Wednesday, 18 July 2007
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Out Stealing Horses
TWO boys go out stealing horses in the forest idyll of Norway a few years after war has ended and the Gestapo been routed.
Not really stealing, just larking - but the day-out-of-time sense of those beautiful hours is shatteringly reversed by the revelation, later, of what has happened just before it.
Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses comes laden with awards, the latest the Dublin Impac, the largest prize in the world for a single work. Fittingly, for ex-bookseller Petterson, it's a prize awarded by libraries all over the world.
This is a book full of solitude, with the super-reality of a world brought to life in a phrase. It's a short-story-writer's novel, concentrated and disciplined.
The alternate chapters are the youth and age of the narrator. In his sixties, alone again, he has returned to the woods to find a shape for his life. In his youth, he is learning to be a man, under the tutelage of his flawed, heroic father.
And underlying it all are the stories of the Resistance, the occupation, and the betrayal of the parents' marriage.
Petterson has a unique ability to show character by a single, well-placed brush-stroke: a glance, a word, even a word not said. And what characters!
How lucky we are to live in a time when we have this to read.