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The Birds

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  596 ratings  ·  40 reviews
With spare simplicity,this storytells the tale of Mattis, a mentally disabled man cared for by his lonely older sister, Hege. Their routine, isolated existence is interrupted when a lumberjack arrives at their lakeside cottage and falls in love with Hege, leaving Mattis fearful that he will lose his sister. The careful translation from the Norwegian underscores Vesaas's ra...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1957)
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Aug 11, 2014 Praj rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: tarjei

“You are You, that was what was written.”

For the past week, every time I stepped into my room, an inquisitive man bombarded me with string of questions I had no answers to. “What’s the use of having so many turnips?”, he asked as he lay gazing at the naked sky. A faint whiff of camphor emitted from his smile, as he repeated how he pompously waved to Anna and Inger from the pier with sheer happiness, the boiled sweets gently being tossed by his tongue. The songs of the bird have no regulations s...more
Mar 26, 2014 Garima rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Garima by: Tanuj Solanki
the flight of Woodcock
with its wings spread wide
gives me hope
and few tears in the eye - A Rebellious Haiku

A harmonious union between a sublime array of words, a fateful conviction and the search for an imperceptible notion by a singular soul, brings forth a work of inspiring and substantial beauty - The Birds. The convergence of these elements is not incidental but requires a delicate balance of innate talent and pertinent learning, where the emergence of extraordinary within the lines of ordi...more
Mar 29, 2013 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: shining birds
Recommended to Mariel by: withered tree-tops
Shelves: my-love-life
She looked at him as at a grown-p now, and then she said something: 'You're lucky, seeing things the way you do. I don't, I can tell you.'
She had stopped now, wasn't simply rushing off to her eight-petalled roses. Today once again she had heard a tone in his voice that made her pause.
'How do you see things, then?' he asked, forgetting himself. Spoilt the moment completely. She gave a start, even though she was really to blame.

The people who live near brother Mattis and his older sister Hege nam...more

Mattis , a man with the mind of a child or maybe a boy trapped in the body of an adult male . Sensitive , still delighted with the surrounding world , childishly amazed and ready for a great change . Overflowed with unnamed desires , tangled thoughts , unspeakable words . Why are things the way they are ?

Hege , his sister and a carer . With every day more and more tired and embittered . Her days go on knitting sweaters and difficult care for Mattis . Her hair starting to turn gray and she yet...more
Sep 01, 2014 Nicole~ rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nicole~ by: Praj
'We're coming, we're coming,' somebody said. ' You're ready, aren't you?'

Vesaas's poetic words, as they flit and float within the currents of Mattis's uncomplicated mind, as he struggles to articulate them meaningfully, have proven that beauty of nature, nature's beings and the nature of one's being might simply be understood, less from the spoken word, if one would stop to quietly listen. Mattis, who exists naturally, with the emptiness many take several life cycles to achieve, is Vesaas's exa...more
Ben Winch
This is really a beautiful book - better than The Ice Palace, I think, or at least a better place to start, because warmer, more accessible, less alienating. Vesaas is in his element here: his understanding of the boy-man Mattis, his suggestion of all that Mattis doesn't understand, his love for his characters, for the setting and for the simple act of writing - all of this is deeply, deeply affecting. I know next to nothing about Tarjei Vesaas but the impression he gives here is of something li...more
Nate D
Oct 21, 2011 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the taste of stream water
Recommended to Nate D by: the flight of the woodock
Shelves: norway, read-in-2011
A simple elegant study of a simple elegant character, a man who has difficulty understanding the human world around him and is supported by his sister, but who is extremely attuned tom the signals and portents of the natural world, the stirring of trees, the flights of birds. Vesaas' concise, spacious style is perfectly suited and the protagonist surprisingly engaging. No where near as beautiful and strange as Vesaas' next work The Ice Palace, though.
Tanuj Solanki
Tour de force.

Is symbolism perceived by a half-wit more perspicacious than by a normal eye made indifferent to hidden meanings by the grind of life? Maybe. It is different at the very least, and any art will do well to bring this difference to light. 'Birds' does just that. Our third-person narrator is entwined with Mattis', the Simple Simon's, consciousness. His world is both wondrous and constricted, like a combination of a Kawabata character with one from Kafka. He is often fooled, even ultim...more
This is a beautiful, sad and simple story about a woman around 40 and her younger, dim-witted brother Mattis, for whom she is sole caretaker. For the first 60-70 pages I wondered if I would make it through a book that required me to inhabit the inner workings of a mentally handicapped man – it seemed so tedious, even ridiculous. But slowly I warmed up, and Mattis became, if not lovable, at least very deserving of sympathy, so vulnerably human in his muddled thoughts and obsessions, neediness and...more
M. Sarki
A very interesting story, and one with immense repercussions due to the inadequacies of language in the shortcomings of some who might matter in a world made or imagined in ways quite different than generally has been determined to be our own. But I would not call this work a masterpiece as some have suggested. But very well-worth the time it took for me to read it slowly.
This is a beautifully written, poignant book. It gets at the tender heart of Mattis's circumstances--he's a man, and wants to act like one, yet he's stuck in a child's mind and lives in a world he literally can't navigate alone. Vesaas makes spare symbolism out of Mattis's confused, yet profound thoughts.
There are few things so mysterious as a Vesaas novel. Though he published both fiction and poetry, in the novels his poetic gifts surface in mood and bold imagery rather than in labored, ornate language. Here, in the story of a moderately mentally-handicapped man, Vesaas explores the human mind’s primitivist impulses--our need to find significance (indeed, omens) in the mundane and our need to barter with blind, deaf Fate. Blending an intensely existential narrative with a nature-saturated sensi...more
Translated: Torbjørn Støverud and Michael Barnes
Published: 1957

Review: The story is of two adult siblings living in a rural setting, Norway, though I don’t think it actually ever says it is Norway so this story could occur anywhere. There are two withered aspen in front of their place that others in the area refer to as Mattis and Hege. The two siblings. Mattis doesn’t know what this means. It is obvious that Mattis is a grown man but he thinks like a child. Mattis has some kind of cognitive dis...more
Book Wormy
The Birds Tarjei Vesaas
3 Stars

Set in a remote village this is the story of grown siblings Hege and Mattis. Hege is approaching 40 while Mattis is in his late 30's since the death of their parents Hege has been responsible for looking after Mattis who suffers from severe learning difficulties.

