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The Birds

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,099 Ratings  ·  88 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 January 1st 1957)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 01, 2016 Dolors rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Leaping with broken wings
Shelves: read-in-2014
The world is a hostile place and, according to Mattis, people don’t mean what they say when they speak. A simpleton, a weirdo, a child imprisoned in the body of an adult man, Mattis muses over the factors that separate him from the rest of the small community of the nameless village lost somewhere in a rural area in Norway where he and his sister Hege subsist in a cottage by the lake.

Condemned to be permanently out of work due to his slow-witted faculties and lack of social skills, Mattis is bit
Aug 11, 2014 Praj rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 26, 2014 Garima rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 31, 2016 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2016

"Hush now, dont explain
You're my joy and pain"

I've never been less inclined to dissect and explain what a book is all about than now. It feels like riding roughshod over something soft, and pure and true, something beyond words and meaning. To understand this book I need to learn the language of birds, of thunder, and of light over water. Tarjei Vesaas is the one who knows all these secret signs, and he offers them to us like a child holding out a treasure (a nest, a polished stone, a wildfl
Diane S ☔
Mar 22, 2016 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
Mattis is a man with the mind of a child. His elder sister Hege takes care of him, knits sweaters constantly in order to support the two of them.

I can't say I liked this book, but it was interesting to see inside the mind of this man child. Often selfish in his needs, like children usually are, he finds solace and understanding in nature. Questions why he isn't like everyone else and is often awkward in his phrasing, not knowing what to say in different circumstances and is always naïvely innoce
Mar 29, 2013 Mariel rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 19, 2014 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites, 2014, reviewed

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
Sep 01, 2014 Nicole~ rated it it was amazing
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 ex
Sep 26, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norwegian
In moments of not quite sober reflection, I see myself a truffling pig, rooting through the pages of these books, looking for answers, not necessarily answers to Life's mysteries, but to the Why of the book itself. My snout bumps against some allegorical knob and I pause and raise a porcine eyebrow. Aha, I snort. I smile a satisfied pork smile, happy in my muck of certainty, or maybe just a pig's obstinacy.

But with an old pig's sense, I do not interrupt an ongoing phone call to say, "Let me tell
Oct 27, 2015 [P] rated it really liked it
The other day I was talking to a man who, impolitely, one might call ‘slow,’ and I felt myself getting annoyed and losing patience. He was easily confused; often repeated himself; and stuttered terribly. ‘I’ve had three strokes,’ he said, and I nodded, thinking this was merely an example of the strange compulsion people have to inform others of their problems or ailments. But then, a moment or two later, I realised that he was offering me this information as an excuse, as an explanation. He had ...more
Ben Winch
Apr 12, 2012 Ben Winch rated it it was amazing
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 liked it
Recommends it for: the taste of stream water
Recommended to Nate D by: the flight of the woodock
Shelves: read-in-2011, norway
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
Feb 19, 2014 Tanuj Solanki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, nordic
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
May 17, 2016 Sinem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
hafif gerilimli lirik masalsı bir anlatımı var. Şiir gibi..
Hege ve Mattis adlı iki kardeşin yaşamını anlatırken yaş olarak büyük ancak zeka olarak bir çocuğun aklına sahip Mattis i çok güzel anlatmış. Ona köyde deli deseler de bazen onun gibi düşünmenin ne kadar naif olduğunu düşünmeden edemiyor insan.
Dec 26, 2015 S. rated it really liked it
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
Marco Tamborrino
"- Non devi ridere! Che ne sai di quello che so io? Dell'uccello che passava qui sopra, così bello che tu neanche te lo sai immaginare. E passava proprio qui sopra. Ed era per Hege che passava."

Sarò onesto: non mi aspettavo un libro così bello. È il primo romanzo scritto da un norvegese che mi piace veramente tanto, forse da finire addirittura tra i miei preferiti. Vesaas ci racconta una storia in cui sostanzialmente non accade nulla, dal punto di vista di un "idiota". Ma non c'è un momento, n
M. Sarki
Aug 02, 2014 M. Sarki rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 06, 2016 Jill rated it really liked it
'Tis a gift to be simple but sometimes, that gift can also be a burden. In this haunting book, Mattis – a slow-witted man in his late 30s – lives in a small village with his lonely older sister, Hege, who feeds and takes care of him. Their isolation is captured by two withered aspen trees that stand side-by-side, in among the green growing spruces, and referred to as Mattie-and-Hege by the villagers.

