Out Stealing Horses

by Per Petterson

Other authorsAnne Born (Translator)
Hardcover, 2007

Collection

Genres

Publication

Graywolf Press (2007), Edition: 1st, 250 pages

Description

After a meeting with his only neighbor, sixty-seven-year-old Trond is forced to reflect upon a long-ago incident that marks the beginning of a series of losses for Trond and his childhood friend, Jon.

Media reviews

12 more
Le Norvégien Per Petterson signe un magnifique roman sur les saisons de la vie, sur ces moments qui font que l'on n'est soudain plus le même.
The plotting is so subtle that one barely notices questions being raised and then, cleverly, answered. By the end, when all the pieces fall into place, we can see how elegantly Petterson has constructed matters, letting us live in a mystery we don't know needs solving until the solution is presented.
An impressive novel of rare and exemplary moral courage, and commendably makes convincing the confrontations of different individuals, different milieux.
Bogmarkedet
Det er en ufattelig smuk historie, og det er ikke underligt, at Per Petterson har fået sit store folkelige gennembrud med den i Norge ... Gid mange danskere også vil læse denne både stille og store roman.
Politiken
'Ud og stjæle heste' er Per Pettersons fjerde roman på dansk. I 2003 var det den bog, alle talte om i Norge, og den er både blevet belønnet med priser og blevet en læsersucces. Man forstår det godt. Læs den selv!
Weekendavisen
Man ... føler en ubetinget glæde – og smerte! – ved at læse den norske forfatter Per Pettersons romaner. For de bærer sig selv med deres helt egen spinkle kraft. Det gælder dem alle. Og det gælder ikke mindst Pettersons seneste roman, en lille frostklar perle ... Ud og stjæle heste har alt, hvad man kan bære på sine skuldre af nordisk natur ... Men det er sprogtonen, der er magien hos Petterson ... Som læsere føres vi gennem sprogets vindkorridorer ikke bare ud i naturen, vi går i ét med landskabet, det indre som det ydre, og dér, hvor tæppet sænker sig for romanens hovedperson, er også grænsen for vores indsigt. Vi når så langt, vi kan – mere ved vi ikke, heller ikke om os selv. På den måde er læseren i høj grad med, med på en rejse, en søgen, en undren ... en historie om paradis-tabet. Og om det fortrængte, der altid vender tilbage. Og om den far, der må dø (eller forsvinde) for, at sønnen kan blive voksen. En historie, der er gammel som mennesket, men som her sker så smerteligt, som var det allerførste gang. Holdt fast i vindens bevægelser af Per Petterson som en drage i to tynde tråde. Og med det samme afgrundsagtige skred, da snoren brister.
Jyllands-Posten
Per Petterson er en mester ud i erindringens brudte tilbageblik. Og om nogen kan han tone melankoliens blå farve ud i nuancer, som man knap kendte eksistensen af. Det er fremragende. Med en afstand på 50 år fortælles historien om en skæbnesvanger sommer, der med ét slag forandrer alt for den 15-årige Trond og forfølger ham resten af livet. Trond er ved romanens begyndelse 67 år. Hans kone er død, og han har trukket sig tilbage fra et årelangt liv i storbyen for at realisere en gammel drøm om at bo helt derude, hvor der ikke er andet end stilhed. Det viser sig dog hurtigt, at ingen nok så massiv stilhed kan lægge låg på fortiden, og snart blander de mange erindringsglimt sig insisterende med elvens klukkende løb og ulvenes hylen. Med stor indføling beskrives stilfærdigt, hvordan de stille katastrofer i et sart pubertetssind med alderen forvandles til stentunge traumer ... Per Petterson er tilsyneladende ikke den, der brager igennem til et bredt publikum, men han er en sand perle, som det er værd at have liggende i sine litterære gemmer.
Fyens Stiftstidende
Petterson beskriver så fuldkomment, at man ser landskabet, føler vinden, lugter jorden, og han gør det så udemonstrativt, at man føler, at man selv har plads i fortællingen ... Det er hverdagsliv forvandlet til magi ... Som sin far læser den aldrende Trond Dickens, og som Dickens tegner Petterson personer og miljø så uendelig præcist og detaljeret, at man adskillige gange under læsningen kræver ørenlyd for højtlæsning af udvalgte afsnit. 'Ud og stjæle heste' er en bog af den sjældne slags, man glæder sig til at komme hjem til. *****

