(Current fiction and quality rated fiction of the past.)
“I Curse the River of Time” (Graywolf Press) by Per Petterson, the Norwegian novelist who won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for the novel “Out Stealing Horses,” which has been translated into more than thirty languages and was named a Best Book of 2007 by The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly, once again runs a melancholy course as gray as the stark Norwegian landscape.
His sparse writing sparkles in contrast to the atmosphere, or rather, creates it – splendid.
The publisher touts a number of opinions (surprise – all favorable) but this from the Irish Times seems to grasp that which Examiner also felt: “All the inevitability of life, its fragile glue and the doubts that stalk the survivors are summoned and considered in Petterson’s candid, allusive fiction. There is no easy sentiment, only genuine emotional power. His tender new novel is as masterfully evocative as In the Wake and Out Stealing Horses, as gentle as To Siberia, and as exceptional as all three.” —The Irish Times
Novelist Stacey D’Erasmo observed for The New York Times: “This description of freefall, of spiritual failure, applies equally well, of course, to his mother’s imminent death and to the collapse of a former global superpower. Things fall apart, and suddenly time and space change as well, stretch out unpredictably. ‘I was searching for something very important, a very special thing, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not find it,’ Arvid mourns, his sense of loss both vague and endless, his survival both a surprise and something of a disappointment. ‘I am 37 years old. . . . The Wall has fallen. And here I sit.’”
So eventually the Berlin Wall did indeed fall, but notes D’Erasmo, “Memory, in this unregenerate landscape, is often the only thing these people have to get them through the winter of their discontents. They hoard it, hide it, keep it close at all times. Petterson’s narratives tend to unspool in the first person, in hushed, confidential tones.”
Examiner found reading that unspooling a memorable experience, well worth it, thanks to the translation by Charlotte Barslund and the continued fine publishing judgment at Graywolf.