Mattis connects to the natural order around him. When a woodcock starts flying over his house, he
May 13, 2016 Hakan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
bir başyapıt. yalın bir dil, baştan sona merak ve gerilimin eksilmediği bir hikaye ve kolay kolay unutulmayacak bir kahraman..

hayata çocuk gözleriyle bakan, kendinden başka herkesi bilge, güçlü ve güzel gören mattis'in düşüncelerini, hayallerini ve korkularını aktarmakla kalmıyor norveçli yazar, hissettiriyor. deliyse mattis, deliliği...norveç ormanlarında ablasıyla birlikte yaşayan mattis'le hayatın hiçbir yerde, hiçbir şekilde basit ve kolay olmadığını, hiç kimsenin tamamıyla iyi, haklı ya da
Кремена Михайлова
„Един е създаден така, а друг — иначе, каза си той, но не посмя да продължи тази мисъл.”

„Докато Матис се спускаше към езерото, слънцето се показа над хълмовете. Есенните му лъчи грееха, без да топлят, и от тази светлина всичко наоколо стана прозрачно. Като че ли вървенето сред окъпаната в слънце зеленина стана по-лесно. И все пак беше трудно.”

„Беше му приятно да си мисли, че има безкрайно много хора, които изобщо не подозираха, че е глупак.”

„Момичето кимна на Матис като на познат и се усмихна
Amaranta Ursula Fumagalli
Cos'è, in sé, la wilderness? Cosa ha spinto il discorso romantico, legato alla tracotanza e alla sublimazione dell'osservazione della Natura, a permeare nei decenni, per giungere ad un'espressione ed una forma totalmente nuove, quali sono quelle adottate da Vesaas per questo capolavoro d'epoca post-bellica?
Non mi soffermerò molto nell'elencare l'eccellenza dello stile e della trama, le crudezze lessicali e sintattiche, molto moderniste a mio parere, pur tuttavia riconoscendone il valore.
Ciò ch
Aug 31, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jim Hale
Jan 20, 2015 Jim Hale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It is tempting to call this a simple story about a simple man, or "Simple Simon" as he's known to the residents of this lonely Norwegian outpost (lonely men living in lonely Norwegian outposts appears to be somewhat of a genre).

It is more fitting to say The Birds is simply and heart achingly stunning in its depiction of a learning disabled man who desperately wants to be accepted. Vesaas takes the reader inside the mind of Mattis in brilliant interior dialogues that demonstrate the terrible bur
I don't really pay much attention to how others have rated the books I read until after I read them, as I don't want to be influenced by those ratings. It's happened that I completely love a book that other people have rated low and vice-versa.

In this case, I seem to be in the 20% that didn't rave about it, as I found the book very slow. Or maybe it just wasn't the book for me? I have to say that it is beautifully written and translated, and that is why for me, it is a 3 star read.

Mattis and Heg
Jan 18, 2016 Belinda rated it liked it
It took me a long time to get into this book. I found the character of Mattis strange in his slowness and selfishness. I felt great sympathy for his sister, Hege, who had to knit sweaters to keep them both alive. Mattis seemed such a burden, one who couldn't (wouldn't??) try at all. He didn't even get up and help in the kitchen.

I kept wondering how mentally old Mattis was meant to be. He seemed capable of many small things. I guessed he was about 9 years old despite his body being 38. This is al
Book Wormy
Oct 17, 2014 Book Wormy rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-read
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
Apr 16, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian
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
Aug 14, 2016 Amorfna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, nordic
Enjoy the silence.

Svedena, minimalistička isprepletenost tišine i krivice koja kao vir raste i jača skrivena pod mirnom površi reke. Svakim danom snažnija i smrtonosnija.

Po rečima jednog kritičara: ' Opsesivna tragedija u bergmanovskom pejzažu', nije moglo biti preciznije.
Aug 04, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
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
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Nordic Book Club: May 2016 - The Birds 3 8 Jun 01, 2016 02:17AM  
What is the meaning of birds in The Birds? 2 12 Dec 20, 2013 02:26AM  
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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
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“His face was neither handsome nor anything else. It just was.” 10 likes
“What can you do when everyone around you is strong and clever?” 8 likes
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