Friday, April 18, 2008

In the Wake by Per Petterson

A few weeks ago I bought some books with my friend F's gift coupon. One was In the Wake. Really I wanted Out Stealing Horses but didn't swing for the hardback. Especially as I wasn't familiar with the author. Per Petterson is from Norway, and has published six books there, but recently came to wider attention with the publication of Out Stealing Horses which was an Impac Dublin Literary Award nominee.

The beginning was rough and disorienting. The narrator is drunk and wandering around in a way that makes you feel there is nothing solid under your feet. But then, with chapter two, the narrator and thus the reader settles down. Plot is not at the foremost in the narration but rather the interior musings and processes of the narrator.

Petterson's prose, and this is a translation which I often think probably loses something, is lovely, rhythmical and lyrical. He moves into flashback with such ease! You barely feel the transition yet you are not confused. Although I admit I had to go back and reread a few sections, I consider this my own mind's distraction rather than an effect of his prose.

It is the story of a man in mourning for the death of his parents, and his marriage. He is a writer who has published novels in years past, but is unable to write much now. And the story of his brother too, who is also separating from his wife and in bad sorts.

I know it sounds depressing, but it isn't.

At the back of the book were a few pages from Out Stealing Horses. The following quote comes from that section.

"What he had taught me was to be reckless, taught me that if I let myself go, did not slow myself down by thinking so much beforehand I could achieve many things I would never have dreamt possible."

I have order OSH and highly recommend both the above books.

10 comments:

Hopper said...

hey there... thanks for stopping by and seeing me all the time... appreciate it...

you think that IN THE WAKE has any connection to FINNEGAN'S WAKE by Joyce... sounds like the effect of the prose is similar... and the feeling of drunkenness... the slipping into internal monologue... i was only able to get about half way through the wake but the two sound very alike...

and about translations... sometimes they are a bit rough... but if a good writer uses simple words and ideas it can sometimes yield amazing results in translation... some of the poetry courses i've taught were for newcomers to canada... usually first language wasn't english... i'd get them to write in their language of origin and then translate... some of what they came up with was, frankly, stunning... and the translation actually added, not took away from, the strength of their words... i don't know... it's an opinion... see ya around...

sukipoet said...

Hi Hopper Haven't read Finnegan's Wake so can't say. But maybe he refers to that wake too. Here, the wake may refer to both the boat wake as the narrators parents die in a boat fire (autobiographical for Petterson I have just read) and also the time of mourning for the narrator. The narrator gets sustenance from literature however most of the books mentioned are Norwegian or at least not Joyce. also maybe Petterson is thinking of wake as in awake as the narrator awakens or reawakens to a fuller life as the novel progresses.

Thanks for your input and thoughts about translation. I thought this must be a very good translation. I've often wondered though about someone like Kawabata who is translated into such simple language and I've wondered what it is like in the original Japanese.

That's nice that you taught courses to newcomers to Canada. Sounds interesting. Be well, Suki

Cris in Oregon said...

Interesting book.
Thanks for the update on your Mom. Looks like she has some good days. Can it be her diabetes that is making her not feel up to getting up & around? I know I can get low blood sugar feelings and not function well at all.
Hope she gets stronger.

Cestandrea said...

Suki, this is a great review, better than anything you can read on the back cover of books!

human being said...

Stories whether fictional or real are a way to know the world and ourselves better... i have learned from them as much as real experiences of life...

Thanks for sharing the works you read with us...
and that quote was so true... sooooo true...
I was reminded of a time when 'thinking so much beforehand' frightened aways some dreams...
:D

Britt-Arnhild said...

I read Out Stealing Horses some years ago and remember I liked it alot.

sukipoet said...

Cris thanks for the tip re: diabetes maybe making Mom feel like staying in bed. I know I'm not sensitive to such things and appreciate any suggestions and ideas. We took her blood pressure and it was ok. Also, she checks her blood sugar 3 or 4 times a day and it's been okay. Later in the day she did get up for awhile.

Be well, Suki

Lynn said...

these books do pique my interest, thanks for sharing.

Forever Young said...

i wish i had more time to read like you do, lucky and lovely books.

sukipoet said...

FY I think I would die if I couldnt read. Knowing this, I set up my life in such a way that I have time to read although as a devoted yogi practicing yoga cuts into my reading time. I did have a 3 year span just recently when I couldnt read due to psychological something or other. It was a very painful time. However, I also think sometimes I read too much. It is like a drug, an addiction. Be well, Suki