Monday, February 04, 2008
monday book review: out stealing horses, by per petterson
Melancholily beautiful, Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses was widely hailed as one of the best books of 2007, and for very good reason - It was. In simple, unpretentious prose Petterson tells the story of Trond Sander, a elderly man who has purchased an old house in a secluded Norwegian village in the hopes of living out the remainder of his days in quiet solitude. But this isn't to be when Trond makes an unlikely discovery, one that "if this had been something in a novel it would have been irritating;" his nearest neighbor, Lars, happens to be the sibling of his closest childhood friend, a friend who disappeared from Trond's life after a terrible tragedy. Lars's presence sets off a torrent of memories reaching back as far as fifty years, and the novel is revealed through the ebb and flow of these often painful remembrances mixing with Trond's reclusive present.

Admittedly, if you're anything like me none of this sounds particularly exciting; however, Trond's story is inarguably compelling and moving. Out Stealing Horses is a quietly beautiful book written in a masterful manner - carefully, deliberately, without wasting a single word. And since this is one of those things that really must be experienced to be appreciated, here's my favorite passage (although Petterson certainly provided me with plenty to choose from):
People like it when you tell them things, in suitable portions, in a modest, intimate tone, and they think they know you, but they do not, they know about you, for what they are let in on are facts, not feelings, not what your opinion is about anything at all, not how what has happened to you and how all the decisions you have made have turned you into who you are. What they do is they fill in with their own feelings and opinions and assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours, and that lets you off the hook. No-one can touch you unless you yourself want them to. You only have to be polite and smile and keep paranoid thoughts at bay, because they will talk about you no matter how much you squirm, it is inevitable, and you would do the same thing yourself.

Per Petterson, Translated by Ann Born
2007, 258 pages

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Blogger Mary said...

Oh YAY! I'm so glad you liked this book too! I thought it was a great book and I really liked his style of writing.

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