User reviews

LibraryThing member AMQS
What a treat this book was. It is beautifully written, with long, meditative visits through memory, thoughts on growing old, and more than a little melancholy. 67 year old Trond Sander has recently moved to a remote cabin in Norway, his days filled with walking his dog and completing projects on his property. Late one night he goes out to assist a neighbor looking for his dog. He comes to realize he once knew this neighbor when they were both young boys and Trond was spending the summer with his father at yet another remote cabin in Norway. The book moves the narrative back and forth between Trond's present-day life, that distant, fateful summer in 1948, and further back to to his father's wartime experience. The story's themes of identity, belonging, coming-of-age, and solitude resonate throughout the book, mingled with beautifully spare but breathtaking descriptions of Nordic woods. As I neared the end of the book, I found myself making excuses not to read, so that I could prolong and savor the experience.… (more)
LibraryThing member msbaba
Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson, is a magnificent gem of a novel. It’s a contemplative book that slowly builds momentum for the compelling mystery of human suffering at its core. The story is constructed around a bare sliver of a plot, but there is enormous emotional impact in the telling. The prose is deceptively simple, but so vivid with nuanced detail that the reader immediately becomes caught up and lost in the telling.

The book takes place in 1999 with frequent flashbacks to 1948. The story concerns Trond Sander, a 67-year-old man coming to terms with his aging body and still grieving three years after the deaths of his wife and sister. Telling no one, not even his two grown daughters, Trond takes his pension and moves to an isolated lakeside cabin in the wilds of northern Norway. There he plans to live out the rest of his life in quiet solitude. He spends his days repairing his ideally situated but ramshackle cabin, taking walks with his beloved dog, absorbing the beauty of nature that fill his senses with pleasure at every turn, and dealing with the mundane necessities of everyday life. He has an acute desire to be alone, and is, in every way, perfectly content with this isolation.

Circumstances bring Trond together with one of his neighbors, Lars Haug, another solitary man. It doesn’t take both men very long to realize that they share a mysterious common heritage of heartache some fifty years earlier when Trond was 15 and Lars was a 10-year-old neighbor boy, the little brother of his close friend Jon. Long dormant memories are awakened, old wounds opened; yet both men avoid discussing their common history of emotional pain.

It is this mystery of what really happened between their two families in the summer of 1948 that holds the book together. Slowly, over the course of the novel, bits and pieces of their shared history become known. Petterson artfully chooses to reveal mere tidbits of facts, barely hinting at any deeper emotional impact, always leaving questions unanswered. The author leaves it up to the reader to put the pieces together, and add meaning to the whole. In order to do this, readers must use their own experience to help them supply feelings, opinions and assumptions about each character’s motivations. This technique is certainly the genius behind this novel: it makes the reader an active participant in the figuring out all the “what,” how,” and “why” of events. Among any group of readers discussing this book, there will be significant differences in how the events are interpreted and found meaningful. That is why this book has such a profound emotional impact: readers must take it into their hearts and make it meaningful in terms of their own life experiences.

There is a lovely passage early in the book when Trond is thinking about his quiet, arms-length assimilation into the village community near his cabin. This passage is noteworthy because it reveals not only a great deal about the main character’s personality and mature understanding of life, but also lets readers in on how the author plans to reveal Trond’s story over the course of the novel. In this passage, Trond thinks about his basic interactions with village people and reasons:

"People like it when you tell them things, in suitable portions, in a modest, intimate tone, and they think they know you, but they do not, they know about you, for what they are let in on are facts, not feelings, not what your opinion is about anything at all, not how what has happened to you and how all the decisions you have made have turned you into who you are. What they do is they fill in with their own feelings and opinions and assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours, and that lets you off the hook" (page 73).

So, don’t be surprised at the end of this book when you find the author doesn’t put himself on a hook and reveal every crucial detail about how the events actually play out. Enjoy finding your own meaning, and trusting your own interpretation. If you do, you’ll join legions of readers around the world who hold this book close to their hearts.

This book gets my unqualified highest recommendation.
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LibraryThing member vancouverdeb
I thoroughly enjoyed Out Stealing Horses. It's the Norwegian based story of a teenaged boy,Trond, living with his father for a summer in a small cabin in a remote area. His father has had difficulty adapting to family and village life after serving in WW11, and so has left son Trond's mother and sister behind in the family's village home.

A tragedy takes place during that ill-fated summer, forever changing both Trond and his family , as well as the directly affected family . Both families fall apart in the aftermath.

Many years later, the young man, Trond, is now 67 and has lost his second wife to a car accident. Trond decides to live out his final years in small isolated cabin, much like the cabin that he spent with his father during a summer many years ago. A chance encounter with a neighbour brings back memories of that tragic summer many years ago. Trond more or less re-lives his that summer, from the point of view of someone aged 67, rather than 15, and we as readers come to realize that much more went on that summer than Trond understood when he was a young boy.

That said, there is a fair amount of symbolism and unanswered questions for me. Perhaps some questions are intentionally left unanswered, or for us as readers to fill in as we understand life.

