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I Curse the River of Time A Novel

Per Petterson, Translated by Charlotte Barslund

Graywolf Press

1555975569

9781555975562

224 Pages

$23.00

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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 midst 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.

REVIEWS

Praise for I Curse the River of Time

“His sense of dislocation seeps into the structure of the book, which fades between scenes with dreamy confusion, but Petterson’s atmospheric prose—melancholy, tempered, and terse—is the real force keeping the various plots in orbit.”—The New Yorker

“Petterson is a master at putting parents and children up the kind of psychic trees from which—minds fogged by anger and longing—they can’t climb down. The stubborn mysteries of family conflict are his subject, and he evokes them in a voice whose straightforwardness belies its subtlety.”—Bob Thompson, The Washington Post

“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
 
“Like Raymond Carver at his intricate best, Petterson illuminates the meanings behind the smallest gestures, the quiet moments in the aftermath of loss when the pain is so deep that it can’t be verbalized. Petterson writes a kind of posttraumatic fiction that dives into the depths and pulls from the wreckage dark and unforgettable treasures.”—Chuck Leddy, The Boston Globe

“[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.”—
Booklist
 
“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

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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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.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Per Petterson, Translated by Charlotte Barslund

  • 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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