Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

horsesA fiction pick by Jean-Louis
(Vintage, 2007)
This year my family has the great privilege of hosting a student from Norway. She is living with us for about 4 months while she is here on a long-term Rotary International youth exchange. Learning about another country is defintely a great part of the exchange program.

We have hosted several students over the years and I have tried to read an author from the student’s country while they are living with us. This has proved to be an interesting exercise and it has forced me to read several international authors I might not have otherwise discovered. This month I looked up Per Petterson and his novel, Out Stealing Horses.

Petterson’s novel is centered on Trond Sander, a recently retired man who has moved to a remote cabin. With this relocation, Sander is retreating from much of his life (deceased spouse and two living daughters as well) in search for a simple existence. But what preoccupies him is his boyhood and the complex relationaship with his father. The cabin he has moved to is in a remote part of Norway near the Swedish border and was the site of a massive betrayal which changed his family irrevocably.

The break up of Sander’s first family coincided with WW2 and his father’s role in the resistance. For all of Europe the reverberations of war go on and on through generations. Petterson’s novel is a somewhat bleak look in on a Norwegian family. Does it help me to gain an insight into the national psyche of this Scandinavian land? Maybe–I will have to balance this impression with what I learn for our delightful and sunny exchange student Solveig.

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