Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson was my pick for my book group this month. Petterson is Norway’s answer to Cormac McCarthy, which I think is the highest compliment any modern writer could hope for. His prose and his imagery resemble McCarthy’s but his writing feels fresh and eludes classification. He alternates stripped down sentences full of implied meaning and emotion with rich, breathless pastoral scenes:
And that was what we set out to do: wring the last warmth from the paths through the forest and the high ridges in the sunshine on the Furufjellet and see the reflection of dazzling birch boles swirling through the trees like arrows shot from the bows of the Kiowas diving into deep green ferns swaying at the sides of the narrow gravel path like palm leaves on Palm Sunday in the Sunday School Bible.
The chapters alternate between the narrative of a man in his sixties and the man’s memories of a summer in the countryside in his teens. Something we discussed in our group was how different parts of your life may fade or come to the forefront of your mind as you head into your twilight years. Personally speaking I’ve never felt as if my life had a defining era or turning point, but perhaps when I’m eighty I might be able to see the meaning in something that is happening right now in my life, or in something that has already happened.
Comparisons won’t do it justice, but the experience of reading it was similar for me to that of reading McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses (not just because of the horse connection) and Haruki Murakami’s Norweigan Wood. If, like me, you’re a sucker for pretty language and foreign backdrops, and you don’t mind ambiguity, I say, read this NOW.