Out Stealing Horses: A Novel
by Per Petterson
Scandanavia's Best Export
A review by Peter Martin
You don't put down Norwegian Per Petterson's new novel, Out Stealing Horses. Well, sometimes you do, because you have to, like when you're heading to the bathroom or to a sale at The Container Store. But you don't really, at least not in your head, because Petterson's prose sticks with you. Which is quite a feat since it was originally written in a language you don't know by a man you've never heard of.
The story revolves around Trond, a widower who flees his family for a small village in eastern Norway. He's had enough rough luck and bad memories, and he just wants to get away. It works too, at least until Trond realizes that his only neighbor in the woods is an old childhood friend.
It's a masculine and spare story, and Petterson tells it in sentences stripped of emotion and literary pretense: "[H]e threw a last glance over the yard and made a choice he would come to regret, and then he closed the door and went into the living room and sat down there." The style befits not only the stark Norwegian landscape, but it's perfectly befitting a man as emotionally distant as Trond.
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