For this book, this is a very long piece of direct insight on Trond's part, but I'll quote it here ,page 73 Trond, our narrator, thinks to himself:

" People like it when you tell them things, in suitable portions, in a modest , intimate tone, and they think they know you, but they do not, they know about you, for what they are let in on are facts, not feelings, not what your opinion is about anything at all, not how what has happened to you and how all the decisions you have turned you into who you are. What they do is they fill in with their own feelings and opinions and assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours, and that let's you off the hook. No - one can touch you unless you yourself want them too."

Perhaps that is why while I understand much of Trond's life much better as he retells it as an adult, I am also left with questions. Perhaps the author planned it that way. A brilliant,nuanced, moving but understated book. 4 stars.
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LibraryThing member Mikalina
"Out stealing horses" is the code the storyteller`s (Trond) father (Jacob) and the mother of Trond´s best friend, Jon, used during WW II. They smuggled Jews over the border from the German-invaded Norway to neutral Sweden. At the end of the war, their cover was blown, and Trond´s father and Jon´s mother stayed in Sweden until the war ended, together. Both went home to their respective family when the war ended. Jon is the eldest of three brothers, the two junior being twins born in 1937.

The crucial part of Trond´s own story happens In the summer of 1947. Trond and his father stays at a cabin Jacob has bought. It lies close to where the resistance work took place and close to where Jon, his twin brothers, father and mother live.
Jon and Trond soon become close friends, Trond does not know about his father´s war history at this point. One night Jon asks Trond to come with him, "out stealing horses". The idea is that each of the teenagers "borrow" a horse from the richest farmer´s corral for a nightly tour. During this adventure two things happens that has bearing to the story; Jon deliberately ruins a bird´s nest when Trond comments on the beauty of it, and Trond is violently flung off his horse. Next day his father sees his injury and tells him; "You decide how much it hurts".

Jon disappears the following day, and Trond does never see him again; He learns that the day before their nightly adventure one of the 10 years old twins accidentally killed the other while they were playing with Jon´s unsecured hunting rifle, while he was supposed to look after them.

Trond learns about his father´s past from one of his father´s companions during the summer, a summer he and his father spend working in the forest. The relationship between them is on of trust. When Trond returns to the city, he believes his father is to follow. He does not, and Trond is never to know his whereabouts.
The teenager Trond does not quite understand, but the reader and the implicated grown ups do; Jon´s mother cannot leave her (broken) husband after they have lost both the youngest and the eldest son.

Trond tells the story as a man in his sixties, he has just lost his beloved wife in a car accident, sold his house and retreated to a small rural setting, and winter is coming. It is the work with the timber, and the new trauma that brings the old story up, and we get to know the two stories; the old man´s and the teenager´s at the same time. Then Trond meets another loner, they help each other with the snow, the wood, the heavy duty work, and recognize each other; it is Lars, the surviving twin. Lars tells that Jon had become a sailor, travelled the seven seas for many years before coming home and taking the farm from him (who had stayed home helping his parents) as his lawful heritage. Lars left the farm he had cultivated, and had not seen his elder brother Jon since then.

Only when one of Trond´s three daughters shows up, telling what hunt it has been to find him, you understand the symmetry of Jacob´s and Trond´s way of responding to life; Life is a galloping horse to anyone - when it kicked, the response of both father and son were fleeing. Trond gets a second chance both to "decide" how much room the new trauma shall be given - and maybe finally come to terms with the old injury and to forgive ....

It is a book about the "the horse" none has been able to escape since Eve stole the apple, and more important; about the secondary injury that lies in our response to the pain when life hits us hard, when we occasionally fall from the horse. Our response to pain is our responsibility, so often how we deal with what hurts make more damage than the original pain, both for the inflicted, and for the people around him/her.

The story of Jon is indirectly told, and in few and scattered words, but his shadow penetrates to the deeper and darker layer of the human psychology and never leaves the book: Surely neither his initiative to go "Out stealing horses" nor showing the bird´s nest to Trond just to ruin it the moment Trond recognized it as a the fragile homely beauty it is, were coincidental? The question is; was his not-remebering to secure his hunting rifle not a coincidence either? Young as he was, Jon was a seasoned marksman, bringing small game at a steady rate to the house, and he was well aware his brothers loved to play with the emptied rifle...
A teenager´s deliberate(?) work to save his family? You do not ask the question until you learn Lars´s story; Jon is a sailor..... Is he a surviver that does what is takes to stay afloat? We get to know that he guards what is his, collecting his "heritage" without regard to his second brother´s life - - either?

