To Siberia by Per Petterson (Norway)

155597506201_sx140_sclzzzzzzz_Per Petterson’s  To Siberia is dark and lyrical. It was written a decade before  Out Stealing Horses, one of my favorite reads of 2007. The fine translation is by Anne Born, a poet, translator and publisher.

The story is told by a women of 60 looking back at the beginning of her life.  Growing up in northern Denmark, in a family of detached adults, she and and her brother, Jasper , become very close.  They spend much time together, tease each other, wonder the beach and the town,  and dream of getting away.  Their lives are interrupted by World War Two, Denmark is invaded by the Germans and their dreams disappear.

Petterson uses language that  bring the harsh northern landscape to life.  His words are poetic and he is able to  express the  thoughts and feelings of the female narrator in ways that I find extraordinarily honest and direct.  While reading this novel I saw the beginnings of the style and craft that blossomed into Petterson’s later work.

From page 9:  The attic at the farm was icy cold and usually half in darkness with only one paraffin lamp I had to turn off as soon as I had gone up the stairs.  There was a small window on the east side and a bed under the window and kneeling on it I could talk to Jasper in the evenings when it was summertime and look out at the stars in the winter and a spruce hedge and a Chinese garden from another world and then just rolling hills right out to the sea.  Sometimes I would wake up under the coarse heavy duvet thinking I had heard the sea filling the room and I opened my eyes and it was just as dark as when I shut them again.  The darkness lay close to my face and I thought, it doesn’t make any difference whether I can see or not.  But there was a difference, and I would be frightened, for the darkness was big and heavy and full of sounds and I knew if I did not shut my eyes quickly I would be smothered.  But when I wasn’t frightened it was like being lifted up to float in space with a wind through my heart.

Other reviews

A Reader’s Respite

Kiss A Cloud



Filed under Lost In Translation 2009, Orbis Terrarum 2009, Review

16 responses to “To Siberia by Per Petterson (Norway)

  1. Per Petterson is one of the (many) writers on my I-want-to-read-him/her list. Thanks for posting this review; it interests me even more in his work.

  2. Thanks so much for posting that review, I haven’t read Out Stealing Horses but it is on my list. My husband read it and loved it.

    I agree with you, I enjoy a writer who conveys things in a new way, and yet is honest and direct. I don’t enjoy pointless rambling, but I do love good descriptions. Does that make sense?

    Glad you are enjoying your OT travels so far!! Thanks for posting a link to your review, it is so great to see what everyone is enjoying.

  3. I have not yet read anything by this author, but he’s on my must read list. This title in particular caught my eye because of the subject matter and time period it is set in, or at least part of it is set in–that of World War II. Your review makes me even more excited to give this one a try. Thanks for the wonderful review.

  4. Out Stealing Horses has been on my short list for some time, and I’ve so much about the author, I suppose this one needs to go on there too! I am thinking it would also qualify for my WWII Reading Challenge…

  5. Wow, that excerpt is so beautiful. This is definitely going on my list.

  6. you’ve already posted your first OT read? That was quick!:) And this sounds like a great book!
    Good luck with your other OT reads!

  7. I have Out Stealing Horses on my Orbis Terrarum list, but it looks like I’ll have to add this to the TBR pile as well.

  8. Beautiful excerpt – another to put on my list. =)

  9. I’m reading this next week! I didn’t read through your review to avoid any expectations, but will get back to it when I’m done. :D

  10. fleurfisher

    I have just finished Out Stealing Horses – which I loved – so this is definitely on my wishlist now.

  11. I read 5-10 rave reviews for this author for every one person who’s not so excited about him, so I guess I will have to check out something by him sometime soon. Glad you decided to join Bethany’s challenge this year!

  12. Thank you all for your comments. For those who are intrigued I hope you enjoy Per Petterson’s books!

  13. lena

    I’ve heard so many great things about Per Patterson. Would you recommend starting with this book or with Out Stealing Horses?

  14. Eva

    I’m waiting for Out Stealing Horses to arrive. It sounds like Petterson writes in the stark Scandianvian voice that I’m used to from home, so I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for your review of this one!

    /Your fellow OT-er

  15. It was a lovely book, wasn’t it? I haven’t read Out Stealing Horses yet, but it’s on my list for this year. Thanks so much for the link!

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