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I Curse the River of Time A Novel

Per Petterson




Trade Paperback

240 Pages


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Norway, 1989: While communism is unraveling all over Europe, Arvid Jansen, thirty-seven, is trying to bridge the yawning gulf that opened up years earlier between himself and his mother. He is in the throes of a divorce, and she has just been diagnosed with cancer.  Over a few intense autumn days, Arvid struggles to find a new footing in his life. As he attempts to negotiate the present changes around him, he casts his mind back to holidays on the beach with his brothers, and to the early days of his courtship. Most importantly, he revisits the idealism of his communist youth, when he chose the factory floor over the college education his mother had struggled so hard to provide. It was during that time that Arvid's loyalty to his working-class background outweighed his mother's wish for him to escape it.  As Petterson's masterful narrative shifts effortlessly through the years, we see Arvid tentatively circling his mother, unable to tell her what she already knows he is thinking. In its piercing portrait of their layered relationship, I Curse the River of Time bears all the hallmarks of Petterson's compassion for humanity that has won him readers the world over.


Praise for I Curse the River of Time

"Petterson tells another poignant, harrowing and sometimes comic story of a man coming to terms with his dying mother, his failures (job, marriage) and his failures in the eyes of his mother: 'You squirt!' But mother and son are bound by feelings and memories for which even the word 'love' doesn't do justice.” The Wall Street Journal

“[A] melancholy novel . . . Fans—and curious newcomers—will snap it up.”—Newsday
“Though Petterson is often compared to Hemingway and Carver, he has etched a vernacular all his own. The loveliness of his prose lies not only with its distilled nature, but also in its repetitions and unexpected cadences, which infuse his style with a tenderness unseen in other spare prose virtuosos.”The Collagist
“[Petterson] offers here a kind of origami novel: time bends and folds around the characters so they are both young and old, healthy and sick, dead and alive.  His considerable skill is evident in the clarity with which readers are immersed in each chapterthough we may leap backwards and forwards on the temporal plane, we never stumble or trip . . . The final product is something important, lovely, and a bit mysterious.”Foreword Magazine
“All the inevitability of life, its fragile glue and the doubts that stalk the survivors are summoned and considered in Petterson's candid, allusive fiction. There is no easy sentiment, only genuine emotional power. His tender new novel is as masterfully evocative as In the Wake and Out Stealing Horses, as gentle as To Siberia, and as exceptional as all three.”The Irish Times

“[Petterson] deftly alternates between present and past . . . His prose is elegant and spare.”—
“The atmosphere of this latest from Petterson, famed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner Out Stealing Horses, is as gray as the stark Norwegian landscape. Melancholy permeates every character like a dense Oslo fog. Yet, this author's gift is his ability to convey so much emotion in such a sparse prose style.”Library Journal, starred review

“An emotional suckerpunch . . . Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

All this happened quite a few years ago.  My mother had been unwell for some time.  To put a stop to my brothers’ nagging and my father’s especially, she finally went to see the doctor she always saw, the doctor my family had used since the dawn of time.  He must have been ancient at that point for I cannot recall ever not visiting him, nor an I recall him ever being young.  I used him myself even though I now lived a good distance away.

After a brief check-up, this old family doctor swiftly referred her to Aker Hospital for further examination.  Having

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  • Per Petterson

  • Per Petterson is the author of books including In the Wake, To Siberia, and Out Stealing Horses, which won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Norwegian Booksellers' Prize. The New York Times Book Review named it one of the 10 best books of the year. A former bookseller, Petterson lives in Oslo, Norway.
  • Per Petterson Torunn Momtazi




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