The structure is stringent, the style is subtle, lyrical at times. The result is as amazing, like a Callas effortlessly singing the lightest coloratura as if her voice was not dramatic, powerful.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
“All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when everything was going well, as it often did. I can say that much. That it often did. I have been lucky. But even then for instance in the middle of an embrace and someone whispering words in my ear I wanted to hear, I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was only silence. Years might go by and I did not think about it, but that does not mean that I did not long to be there. And now I am here, and it is almost exactly as I had imagined it.” (5)

Trond Sander, in his late sixties, has moved to a remote location in Norway, fulfilling a long standing desire to live the remainder of his days in solitude. Unexpectedly, he encounters Lars Haug, an acquaintance from his distant past, from a summer he spent in the forests of Norway with his father when he was fifteen years old. Trond’s narrative moves between present day and that fateful summer of 1948, the events of which altered his life forever. Trond gently and non-judgmentally makes peace with life from the perspective of old age. Like Trond’s reminiscences, Per Petterson’s prose is sensory, poignant, and tranquil:

“… I see how each movement through the landscape took colour from what came afterwards and cannot be separated from it. And when someone says the past is a foreign country, that they do things differently there, then I have probably felt that way for most of my life because I have been obliged to, but I am not any more. If I just concentrate I can walk into memory’s store and find the right shelf with the right film and disappear into it and still feel in my body that ride through the forest with my father …” (237)

Out Stealing Horses is still more than this – a novel of double meanings and two sets of twins. Petterson handles all, including the continuous time transitions, expertly. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member janeajones
At 67, three years after the deaths of his wife and sister, Trond Sander has retreated to a small house on a river in the sparsely populated far east of Norway. He has determined to live alone with only his dog Lyra as a companion.

All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when everything was going well, as if often did. I have been lucky....I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was only silence.

He has not completely cut himself off from civilization; he goes into the nearby town for supplies and he has a car and a radio, though he chooses to eschew television and is ambivalent about hooking up to the telephone service. He spends his days getting the place in order, fishing, and walking his dog until one night his peace is disturbed by a neighbor whistling for his straying dog, and he goes out to assist him. He recognizes the neighbor as someone from his distant past, and the recognition sets into motion the opening up of his memory-hoard, and we encounter a man reaching for his adolescence, his experience during the Nazi occupation, his parents, and an old friendship.

The novel unfolds as a series of revelations, some shocking, some subtle -- it has the quality of a investigative mystery, but a highly lyrical and beautifully written one. It is also a meditation on the rites of passage of adolescence and of aging. As in much Scandinavian writing, a focus on the struggle to live within nature, always tending carefully to one's tools, is central to the gestalt of the book.

Only a few loose ends took a half star off my perfect rating. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member mrstreme
I love novels that quietly leave their mark, telling their story as a whisper and slowly drawing you in like a boat returning from sea. That’s how I would describe Per Petterson’s beautiful story, Out Stealing Horses. Quite simply, it was a breath-taking and enthralling book.

Trond Sander moved to a cabin in the Norwegian countryside after retiring. His plan was to escape the ghosts of his past and live a simple, rural life. He managed to avoid his nearest neighbor until a fateful night when the neighbor’s dog ran off. When Trond left his home to assist, he recognized his neighbor as Lars, the brother of a childhood friend. This chance encounter was a domino effect, forcing Trond to relive painful memories of his past and deal with the ghosts he was trying to escape.

The story then moved to Trond’s time as a 15-year-old-boy, staying with his father in a cabin one summer. This was Trond’s “coming of age” – a time when he learned about friendship and his father’s past during World War II. Many secrets were revealed, and Trond left that summer cabin a changed person.

Petterson’s characterization was spot on, his plot steady and his language beautiful. Translated from Norwegian, Out Stealing Horses rolled off its pages like a song. Throughout many tragedies, Petterson mixed in some humor and touching moments. It was a well-balanced tale.

Who would I recommend Out Stealing Horses to? Anyone who loves great literary fiction – it’s a book not to miss.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Trond Sander is a 67-year-old widower living with his dog in a remote cabin in Norway. He enjoys the solitude and takes pleasure in small things, like the physical activity associated with chopping wood, walking his dog, or making a meal. As he works, he revisits significant events from his wartime childhood. Events originally seen through the eyes of a child come into sharp focus when seen from his adult perspective: his father's work as a courier for the resistance movement, the devastating impact of a child's death, and the complex relationships between adults in his life.

Petterson's writing is terrific; the language is beautiful. He weaves the stories of Trond's present and past together seamlessly. The language has a particular rhythm to it, like waves lapping on the side of a boat. And yet it's also impossible to put down and has a strong emotional pull: I felt extreme sadness for losses in Trond's life, and at the same time I felt the peace and acceptance he had achieved.

