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I Curse the River of Timeby Per Petterson
Exploring politics, philosophy, the nature of love, and the question of how to live a good life, Petterson's latest is melancholy, beautiful, and at times darkly funny — another extraordinary novel from a master of the form.
Synopses & Reviews
An enthralling novel of a mother and son's turbulent relationship from the author of Out Stealing Horses.
It is 1989: Communism is crumbling, and Arvid Jansen, thirty-seven, is facing his first divorce. At the same time, his mother gets diagnosed with cancer. Over a few intense autumn days, we follow Arvid as he struggles to find a new footing in his life while all the established patterns around him are changing at staggering speed. I Curse the River of Time is an honest, heartbreaking yet humorous portrayal of a complicated mother-son relationship told in Per Petterson's precise and beautiful prose.
"Like an emotional sucker punch, the latest novel from the much-acclaimed Petterson (a prequel to 2006's In the Wake) examines lives half-lived, ending, and perhaps beginning anew. In 1989, 37-year-old Arvid Jansen's marriage is ending and his mother is dying of cancer. Hoping to leave his marital woes behind in Oslo, Jansen follows his Danish-born mother to her home country, to the beach house where the family spent summers. During the ferry ride and the following days in Denmark, Jansen recalls his childhood bond with his mother and his decision, after two years of college, to leave school and join his fellow Communists in the factories. He struggles with his commitment to communism — the title is a line from a poem by Mao — and with his place in his family and in the larger world. Thankfully, there is neither overt sentimentalism nor a deathbed declaration of love between mother and son, but Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Petterson’s spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force." New Yorker
"It has to be said, on the evidence of these few novels, that Per Petterson is a profoundly gifted novelist." Richard Ford
"Like an emotional sucker punch, the latest novel from the much-acclaimed Petterson...examines lives half-lived, ending, and perhaps beginning anew....Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Reading a Petterson novel is like falling into a northern landscape painting — all shafts of light and clear palpable chill." Time
An enthralling story of a mother and son’s turbulent relationship told in Petterson’s signature style.
An enthralling novel of a mother and son's turbulent relationship from the author of Out Stealing Horses
Norway, 1989: Communism is unraveling all over Europe. Arvid Jansen, thirty-seven, is trying to bridge the yawning gulf that opened up years earlier between himself and his mother. He is in the throes of a divorce, and she has just been diagnosed with cancer.
Over a few intense autumn days, Arvid struggles to find a new footing in his life. As he attempts to negotiate the present changes around him, he casts his mind back to holidays on the beach with his brothers, and to the early days of his courtship. Most importantly, he revisits the idealism of his communist youth, when he chose the factory floor over the college education his mother had struggled so hard to provide. Back then, Arvid's loyalty to his working-class background outweighed his mother's wish for him to escape it.
As Petterson's masterful narrative shifts effortlessly through the years, we see Arvid tentatively circling his mother, unable to tell her what she already knows he is thinking. In its piercing portrait of their layered relationship, I Curse the River of Time bears all the hallmarks of Petterson's compassion for humanity that has won him readers the world over.
About the Author
Per Petterson (born 1952) worked for several years as an unskilled labourer, trained as a librarian, and worked as a bookseller, writer, and translator before publishing his first work, Aske i munnen, sand i skoa (Ash In His Mouth, Sand In His Shoe), a volume of short stories, in 1987. This book was proclaimed one of the decade’s most sensational debuts. Since then he has written a book of essays and five novels that have established his reputation as one of Norway’s most significant fiction writers. These are Ekkoland (1989), Det er greit for meg (1992), To Siberia (1996), In the Wake (2000) and Out Stealing Horses (2003). For To Siberia, Petterson was nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literary Award and nominated for The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. For In the Wake he received the prestigious Norwegian literary prize, Brageprisen, and the novel was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Out Stealing Horses was awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in the UK, as well as both the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize and the Norwegian Critics’ Award for best novel. In 2006, the novel was also named one of the 25 best Norwegian books the last 25 years by the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet. Out Stealing Horses has sold more than 140,000 copies in its different editions in Norway, and was on the Norwegian bestseller list for more than 70 weeks.
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