This short yet spacious and powerful book—in such contrast to the well-larded garrulity of the bulbous American novel of today—reminds us of the careful and apropos writing of J. M. Coetzee, W. G. Sebald and Uwe Timm. Petterson’s kinship with Knut Hamsun, which he has himself acknowledged, is palpable in Hamsun’s “Pan,” “Victoria” and even the lighthearted “Dreamers.” But nothing should suggest that his superb novel is so embedded in its sources as to be less than a gripping account of such originality as to expand the reader’s own experience of life.
Thomas McGuane - New York Times
Read Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. From the first terse sentences of this mesmerizing Norwegian novel about youth, memory, and, yes, horse stealing; you know you're in the hands of a master storyteller.
Petterson's spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force.... Loss is conveyed with all the intensity of a boy's perception but acquires new resonance in the brooding consciousness of the older man.
The New Yorker
Award-winning Norwegian novelist Petterson renders the meditations of Trond Sander, a man nearing 70, dwelling in self-imposed exile at the eastern edge of Norway in a primitive cabin. Trond's peaceful existence is interrupted by a meeting with his only neighbor, who seems familiar. The meeting pries loose a memory from a summer day in 1948 when Trond's friend Jon suggests they go out and steal horses. That distant summer is transformative for Trond as he reflects on the fragility of life while discovering secrets about his father's wartime activities. The past also looms in the present: Trond realizes that his neighbor, Lars, is Jon's younger brother, who "pulls aside the fifty years with a lightness that seems almost indecent." Trond becomes immersed in his memory, recalling that summer that shaped the course of his life while, in the present, Trond and Lars prepare for the winter, allowing Petterson to dabble in parallels both bold and subtle. Petterson coaxes out of Trond's reticent, deliberate narration a story as vast as the Norwegian tundra.
An aging loner remembers a childhood summer that marked a lifetime of loss. Fifteen-year-old Trond, spending the summer of 1948 with his father, away from their Oslo home in a cabin in the easternmost region of Norway, wakes to an invitation from his friend, Jon, to "steal" their neighbor's horses for an early-morning joy ride. But what Trond doesn't yet know is that the ride is Jon's farewell to him. The day before, when Jon was supposed to be minding his young twin brothers, Lars and Odd, Lars found Jon's prized gun and, imitating his older brother, accidentally killed his twin. Nearly 60 years later, Trond has returned to the rustic region after a devastating car accident that killed his wife and left him gravely injured, hoping to live out the rest of his days quietly, with his dog as his only companion. But late one night, he has a chance encounter with his only neighbor, an aging man named Lars. Trond realizes that this neighbor is his childhood friend's younger brother, and their meeting causes him to remember not only the morning of the horse theft, but the rest of the summer as well. After Jon's disappearance, Trond spends the summer working with his father to send lumber down the river to the Swedish border, ostensibly the reason for their retreat. He is stunned to learn that his father is having an affair with Jon's grieving mother, also the object of Trond's own first intimate moment. As Trond begins to talk to the other workers, he also realizes that his father has had complicated reasons for spending much of the war years in the eastern region of the country, close to Sweden's neutral borders. He even learns that the phrase "out stealing horses," which he had tossed around casually with his friend, has a meaning that reaches beyond their childhood pranks. Haunting, minimalist prose and expert pacing give this quiet story from Norway native Petterson an undeniably authoritative presence.
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