The book is told entirely from the perspective of Mattis and is largely his internal observations of the world and other people around him, we see how the siblings live alone and isolated, how Hege struggles...more
This is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. I'm a pretty slow reader in general, but I read this VERY quickly, and I didn't want it to end. Very few authors have this effect on me, and I can't wait to read other works by Vesaas. Painful, achingly beautiful, and very convinving in its portrayal of the logic and cosmic view of a mentally "slow" middle-age man living under the care of his elder sister. Recommended.

20th-century-classics, crazyasssprintbeforestudentteaching, favorites, mr-novembers-fall-to-remember, norwegian, one-sitting-reads, poets, quickly-devoured, read, readagainable, review-soon-before-it-is-too-late, sweet-darkness, tragically-underrated-or-unknown
"Something really had been started between them. And what did the bird say, in its wonderful language? Mattis was in no doubt. It was about great friendship. Prick, prick prick. Eternal friendship, that was what it meant."
Dec 25, 2009 S rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who doesn't have the mentality of a ten year old
One of my all time favourites, and so far the only book that has enhanced my living experience.

Will be checking out some of Tarjei Vesaas' other works.
The main character is actually defined as mentally disabled, and hes not autistic. I wanted to put it on this shelf because it belongs in a group with other tender personal experiences of people who are challenged. Our protagonist is well aware that he does not understand the world as well as others do and that his sister has to take care of him and provide him with food and shelter.Like a little boy,he attempts to find a job. Luckily he has a fantasy life he can disappear into. the book is name...more
Rowena Newman
My favourite book.
A book told from inside the head of Mattis, a "slow" adult living with and being supported by his sister. I don't know if a man with this particular type of disability could exist it real life, but he certainly exists within this book. He is simultaneously boastful and inept, heartbreakingly aware of the ways in which he not clever and not strong (and not something else: what is the third thing from his dream?). His unusual sensitivity to small amazements (a woodcock's display flight over the ho...more
Lorenzo Berardi
I discovered another great Norwegian novelist.
Neat, straight and profound.
Vesaas is perfect in putting its pen in the shoes of Mattis, "The Idiot".

This is such a beautiful book.
Tamta Shkubuliani
My favourite norwegian book
3.5 stars
The Birds is set in a rural village in Norway and is the centered on the relationship between two adult siblings. Mattis is a man in his late thirties with significant learning difficulties and is referred to as Simple Simon by the villagers. His sister Hege is responsible for caring for him and earning money. The novel is told from Mattis' perspective and is largely focused on his attempt to make sense of the world and his sister. He has difficulties expressing his thoughts, is unable...more
Having read The Ice Palace last year, I may have gone into The Birds with unrealistic expectations. In The Ice Palace Vesaas captured childhood better than nearly any other book I've read, communicating the beauty and mystery that every day seemed to contain when I was a kid. It was also a powerful story, with not a wasted word.

The Birds does not capture the mind of a developmentally disabled character as The Ice Palace captured childhood. Mattis is an interesting character, to be sure, and the...more
Marie Østvold
A norwegian classic, and a close read to the norwegian culture. Vesaas' best novel.
This novel is a beautifully simple and heartwarming read. The journey through Mattis's actions and beliefs, and the psychology that shapes them, completely envelope the reader to a point of utter endearment. Vesaas allows us to actually understand this character, when nobody else in the novel can, or will. It is through this connection with Mattis that we can come to realize just how much of the world we miss (like the flight of the woodcock), because we ignorantly choose not to know it.
Lavmælt, rolig fortelling med perspektivet til Mattis som bærer et enkelt sinn. Han finner ikke plassen sin, klarer ikke et arbeide, men blir brennende engasjert i det andre ser med undring på.
"Eg vågar her er ikkje noken ferjemann som ror beinare. Beinare enn beint kan det ikkje bli. Synd at dei kjølspora blir borte så fort, dei skulle stå som striper i dagesvis."
"Quickly he turned eyes on his sister. Strange eyes. Always helpless, shy like birds."
"A suddent thought made him start: You mustn't leave me! he grasped, turned toward the room where Hege lay. Whatever happened to you or me you mustn't leave me."
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What is the meaning of birds in The Birds? 2 7 Dec 19, 2013 10:26AM  
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Tarjei Vesaas was a Norwegian poet and novelist. Written in Nynorsk, his work is characterized by simple, terse, and symbolic prose. His stories are often about simple rural people that undergo a severe psychological drama and who according to critics are described with immense psychological insight. Commonly dealing with themes such as death, guilt, angst, and other deep and intractable human emo...more
More about Tarjei Vesaas...
The Ice Palace Kimen Spring Night The Boat in the Evening The Bridges

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“This gave him another opportunity to use one of those words that hung before him, shining and alluring. Far away in the distance there were more of them, dangerously sharp. Words that were not for him, but which he used all the same on the sly, and which had an exciting flavour and gave him a tingling feeling in the head. They were a little dangerous, all of them.” 4 likes
“What can you do when everyone around you is strong and clever?” 3 likes
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