Monday, September 28, 2009

*Karen, *Per Petterson, *Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses is a story about this guy having memories about his father. He's Norwegian and there are lakes and timber and affairs and stuff.

Yes, I'm aware I'm not doing justice to a book that received rave reviews and is considered one of the top books published since 2000. I don't really care.

It did nothing for me. It's a great book, and there's emotional resonance, a beautiful little theme about pain, crisp scenery, sex, suspense, and war. But I just didn't care.

I found the narrator inconsistent and untrustworthy. In high school, we talked a bit about the untrustworthy narrator after reading The Great Gatsby, though for the life of me, I can't remember why the narrator was untrustworthy. But that's not the point at all. The point, of course, is that I found THIS narrator unreliable and kind of annoying. Perhaps I was the untrustworthy one--maybe I wasn't reading close enough, and so felt that he was holding out on me and misleading me, when really I just wasn't paying attention--but the result is, I begrudged the time I spent with Trond, and I'm glad to be moving on. At last. This is not a long or difficult book. It should not have taken me so long to get through it (over a month).

Since Out Stealing Horses was originally written in Norwegian, I found one of the most interesting parts of the book to be thinking about the translation; choosing "torch" instead of "flashlight" helped to give it a European air. Not knowing anything about the Norwegian language, however, I really wonder what the book was like in its own language. English speakers are blessed/cursed with one of the largest supplies of words in the world. I wonder how that changes our reading experience. Since the English translation was not exactly brimming with fifty cent words, I'm curious as to how complex the language was originally.

In a foreign language with a limited lexicon, what, exactly, makes a novel literary instead of just boring?


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

some books may have received rave reviews but may not work for us. That's what makes us unique. However, interchanging 'torch'and 'flashlight' would not have had a serious effect on me though I would have gone for the former. Colonized by the British I am prone to use British words as in 'lift' instead of 'elevator' etc