Highly recommended ... not to be missed.
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LibraryThing member Laura400
This is an absolutely wonderful novel. Though written originally in Norwegian, the English translation seems excellent, with the prose elegant and spare. It touches on the mysteries of growing up, the distance and yearning between a boy and his father, between any family members, really, even the legacy of the resistance in Norway.… (more)
LibraryThing member Greta626
Sparsely written and economical, precise, gorgeous prose. The translator did a great job and some of the lines are like poetry. A little slow though, and took concentration to finish. Perhaps I wasn't in the right mindset for such a sad, introspective book.
LibraryThing member Niecierpek
A 67-year-old man who recently lost his wife moves out of a busy city to a small country cabin in search of solitude, and, even though he doesn't know it at the time, to come to terms with fateful events of the summer when he was 15.
It's a beautifully written book that revolves in the end around a father-son relationship.
It found its place on the top ten list of The New York Times best books of 2007.
I agree.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Out Stealing Horses (2003) is a "quiet novel" in multiple senses: there is little dialog, literally quiet; the setting takes place in the quiet Norwegian countryside; and, quiet in the sense some parts of the novel are simply left unsaid, it is up to the intelligent and insightful reader to piece together meaning. For instance, to find meaning in "Out Stealing Horses" - beyond the literal action of horse theft, or the WWII password. These "types" of quietude come together in a work of art which fits nicely with the stereotype of the Norwegian character giving it an aesthetic wholeness which is pleasing - but this is not the first novel to do this, I think for many English and American readers, it may be their first exposure to the "quiet Scandinavian novel", which helps explain, in part, its unexpected popularity.

One of the themes of the novel is free will versus fate. The main character, Trond, believes his life is determined by his own actions and choices. Yet ironically he is a lifelong fan of Charles Dickens, the very epitome of a fateful view of the universe - the good guys always come out on top and the bad guys get their due in the end - it's fated! Dickens is mentioned numerous times including the Bildungsroman David Copperfield, an implied favorite of Tronds. The question arises, how does Trond reconcile his own view of his life versus his love of Dickens (free will versus fate); how do we as readers reconcile Pettersons novel, which is modern in approach (characters have free will), with Tronds recounted life, which seems to be fated by the pattern of life-events inherited from his father? In fact Trond does what we all do: believe we operate according to free will moving forward in time, but when looking backward, we search for meaning, for stories, to explain what happened - the very thing Petterson demands of his readers. Fate and free will is one of the great questions, and it is a great piece of modern literature that can play with it so.. quietly.
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LibraryThing member karieh
One of the main events in Per Petterson’s novel, “Out Stealing Horses” is the felling, creating of and then float of logs down a river. The further I moved through this book, the more I felt that the flow of the author’s words resembled the pattern of those logs.

At times there seems a log jam as Patterson’s words are the bare minimum needed to move the story forward. Surroundings, actions, emotions are described, but in a trickle of words. Then the flow picks up and color enters the picture as his elegantly sparse prose fills in a bit. And then the force of bottled up thoughts, emotions, happenings rush at the reader with a fury; sentences become paragraphs, paragraphs become pages, and in the most glorious way, the reader fears drowning under the weight of the words.

The story seems a simple one. An older man, Trond Sander, moves to a small cabin in Norway to be alone, to revisit the place that was a defining moment of his youth, to think.

Trond is a man, were he real, and were I to meet him, who would greet me pleasantly, offer me a chair, and then minutes could pass with not a word. He seems to embody the very definition of companionable silence. (Or probably, in his case, uncomfortable silence due to his strong desire to be left alone.) And yet, his thoughts and memories are so beautifully drawn that one can understand why he is happy to be left alone with them.

“I can still feel the same thing today when I see a hayrack in a photograph from a book, but all that is a thing of the past now. No-one makes hay this way any more in this part of the country; today there is one man alone on a tractor, and then the drying on the ground and the mechanical turner and wrapping machines and huge plastic white cubes of stinking silage. So the feeling of pleasure slips into the feeling that time has passed, that it is very long ago, and the sudden feeling of being old.”

Several times Petterson lured me into a descriptive passage and then startled me with the finish. “When I sit here now, in the kitchen of the old house I have planned to make into a livable place in the years left to me, and my daughter has gone after a surprising visit and taken with her her voice and her cigarettes and the orange lights from her car down the road, and I look back to that time I see how each movement through the landscape took color from what came afterward and cannot be separated from it.”

At times there is a possibly sarcastic (?) element to Trond’s descriptions of events in his life, where he looks back at his younger self with eyes jaded with time.

“I pressed my nose against the glass and gazed into the cloud of dust slowly rising outside and hiding my father in a whirl of grey and brown, and I did everything you are supposed to do in a situation like that, in such a scene; I rose quickly and ran down the gangway between the seats to the last row and jumped up on it knees first and placed my hands on the window and stared up the road until the shop and the oak tree and my father had vanished round a bend, and all this is as if I had been thoroughly rehearsed in the film we have seen so often, where the fateful farewell is the crucial event and the lives of the protagonists are changed forever and take off in directions that are unexpected and not always nice, and the whole cinema audience knows just how it will turn out.”

This is balanced at times with quiet reverence for the experiences he has now. “Everything that was me lay taut and quivering just beneath my skin.”

