I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson
Norwegian author Per Petterson publishes his follow up to the award-winning Out Stealing Horses. Similarly narrated and steeped in cold, Nordic sensibility, the novel focuses on a more than complicated relationship between a mother and a son whose world is crumbling around him.
Reviewer: Rachel Cusk
"And Petterson is after all a fine writer – the success and recognition are deserved. But there is a pleasure nonetheless in seeing that his writing has returned to its artistic “home”, and what’s more returned to it with greater maturity and confidence. I Curse the River of Time is a work of blackest tragicomedy, a novel as cold and scintillating and desolate as the northern winter landscapes that are its setting."
Reviewer: Paul Binding
"...Per Petterson stands unsurpassed among contemporary writers for existential truth-telling. If this English version cannot quite arrive at the often heart-breaking cadences of the original Norwegian, it successfully conveys its resonant juxtapositions of the homely and the metaphysical."
Reviewer: Susan Salter Reynolds
"Per Petterson is a master at writing the spaces between people. It is true, we expect this of Scandinavian literature — a report from the lands of the midnight sun, the terse but heavily-laden phrase, the decades of silence, the sorrow and regret. But Petterson, in this and other novels (“Out Stealing Horses,” “To Siberia”) shatters the caricature into a million smaller, more fascinating pieces."
Reviewer: Stacey D’Erasmo
"His tale lives in the liminal, nauseating space where you don’t know who you are anymore or what will become of you…It sounds bleak, but instead it’s rather dreamy and tenuous, like the thoughts one has in the brief moment between sleeping and waking. Clean sentence after clean sentence, Petterson conveys both the melancholy and the demi-pleasurable sensation of being fundamentally untethered…Petterson, humbly and with extraordinary skill, makes standing on the edge of that soundless personal abyss seem heroic."
Reviewer: Todd VanDerWerff
"Petterson’s style is unique among current novelists. His sentences often go on for whole paragraphs, twisting and winding around themselves until readers may forget where they began. But Petterson’s gift is in finding ways to make these long, mystifying sentences land in places that inspire an almost unbearable emotional catharsis. River is an attempt to replicate that sentence structure throughout the entirety of a novel."
Reviewer: Heller McAlpin
"Both time and Petterson’s narrative are more tidal than linear, flowing forward and backward in associative waves that require close attention and do not offer the dramatic drive of Out Stealing Horses....Petterson has delivered a subtle meditation on the long, unstoppable river of time that pulls us all along relentlessly, whether we pay attention or not."
Reviewer: Bob Thompson
"Petterson’s pacing depends more on character than plot, and when it occasionally slows, the cause is not hard to determine. Arvid Jansen — who is not Per Petterson, yet who comes close enough that his creator has described him as a soul mate — is simply less compelling when his tough, complicated parent is offstage."
Reviewer: Hillary Kelly
"Petterson’s hauntingly bleak prose and tightly assembled nonlinear narrative are hallmarks of his work, and they shine here in I Curse the River of Time. At times the translation seems rusty, and Petterson is not always as clear as one would like him to be. But the fog of ambiguity is sometimes the best microscope."
Reviewer: André Alexis
"I Curse the River of Time has any number of things to recommend it: humour, psychological complexity, an affecting fidelity to its setting (Oslo, for the most part), an unpredictable narrator. But it doesn’t have much forward momentum. What story there is comes in pieces. Certainly, it’s a book writers will admire because, technically, it’s accomplished. It will, however, tax the patience of anyone looking for “entertainment.” The book is worth it, but it’ll cost you."
Reviewer: Charles McGrath
"Clear, colloquial and unadorned, the writing doubtless owes something to Hamsun and maybe just as much to Hemingway, who is invoked in the text a couple of times…And at moments when a lot of American prose seems fizzy and over-rich, the sentences in “I Curse the River of Time” go down like an eye-watering shot of aquavit. They evoke a landscape, mental and otherwise, that while a little wintry and severe, is appealing precisely because it’s so off the beaten track."