Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stealing Horses In Norway

At the library last week a man, who seems in every other way a polite and civilized person, elbowed his way to the top of my To Be Read Pile. His name is Per Petterson. I was heading out the door when the New Book section whispered to me…….

“Molly Bawn, come see my lovely wares,” beckoning.

“It’ll only take a minute!” wink, wink.

“But, but….” hesitating, then lost. Because I spotted this:

And put it under my arm, and THEN headed out the door.

Which is not fair to Khaled Hosseini, or J.M.Coetzee, or Barbara Kingsolver, or Louise Erdich or Kurt Vonnegut, or Nancy Mitford, all of whom have been patiently waiting, enduring the accumulation of dust on their covers, only to have upstarts like Mr Petterson elbow their way in and refuse to take a number and wait their turn. It’s a cruel world on my night table…..

Trond Sander, a man of sixty seven, retires from life in Oslo to live alone in the woods by a river in eastern Norway…..Maybe I’m just partial to hermits. After all, the OC has definite tendencies in that direction… ….Mr. Petterson lured me in.

His sentences are long. I usually don’t like it when sentences run on. I get confused and lose the thread. But his, though long, move with the ceaseless murmur of quiet stretches of river, sometimes rising to a roar at the rapids, but propelling you ever onwards, until suddenly, you’re turning the last page and you don’t want to leave that cabin, or those piney, Norwegian woods, or those memories he’s caught you up in….

It’s a simple story of a man trying to live simply. He brings no television with him to the woods. No washing machine. He’s left no forwarding address. He’s looking for peace. He chops wood for his fire. He goes for long walks with Lyra, his dog. He helps his strangely familiar neighbour. Plots how he will fix up his dilapidated cabin……

But another, not so simple, story is unfolding. His new situation brings back memories of a summer with his father when he was fifteen, in a similar cabin by the river, and how the events and revelations of that summer changed him, broke his heart, and set him on the road to becoming the man he became.

This book set me thinking how much I’d like to revisit my childhood. The setting for “Horses” is Norway, but it’s really about another foreign country, the past, a place to which, once we have left, we can never return, but which provides background music for the rest of our lives. A child has a child’s understanding. But there are layers of meaning in what is said, and in what happens, that only begin to dawn on you when childhood is far behind, and you wish you could go back to investigate further, but the fog is too thick and you can’t struggle through, no matter how hard you try.

I loved this book. Since it was written in Norwegian it would have been out of my reach without the talents of Anne Born, who translated it to English. Even though The Pile is high, I’ll continue to check the new book shelf. Washing windows and scrubbing floors, and all the necessary daily chores have to be done, but they can wait if I have a chance to be “Out Stealing Horses.”

Note: In case you need further persuasion, "Out Stealing Horses" is the winner of the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. I had never heard of it, but upon investigation I have found a whole trove of former winners to add to my TBR pile. I can hear sighing on my night table already!

Another unrelated note: The dead have risen over at Lily's place!


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Hey lady!

I really missed visiting here. It's like a little treasure shop all tucked away in a special corner where I could take up permanent residency.

I am going to the library to check this book out. ASAyesterday.

Thanks for the recommendation, it sounds wonderful!

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

thailandchani said...

Now you've made me want to read it, too! :)

I love those simplicity, hermit stories. They are so in tune with my own proclivities.

Aaaaaah. (sigh of contentment)

Thimbleanna said...

Oh, it sounds loveley. Onto the list. And to be recommended to my mother -- it sounds like one she'd love. I'm about to finish A Thousand Splendid Suns (that name doesn't sound right?). So disturbing, but I'm really enjoying it.

Tanya Brown said...

Lovely. I'll add it to my library list.

Lily said...

Ah the list keeps growing. I need a rec for book club, this might fit the bill. Thanks!

meggie said...

I must get that book to read. It sounds wonderful. I have a huge TBR pile.. but still, I never know when the power might go out, or the 3 sewing machines might stop working... haha.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I haven't heard of this one but I love the title, and your descriptions make me want to run to the library immediately for it.

The New Releases section always lures me in like the Sirens did Ulysses.

I think that I am really a hermit at heart - even the word causes butterflies to beat their wings in my chest, so I expect to love this book.

Thank you, Molly!

Birdydownunder said...

ah Molly lass another book to be added to my list. And maybe we could trade passionfruit for figs. I wish. I just love figs :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

curiously, my latest post is about my "hermit" like tendencies.

Claire said...

What a lovely little blog!
I have to get this Per Petterson book from the library if they have it or buy if I have to. Sounds a delightful read. Nice to have encountered your place.

Kacey said...

I ambled on over here from Shelby's Place because you sounded interesting. You really are! Now that you wrote about "Horses", I'll have to get it and read it to my husband. He is an absolute fool for horses and I am a fool for anything English, Irish or Scot. In reading your profile, all I needed to see was that you like James Herriot's work. (I have them all) Do you mind if I put you on my blog favorites?

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Sounds like just the thing. I went to place it on hold at the library and about 236 other people have had the same thought. Apparently, the Universe wants me to own my own personal copy.