This book, a reflection of a life lived although not completely understood, has flashes of pure luminosity.

“And it dawned on me that from that small patch of cobble stones I stood on there were lines going out in several directions, as in a precisely drawn diagram, with me standing in a circle in the middle, and today, more than fifty years later, I can close my eyes and clearly see those lines, like shining arrows, and if I did not see them quite as clearly that autumn day in Karlstad, I did know they were there, of that I am certain. And those lines were the different roads I could take, and having chosen one of them, the portcullis would come crashing down, and someone hoist the drawbridge up, and a chain reaction would be set in motion…”

Trond, and certainly not the reader, will ever get a complete account of what has happened in his life. And yet, there is enough. Enough joy, and pain, and beauty and despair…enough time, that when the story for the reader, and probably life for Trond, comes to an end, one does not feel shortchanged.

“If you were dead, you were dead, but in the fraction of a second just before; whether you realized then it was the end, and what that felt like. There was a narrow opening there, like a door barely ajar, that I pushed towards, because I wanted to get in, and there was a golden light in that crack that came from the sunlight on my eyelids , and then suddenly I slipped inside, and I was certain there for a little flash, and it did not frighten me at all, just made me sad and astonished at how quiet everything was.”

And the last line of this book, which I am desperate to include in this review but will not, this last line almost literally took my breath away with its force. After this last line, I set this book down carefully and with awe, and the story settled into place like that final log in the drift. And the river flows on.
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LibraryThing member carlym
If I say very much at all about the plot, it will ruin it for you. The narrator and main character of the book is a 67-year-old Norwegian man, Trond, who has just moved to a little cabin in the country to be alone, except for his dog, Lyra. The book alternates between his life now and summers he spent with his father in the Norwegian countryside when he was about 15.

It's a very personal, introspective book, although it's also emotionally restrained. Although it's not formatted like a diary, that's what it made me think of, both in style and content. Trond narrates minute details of his life, like getting up, getting dressed, and putting food on the table, but the reader has to infer his feelings for the most part. Bits of his life and the reasons why he is how he is are slowly revealed over the course of the book. It's not a funny book, really, but it's peppered with funny moments that I found exceptionally realistic. For example, early in the book, young Trond's friend takes him into the forest to show him something. Trond thinks it's this big tree and is obviously not impressed: "'It's a big one,' I said. 'It's not that,' Jon said." It's a simple moment, but one I can totally envision.

Along with the funny bits, Trond makes random observations about life that gave me new insights into common things, or put something in a different way that really made sense. One example--he says that you tell people facts about you, stories about your life, and they think they know you, but really they take those facts and fill in their own story about you.

The imagery in the book (and the writing in general) is also fantastic. One of my favorites is about his dog: "Lyra sits watching me with a pine cone in her mouth, it sticks out like an unlit cigar of the really bulky type . . . ."

The book does not wrap up all the loose ends in the story, but I felt that it came to a resolution nonetheless, sort of like playing a wind instrument and letting the note tail off, without going flat but also without an abrupt stop.

Read it.
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LibraryThing member msf59
This story follows a retired man, in his late sixties, who flees to the Norwegian country-side, to live an isolated life. He spends his time rehabbing his cottage and reflecting on his past, particularly a summer fifty years earlier, when his life completely changed. The prose is simply-stated, vivid and perfectly melancholy , which makes for ideal winter reading. His style reminds me of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Watson. Highly recommended!… (more)
LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
Although I really wanted to like this book, I ended up losing interest about half way and had a difficult time picking it up after that juncture. I did finish it though. But mainly, I found the characters very tedious and unlikeable. I enjoy spare prose and when the reader gets to fill in the blanks (and use some intelligence in the process), but frankly, I never cared much what happened to these people. It is a very male-centered book, with much posturing between the father and son; the father and his "friend" and the protagonist and his friend John, much of which made very little sense (but maybe that was the point?). There is a huge amount of space given to the manly world of timber felling and sales; and a good bit on "stealing horses" (riding other peoples' horses, basically, as they are not stolen). It seemed everyone went so far out of their way to avoid dealing with the reality of the situations and each other ~ to the point where it was rather goofy. Despite all, I found the writing quite beautiful in spots, the locale interesting and certainly unique for a U.S. reader. However, I cannot really think of a person I'd recommend this to. It is very slow and the characters dull and frustrating.… (more)
LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
Sixty seven year old Trond has purchased an isolated, spare cabin in the Norwegian woods, planning to live the remainder of his life in solitude with his rescued dog, Lyra. As Trond fixes up his cabin and gets ready for the oncoming winter, his mind drifts back to the summer of his fifteenth year when he and his father, who he hasn’t seen in 50 years, were in a similar cabin for the summer. His closest neighbor is Lars who, he realizes soon after meeting, he knew during that summer.

