Though already well known in his native Norway and throughout Scandinavia, Per Petterson didn't gain a wide readership in the English-speaking world until the 2005 publication of his award-winning novel Out Stealing Horses. The story of a 67-year-old man contending with the memories of his father and of his youth during the Nazi occupation, Out Stealing Horses is an exquisite, sparely written masterwork.
Petterson's new novel, I Curse the River of Time, is equally astonishing. Once again he lays bare the power of memory in a riven individual . The year is 1989 and Arvid Jansen finds himself navigating the difficult relationship with his dying mother and the crumbling of his marriage, all of it in synchronous collapse with that of the Berlin Wall. As in his other work, Petterson has created a narrative of grief, wonder, and regret unspooling in a single thread of memory irregularly (and rarely) knotted with joy.
Publishers Weekly raved in a starred review:
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.
[Editor's Note: We're pleased to have chosen I Curse the River of Time for Volume 20 of our Indiespensable subscription program. Subscribers receive a signed, exclusive slipcased edition, along with special surprises.]
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Gin Enguehard: I've been consistently moved by your work. I love it. Are there plans for any more of your stories to be translated into English?
Per Petterson: Yes, I think so. Harvill Press in England has bought the rights to some: one short story collection, a small novel, a little bigger novel, and then some essays.
Gin: Do you ever write in English?
Petterson: No, I don't. But I participate in the translation. I say a little jokingly that the translator should translate the book and then I'll write it in English, which is rather coquettish to say. But I need a translation; I need something to use my hatchet on. I always work through the editor, because the translator may not be so happy with me, so I need the guy in between. [Laughter]