To Siberia

Petterson, Per. To Siberia. Translated by Anne Born. Havrill Press, 1998.

Reason read: July is the warmest month in Siberia.

Told from the perspective of an unnamed woman looking back on her teenage years in Norway, Petterson gracefully captures the bond between brother and sister as they navigate the suicide of their grandfather, neglect of their parents, corruption of their uncle, and the coming of Germans to their doorstep in the early years of World War II. Petterson’s descriptive language had me remembering my own adolescence: nights when it was so pitch-black dark I couldn’t see hand in front of my face. I remember waiting for the sweeping beam from the lighthouse before dashing ahead a few yards, only to stop and wait for the light again. Such is the fog that rolled off the Norwegian harbor, obscuring residents’ view.
As I have often said before, I have trouble with translations. Like this line, for example: “One day my road is suddenly blocked and the train trapped in a wall of Bibles” (p 54-55). Does someone want to explain that one to me? The protagonist has been talking about becoming a missionary and traveling to far off countries. Does she mean that religion dashed her dreams?
To Siberia was so haunting. The language is sparse, but the unknown protagonist’s love and unwavering devotion to her brother, even when he disappears in Morocco, is beautiful.

Author fact: Petterson was a bookseller in Norway before becoming a writer himself.

Book trivia: In Siberia was published directly after Out Stealing Horses.

Nancy said: Pearl said if you liked Out Stealing Horses you should try To Siberia. She didn’t say anything specific about To Siberia.

BookLust Twist: this could have come from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Men Channeling Women, but it’s actually from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162). Both are not wrong.


Out Stealing Horses

Petterson, Per. Out Stealing Horses. New York: Picador, 2003.

Reason read: Petterson is a Norwegian writer. An old friend of mine lives in Norway and was born in October. Read in her honor even though we haven’t spoken in a long time.

Trond Sander, at 67 years old, is a simple man living alone with his dog, Lyra, deep in the Norwegian woods. He likes the quiet. He loves the solitude. It’s as if he has run away from memories. In reality, he has done just that. Trond lost his sister and wife in one month three years prior. That was when he stopped talking to people. His silence is profound until he meets a stranger in the woods near his cabin. Only this stranger carries the very memories Trond has been trying to escape. Lars is a member of a family with entangled deep tragedies and Trond knows them well. Petterson is able to move Trond from past to present with remarkable grace. Trond as a teenager versus Trond, the aging adult in Norway’s breathtaking landscape. Like any good drama, there is violence, illicit love, abandonment, and atonement with surprises along the way. I hope the movie is as spectacular as the book.

Lines I liked, “When the record ends I will go to bed and sleep as heavily as possible without being dead, and awake to a new millennium and not let it mean a thing” (p 5) and “A shipwrecked man without an anchor in the world except in his own liquid thoughts where time has lost its sequence” (p 195).

Author fact: I am reading three of Per Petterson’s novels: In the Wake, In Siberia, and Out Stealing Horses.

Book trivia: Out Stealing Horses was made into a movie Just last year in 2020. It looks really good.

Playlist: Billie Holliday

Nancy said: Pearl had a lot to say about Out Stealing Horses. Along with the general plot she said the writing is spare and restrained. The plot emerges slowly and should not to be missed. She also mentioned the translation as being beautiful and the cover as evocative.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Norway: the Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162).