Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson

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Trond Sander from Oslo, a sixty-seven-year-old man, has recently lost his wife and sister. It has changed him. “I lost interest in talking to people.” He moves up to his cabin, high up in the mountains. He wants some solitude. He wants to live a different life. To ponder his life; bring his thoughts in order. The place he has moved to facilitates this process – it is a place where he has been before and full of memories.

Out Stealing Horses is a very special book, by a talented, prize-winning Norwegian author. It won the 2006 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and it really is a book to cherish and remember. It was also listed as one of the top 10 fiction books of 2007 by The New York Review of Books.

It is a book that it is very easy to fall in love with. I had not expected to, but I did after just a few pages. I suddenly noticed I was smiling and even laughing while reading. I read passages out load.

Out Stealing Horses is gripping. Out Stealing Horses, by Per PettersonViewed from the outside the book is relatively straight forward. Trond lives alone with his dog, and spends his time repairing the house and other small practical tasks. “All my life I have wanted to be alone in a place like this. Even when life was at its finest, as it has often been”.

But things change for Trond. Meetings with the neighbor living in the cabin a little further down the road evoke difficult memories for Trond. Memories about his father, about the summer of 1948 when he was 15 years old, and about events taking place that summer which were hard to understand for a fifteen year old boy. From the moment Trond sees a strange figure coming out of the dark behind his home, the reader is immersed in a decades-deep story of searching and loss, and in the precise, irresistible prose of a master of fiction writing.We move with Trond, back and forth in time, and we relive those events with Trond. Then we see and feel the their implications, how they have shaped and now reshape the mature Trond 52 years later.

The story in Out Stealing Horses is good, excellently translated by Anne Born (Per Petterson has stated that he thinks the English translation may be better than the original in Norwegian!), and it is told with great skill and compassion.

But it wasn’t only the story that made me love Out Stealing Horses. It was actually mostly the language – that beautiful, slightly remote, and very dense, moderate and crisp language that Per Petterson has chosen for his story. A form perfect for making those things that happen in the book – small and large – stand out on their own accord. A style of language that delivers joyful, happy, sad, tragic as well as beautiful events and scenes to me in such a raw, unprocessed form that it makes me need and want to reflect and ponder their implications and interrelations, and more or less forces me to relate to what I read.

Lots of joy, lots of food for thought. Out Stealing Horses is highly recommended!


“Petterson’s kinship with Knut Hamsun, which he has himself acknowledged, is palpable in Hamsun’s “Pan,” “Victoria” and even the lighthearted “Dreamers.” But nothing should suggest that his superb novel is so embedded in its sources as to be less than a gripping account of such originality as to expand the reader’s own experience of life. — Thomas McGuane, New York Times

“Read Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. From the first terse sentences of this mesmerizing Norwegian novel about youth, memory, and, yes, horse stealing, you know you’re in the hands of a master storyteller.”–Newsweek

“Petterson’s spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force. . . . Loss is conveyed with all the intensity of a boy’s perception but acquires new resonance in the brooding consciousness of the older man.”–The New Yorker

“ .. interesting, staggering and mind-blowing observations, thoughts and reflections about life, being, and nothingness made by Trond” — ScandinavianBooks.com

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Tess Callahan

National Public Radio celebrates Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses in this Father’s Day essay entitled, “Three Books about Fathers who Love Dangerously.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127836098

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