This particular summer is pivotal for Trond, as he sees his father, his hero, as both a man of extreme stature as well as a man somewhat diminished. It is a summer filled with joys. It is around this time that he feels he has a singular bond with his father, one that his sister who remained at home for the summer in Oslo with their mother, cannot replicate. It is during this summer that he gets a glimpse of his father’s war-time Resistance activities as told to him by a neighbor, something his father would never talk about.

There is also tragedy during the summer as a young boy, his friend Jon’s younger brother, is accidently killed in a rifle accident and Trond sees his father with another woman. That summer is the last time Trond would see his father. He never came home.

The spectacular thing about Out Stealing Horses is its subtlety. Readers can visualize Trond in his winter wonderland, trudging through the snow with Lyra or cutting up a fallen birch tree with Lars. They can visualize fifteen year old Trond working with his father felling trees on his property, looking longingly at Jon’s mother as she brings food to the logging men. You can picture the river curving around the bend, flowing from Norway to Sweden back into Norway. All of this is done without blatant similes. It is done with wordsmithing and language and slow but steady writing that draws readers in. The book is also spectacular for what it doesn’t say–about Trond’s father, about Trond’s cabin, about Lars. There are hints, but the reader must ultimately decide for himself.

Out Stealing Horses (the title does have a meaning in the story, but I won’t tell you) won the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award as well as several other awards. Susan, who reads much more literary works than I do, suggested this book at the Brooklyn Book Festival and I’m glad because it is not “my genre” but it is so worth reading.
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LibraryThing member plenilune
I often get caught up in the hype surrounding a book only to end up disappointed or at least not quite getting what the buzz was all about. That was not the case with Out Stealing Horses. This may be a slim book, but it is not a short one—there is so much contained in the concise sentences and terse narration of the protagonist, Trond. I found myself reading some lines and paragraphs over and over, in awe of the finely chosen words and how they all came together to form a layered whole. Out Stealing Horses proves that just as much can be said with the right words as can be said by leaving unessential words unsaid. This is showing, not telling; this is the heartbreak that often accompanies doing what is true and right. It is a deeply affecting novel that will stay with you for a long time.… (more)
LibraryThing member SouthernLibrary
Subtle and deeply resonate. This book is beautiful, and I highly recommend it to any serious fiction reader.
LibraryThing member posthumose
This won the Dublin Impac Award 2007, the big one cash-wise,100,00 pounds. This prize is chosen by librarians around the world. It also garnered the Norwegian Critic's Award and got on the New York Times 100 Notable Books for 2007. Out Stealing Horses is about boyhood friendship, tragedy and loss, fathers and sons and their expectations of one another. And how the main character deals with loneliness both in his youth and late in life. Well worth reading. A good place to start on Scandinavian literature if you haven't tried any yet.… (more)
LibraryThing member kewing
Beautifully subtle novel in the form of an interior conversation with the narrator. Throughout the novel there is loss, rejection, and departure, yet there is joy, wonder, and redemption. Dickens and Tolstoy linger in the background; throughout, the narrator wonders, like David Copperfield, if her is the hero of his own story. The details of rural life in 1940s Norway, the perils of resistance, the reverance for simple things--a luminous novel.… (more)
LibraryThing member NativeRoses
Show of hands: Who would have picked up a quiet novel about an old man named Trond living in a frozen cabin in the middle of nowhere? Translated from the Norwegian? Anyone? Do it: Petterson's story about a retired man's chance encounter with a neighbor who is connected to a key event from his teens, is a page-turner. The encounter "pulls aside the fifty years with a lightness that seems almost indecent," and it all comes tumbling and rushing out: a tragic accident, family secrets, wartime lies, regrets too long buried, sins too long unforgiven.
~ 50 Top 10 Lists of 2007 - TIME
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LibraryThing member writestuff
In his sixty-seventh year, Trond Sander purchases a house in the Norwegian countryside and seeks the solitude and silence for which he longs.

Trond’s only company is a dog named Lyra and an older man who lives in a cabin near the river not too far from Trond’s home. There in the desolate and beautiful wilderness and as he gets to know his neighbor, Trond begins to remember the summer of 1948 when he was fifteen years old and on the cusp of becoming a man. It is these memories which drive the novel forward - a slow unraveling of one fateful summer where everything changed. As Trond reveals the multiple layers of his past, he comes to grips with his present and begins to gain an understanding of the man he has become.

Out Stealing Horses is in part about a boy’s relationship with his father which is both touching and compelling. Trond’s father is a complex man with a mysterious past - a man who worked for the Norwegian underground during the Nazi occupation, and who has formed connections which the young Trond is just beginning to understand.

