Still a few days left to bring you my most recent reads.
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson and a truly deserving winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2006 and more recently the Impac Dublin Award and in keeping with recent acknowledgments on here mention must also be made of Anne Born's translation from the Norwegian original.Good to see that that translator shares in the prize money for both of these.
Out and about everywhere else long before it made it to the UK last November it would seem, and the book is getting stellar reviews from all quarters.
That can mean but one thing, it was going to have to work doubly hard to impress me.
I hope you put the books I rave about on here under the cosh too, it does them and me no harm and it's so good to get other points of view.
Starting with the cover, I'd say Nordic backwoods perfection barring the use of the words "limpid prose" which always have me cringing slightly.Why do those words annoy me so much? Perhaps because I'm still not sure I'd recognise limpid prose if I trod on it even given definitions such as transparent clearness, pellucid, calm and untroubled, serene.
It's too pretentious by far for this book.
But I really couldn't fault Out Stealing Horses because it's in that snowy, ice-laden melancholy genre that warms the cockles of my heart as if I'd just filled a literary hotwater bottle.
Nothing warm about the far reaches of snowy Norway or the cold, sparse and isolated cabin that Trond has moved to in his latter years as he reflects gently and quietly (alright, limpidly) on his life and the events of his childhood.
"All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this"
The numbing cold interspersed with plenty of warming references to the lighting of the woodburning stove and that sudden pervasion of heat which happens very quickly once it catches, unless it's me lighting it, in which case expect to wait hours. At these moments it was as if Per Petterson was inviting me to draw near and rub my hands together with my mittens under my arm and sit alongside Trond as he told his story.
It's all desperately subtle and understated (OK limpid) and therefore enormously powerful as one man recounts the huge and life-changing events in that almost matter-of-fact way bestowed with increasing age. The invasion of Norway by the Germans, the undercover activities, the dangers, the joys, the tragedies and the infidelities that have shored up Trond's life as he now settles into his final days. Real analogies between him recounting his store of untold memories and the great pile of timber chopped, balanced and stacked ready to be levered into the river and released on its journey.
The atmosphere and sense of place giving so much to a book that demands and allows the reader to be surprised and caught slightly off balance at every turn.
Trond's life gradually unfolds and many questions left hanging in the air, always a good sign I think when a writer doesn't feel obliged to tie up every single loose end, leave a few threads dangling I say unless we're talking about The Bayeux Tapestry.
A fantastic read and one that lingers long after the final page and would allow for frequent re-reads and new discoveries every time.
Limpidly brilliant I suppose.