“We weren’t really stealing them…But we call it stealing to make it more exciting.”
Per Petterson is a writer who can stand inside a moment, turn in a circle and look up and down until there is no inch of that moment left unexplored. Mary Gordon calls this “saturating the moment.” Read this:
“…and then he fell on his knees like an empty sack and beat his forehead on the ground, and stayed there huddled up for what seemed like an eternity, and for the whole of that eternity I held my breath without stirring. I didn’t understand what had happened, but I felt it was my fault. I just didn’t know why. At last he stood up stiffly….”
Or this one:
“‘Which farm was that?’ I ask, although there can be only one farm in question. But I was not quite with him in my thoughts, and I wonder whether that is how we get to be after living alone for a long time, that in the middle of a train of thought we start talking out loud, that the difference between talking and not talking is slowly wiped out, that the unending, inner conversation we carry on with ourselves merges with the one we have with the few people we still see, and when you live alone for too long the line which divides the one from the other becomes vague, and you do not notice when you cross that line. Is this how my future looks?
“‘The farm at home. In the village, of course.’”
In Out Stealing Horses, Trond is an old man. During the course of an evening, something happens to cause him to remember an incident that occurred when he was a boy. As the reader continues, occasionally we come upon a sentence such as,”Or that is the way I remember it.” As we continue further into the story, through the climax, we come upon, “My father could not have told me all this, not with all the details; but that is the way it is printed in my memory…” These kinds of sentences lend credibility to the story. They remind me of The Gathering by Irish writer, Anne Enright.
Petterson uses an omniscient narrator who can drop into a character so seamlessly, it’s difficult to even notice. “We heard the rain battering the roof and it rained on the river and on Jon’s boat and on the road to the shop and on Barkald’s meadows, it rained on the forest and …., but inside the cottage it was warm and dry. The stove was crackling, and I ate until my plate….”
And yet there are some things this big narrator doesn’t know: “What they talked about I have never been able to imagine.”
Petterson needs a certain coincidence to occur. So he takes it and owns it, making it a condition of the novel:
“…if this had been something in a novel it would just have been irritating…that kind of coincidence seems far-fetched in fiction, in modern novels anyway, and I find it hard to accept. It may be all very well in Dickens, but when you read Dickens you’re reading a long ballad from a vanished world, where everything has to come together in the end like an equation, where the balance of what was once disturbed must be restored so that the gods can smile again.”
Per Petterson is a Norwegian writer. Out Stealing Horses was translated by Anne Born.