Petterson seamlessly moves between the past and present, gradually revealing each character and putting together the pieces of Trond’s life. This is a novel rich with emotion, one that explores pain, betrayal, identity, and loss. The language of the novel is evocative, simple and luminous.

I was mesmerized by this book. Seemingly a simple tale, it later reveals itself to be a complex study of grief and loss. This is not a book to be read quickly, but one which should be savored.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member AlisonY
I think this is a book that deserves to be savoured rather than dipping in and out of it over too long a period like I did. I enjoyed the beautiful writing and the slow, quiet pace of the book which would normally tick all my 'book love' boxes, but somehow it didn't grab me as much as it seems to have grabbed everyone else.

I definitely think this is partly attributable to reading it during a particularly busy and distracted few weeks. Days elapsed in between snatched readings, and I think I lost something from my reading experience as a result.

Essentially this is a tale of a man in his 60s who has taken himself off to a cabin in a semi-remote part of Norway to live out the rest of his days in peace and simplicity away from the emotional pressures of family and life in general. His nearest neighbour turns out to randomly be an acquaintance from his childhood, which stirs up many long stored away memories, some idyllic, others difficult.

I enjoyed the chapters returning to his childhood, but felt that a few potentially gripping story threads fell a little flat in the end. I appreciate that the author was deliberately wanting to leave some loose ends, but it felt a little like getting engrossed in a newspaper article only to find the concluding page is missing.

There were interesting emotions and feelings at play, but these were written in a male Men-Are-From-Mars-don't-dwell-on-your-emotions-too-much kind of way, and as a result I didn't empathise with the main protagonist as much as I could have done.

4 stars - worth a read, but by the end of the year I feel I'll have forgotten much about it.
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LibraryThing member joecanas
A solid 5-star, well-written book -- one I hope to read again in coming years with the same (or different!) sense of awe. I am a long-time fan of Per Petterson's works, and I've saved this one -- clearly his masterpiece judging by the jacket reviews -- for a couple of years while enjoying and checking off his "lesser" novels.

I brought Out Stealing Horses to Norway on vacation -- a perfect book for cafe reading in Oslo, I thought. But it began slowly, proceeded slowly, and I brought it back home having very unenthusiastically finished just the first two chapters in fits and starts. Uh-oh, classic signs of an agonizing slog ahead! Oslo itself plays a small but important role in the novel, so maybe that's why it was impossible for me to get into the book while there?

Several days after returning home from vacation, I started over, free of urban Norwegian distractions, and I fell into Petterson's storytelling rhythm. The book rarely picks up the pace -- it's a slow-burn story, meandering ponies instead of galloping thoroughbreds. If you don't care for that sort of thing, keep browsing. But once I got past the first 30 pages, I found the turns of phrase, the protagonist's a-ha observations, the various heartbreaking, life-shattering moments and the sad/beautiful conclusion all effective and entertaining despite (because of?) the glacial pacing. In fact, quite a lot happens over the course of 238 pages -- but just a few key moments play out quickly (thrillingly! breathlessly!), the way out-of-control events can overwhelm us, shaking us out of the comfort zone of an otherwise ordinary life. When those moments arrived in the story, I was riveted.

There are many worthy plot summaries elsewhere; I will toss out a few themes as a nod to the amateur reviewer's time-honored practice of helpfully boiling down complex works to just a few bullet points.

- It's a coming-of-age story: Trond, the 67-year-old central character, reviews his life, mainly returning to the summer he was 15. The events of that year defined him -- in ways he still struggles to understand decades later.

- It's a Norway story: Winter is coming (!) and a lack of preparation equals suffering, if not certain death. It's also a lone man's meditation on choosing to live alone in a remote area. But the threat of being snowed in -- cut off from civilization, food, and supplies -- is paramount.

- It's a World War II story: Norway's occupation during World War II is not the main theme or time period of the novel, but the characters' fates are absolutely affected by events and choices made during and immediately after the war.

- It's full of surprising appearances and disappearances. There are not a lot of characters in the book. But a fair number of friends, neighbors and family members die or leave -- or arrive -- when least expected.

- Yes, there are horses -- the same two horses, it turns out, at the beginning and the end of the novel. But a lot happens in between the two rides, thanks to artfully deployed flashbacks.

- Out stealing horses: "You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means." (In fact, nearly all the words mean something else, since I read the original Norwegian novel in an English translation.)

As with any rich work, this one is actually about pain and suffering. It is also about choices, and whether we truly make them or have them thrust upon us by others. Trond, the narrator, recalls a time in childhood when his father assigned him the task of picking thistles out of their yard. He complied, but stopped well before finishing the job because it hurt so much without gloves. His father reached out bare-handed and grabbed bunches of thistles without showing any sign of discomfort. After a while, he leaned over and gave his son what was clearly intended as valuable advice: "You decide when it hurts."
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Pages

250

ISBN

1555974708 / 9781555974701
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