Monday, July 13, 2015


Norway is a small country of 5 million people that has given birth to a number of exceptional novelists. A bit like Canada, in a way, but with a better government. There is Karl Ove Knausgaard, the enfant terrible of the 6 volume autobiographical series, My Struggle. I am waiting for volume 5. He is amazing. Then there is Jo NesbΓΈ, the prolific crime writer – although I must say his books are too weird and violent for my taste. But we are here to talk about Per Petterson, the acclaimed author of Out Stealing Horses, now with his newest book, I Refuse.

Petterson’s themes are the relationships between children and parents; the ties between the past and the present, memory and regret. Nobody writes like Petterson – his language so plain and direct, yet so evocative of the actual condition of living. He is exquisitely attuned to the nuances of human interaction – both verbal and silent. These interactions, however minute, reverberate in our brains long after they are over. As Faulkner said, “the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” We must thank Don Bartlett for rendering these lives so compellingly into English. This book tells the story of the Berggren children, torn apart by violence and abandonment and most particularly of Tommy, the oldest, and his best friend, Jim. We catch glimpses of them, as in snapshots, scarred by their past, struggling through the present. I Refuse is unbelievably sad. But I like sad stories.

- Brian

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