, deliberate, haunting prose moves this story along quietly with a sense of this man seeking a sense of peace with this past, to accept the losses that come along with a life lived, to come to terms with secrets, affections withheld, all of the injustices, real or perceived And while the memories once belonged to the boy, the man he has become shares this past, these moments of reminiscence with the wisdom gained through the yearsThat part of my life when I could turn the dreams to some use is behind me now I am not going to change anything any If I just concentrate I can walk into memory s store and find the right shelf with the right film and disappear into it and still feel in my body that ride through the forest with my father I believe we shape our lives ourselves, at any rate I have shaped mine, for what it s worth, and I take complete responsibility But of all the places I might have moved to, I had to land up precisely here I m a sucker for these self reflective sort of novels where the narrator looks back on his or her life and we as readers have the opportunity to make that journey as well I m also crazy about subtle language that in its simplicity still manages to deliver a powerful punch to the reader s gut Author Per Petterson sure seems to have a gift, and I adored the writing in this gorgeous piece of Scandinavian literature Trond Sander, now in the twilight of his years at the age of sixty seven, has decided to move into a small house in eastern Norway where he plans to live out his days in isolation An unexpected encounter with another man triggers a flood of memories from Trond s past The story alternates between the end of the millennium to 1948, where at the age of fifteen he spent the summer living in a cabin with his father during tree felling season In some ways, this is a coming of age tale, though by no means is it a young adult story There perhaps comes a time in our lives when we recognize the fact that our parents are not perfect human beings What do we do with this information There are exquisite passages about regret, grief, bitterness, sensual desire, abandonment, friendship, and agingTime is important to me now, I tell myself Not that it should pass quickly or slowly, but be only time, be something I live inside and fill with physical things and activities that I can divide it up by, so that it grows distinct to me and does not vanish when I am not looking This novel also beautifully illustrates the link between individuals and the natural world The feeling of vitality that working with the land and the river can instill in a person is juxtaposed with the apprehension of facing a harsh winter alone It is the summer of one s youth when so much lies ahead, and the winter of one s maturity where all that seems to remain are the memoriesAnd when someone says the past is a foreign country, that they do things differently there, then I have probably felt that way for most of my life because I have been obliged to, but I am not any If I just concentrate I can walk into memory s store and find the right shelf with the right film and disappear into it and still feel in my body that ride through the forest with my father This is a book you cannot read for the plot, or you may be disappointed Much of what happens occurred in the past, and although it is weighty stuff, the story is not propelled by the action Instead it is driven by the reflections of how those things affected not just one person, but a string of persons How an act reverberates across people and over a length of time Much like one tree felled by a swift strike by the ax will echo throughout the entire forest The I think about this book, the I realize just how affecting it really is I read this at a time when life is becoming extremely hectic, changes lie ahead, hopefully all for the best I was happy to sit with a quiet novel that made me think Actually, I loved thisI have nothing against the face in the mirror I acknowledge it, I recognize myself I cannot ask for
But this is also a story of decline, of an old man who revisits the countryside where he last saw his father in 1948, expecting to capture the blinding light of indifferent nature, the flashing clarity of unhurried memories, the physical vigor that pumped up his young body than sixty years ago before the clock of his worn out life ticks out.
Two stories and a single first person narrator, at first separated by the unbridgeable abyss of time, end up converging in a tapestry of revelations and silences that bespeak of the invisible threads that weave fate and chance, choice and serendipity together.
In Petterson s world there is no place for far fetched coincidences, everything that happens in the life of his characters is a direct result of their actions in a specific moment in time A family man falls in love with a married woman who shares his political ideals in wartime, when people got murdered if they were on the wrong side Five years later, a boy on the brim of adulthood who idolatrizes his father, discovers eroticism, betrayal and death all at once, resulting in premature responsibility for actions that were beyond his control.
An abandoned son faces two forked paths that will determine the man he is going to become in a future seared by the incommensurable absence of his father Meanwhile, the very same forest that saw him blossom with life in summertime, witnesses the gradual decrease of his energy when the bucolic landscape is covered in snowdrift during his last winter.
The power of this book remains in what is left unsaid, in the minimalistic poetry of concentrated meaning, in the slow moving pace that leaves one breathless, wanting to absorb the magnetic pull of every disclosed thought, be it of immense happiness or unbearable sorrow.
A number of recurrent sentences and imagery is used in different contexts to provide a delicate map of motifs that infuse the story with a cyclical undercurrent that recalls the passing seasons of the protagonist s life that is now setting in wintry stillness Out stealing horses is a weightless ode to letting go of versions we could have been to embrace the truths that shaped the persons we are Petterson s clear sighted prose is a journey back in time to make peace with the past and reconcile the present to the intensity of silence and light, which if rightly combined, can produce the most harmonious sound.
My first by this author, it won t be the last.