I Curse the River of Time
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I Curse the River of Time

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  1,791 ratings  ·  345 reviews
A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

It’s 1989 and “three monumental events twine around one another in Arvid Jansen’s penumbral soul. His fifteen-year marriage is dissolving, his mother is dying of cancer, and the Berlin Wall is tumbling down. The parallels are obviousworlds are ending, internally and externallybut the analogies Petterson draws among the...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Picador (first published 2008)
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Tanuj Solanki
Per se, a long-living Per will, say, win the Nobel

I came to this after reading James Wood's article on Per Petterson's novels, in which Wood receives this novel with a particular benevolence that is beyond criticism, and very close to the region of awe.

Though Wood doesn't mention it, but a similar awe that he holds for W.G. Sebald might have played its minor role. For according to me, Petterson's voice is very Sebaldesque. Though if Petterson is a Sebald, he is definitely a different kind of Seb...more
Jill
It’s difficult to compare Per Petterson with anyone except Per Petterson. His writing is always exquisite and precise and heartbreaking and spare. In Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia, each word is used as a brick, building one upon the other, and not one brick is out of place.

Per Petterson’s craftsmanship is on display here, as it has been in his prior novels. Alas, this one, which is explores the relationship between a mother and a son, is more static and sluggish than his other works. Still,...more
Judith
What a great title. It rivals his other book: "Out Stealing Horses". Unfortunately, I felt like cursing the river of Petterson's whiny digressive meandering narrative in this book. I know the Scandinavian authors cannot allow any light to slip into their books, lest thy be accused of frivolity, but OMG, you may need a handful of uppers to get through this book.

Arvid's mother is dying of stomach cancer and Arvid is getting dumped by his wife. He takes his two young daughters for outings which co...more
Jeanette
Amazon blurble:

"It is 1989: Communism is crumbling, and Arvid Jansen, thirty-seven, is facing his first divorce. At the same time, his mother gets diagnosed with cancer. Over a few intense autumn days, we follow Arvid as he struggles to find a new footing in his life while all the established patterns around him are changing at staggering speed. I Curse the River of Time is an honest, heartbreaking yet humorous portrayal of a complicated mother-son relationship told in Per Petterson’s precise an...more
Cheryl
It was difficult at first to give myself into Petterson's simple rhythms. The story is mostly backstory, and he meanders about his memories and his past life in ways that sometimes seem irrelevant. But his wonderful poetic prose -- the "dementing lures" described by James Wood in his recent New Yorker review (http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics...) -- kept rescuing me from my impatience.
M. Sarki
There is plenty of compassion in a Per Petterson novel. Even with at least three difficult themes wrapped up into one package. Death, relationships, and the examination of a life too late in the game now to change. This novel was not "fun" to read, but I am glad I read it. Seems I end up liking pretty much everything the man writes. The end result for me was in a difficulty overcome, and that is saying something.
Sam
4.5 stars.

My last read of 2012 - bleeding over slightly into the new year - and a fine one to end with, both because the prose was a welcome corrective to some of the overwritten and fussy business I was practicing in my own work and because of the novel's preoccupation with the passage of years: the way in which people try to situate themselves in relation to life, in the hopes of stabilizing themselves, only to have time continually erase these relationships. (Hence the title, also a quote fro...more
Amy
I Curse the River of Time is Per Petterson’s newest title, and it feels different from his previous novels. For one thing, there is a different feel to the words, almost a jagged and sharp edge to the prose. While Out Stealing Horses was almost dreamlike in its beauty and simplicity, this has more of an abrupt edge to it. That became apparent to me in reading portions of it aloud (a cranky baby was resisting sleep) and the words felt chunky and awkward, the sentences long and meandering. Given t...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
*I received a promotional copy of I Curse the River of Time via the GoodReads FirstReads program*

I Curse the River of Time is a frustratingly brilliant novel, filled with sparse, yet elegant prose that suffers from the lack of proper linear narrative yet somehow manages to drag the reader along on an impressively depressing ride of joy.

Does that even make sense? Perhaps not, but it doesn’t make any less true.

READ MORE:
http://www.opinionless.com/book-revie...
Ian Young
The title of this book is taken from a poem by Chairman Mao, and it is as stark and bleak a piece of fiction as I have read for a long time. The central protagonist is a middle-aged man whose life is disintegrating. He is on the brink of a divorce, his mother has just discovered that she is dying of cancer and he is losing the belief system by which he has lived his life over the preceding 20 years. The year is 1989, and the Berlin Wall is falling. The setting for the book alternates between Osl...more
THE
It is difficult not to be disappointed with Per Petterson's new novel, I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME, after savoring the incandescent prose, magical memories, and rich historical vistas that reverberated throughout his previous OUT STEALING HORSES (2007). The primary character in his earlier book was a 67-year-old widower reflecting on a long life that encompassed World War II and Nazi occupation of Norway as well as a traumatic childhood tragedy with profound effects. Petterson's current work revea...more
Rick
Petterson first became noticed in the U.S. a few years ago with Out Stealing Horses. That novel won prizes and admiring reviews and recommendations from writers around the world. This is now my fourth novel of his—all that have found their way to the states thus far—and with it he has joined that short list of writers who when they publish I buy—no need to wait for reviews.

Arvid Jansen is the protagonist of I Curse the River of Time. He was also the protagonist of In the Wake. In the earlier no...more
Kristine Brancolini
I absolutely loved I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson. I couldn't figure out why the writing was so much more accomplished in this book than in Petterson's latest book It's Fine by Me, which was just published. It's because It's Fine by Me was actually published in Norwegian in 1992. All is revealed!

I Curse the River of Time begins in 1989, when protagonist Arvid Jansen has just learned that his 15-year marriage is over and that his mother has stomach cancer. Arvid is also a Communist g...more
Carl
A weak 3 stars: Underwhelming, disappointing, but perhaps I had high expectations after enjoying Out Stealing Horses. I found the jumps from present to various past times to be disjointed. The characters weren't well developed, although perhaps the mother came through clearest--but why she (even temporarily?) set off without her husband was not at all clear. Why the main character embraced Communism, and any deep thoughts he should have had about its downfall never came across (other than he was...more
Melissa
I wasn't sure if I was going to write a review of this one, because ... well, it really wasn't the book for me.

I Curse the River of Time is the story of 37 year old Arvid Jansen, who is going through a divorce and whose mother has been diagnosed with cancer. After coming from the doctor and receiving her diagnosis, she abruptly leaves the family home in Oslo and boards a ferry for her native Denmark. She's headed for the family's summer house on the coast and Arvid decides to follow her.

Arvid...more
Lauren
I'm disappointed in myself for putting this book down, but I just couldn't get into it -- even after reading about a third of it. I remember loving Per Petterson's "Out Stealing Horses," which I read when Ava was about six months old. According to my brief Goodreads review, here's what I thought of that book:

> 5 Stars. Unassuming, but aches with deep emotion. Beautiful prose. More for readers of Ian McEwan than
> those of Khaled Hosseini.

Needless to say, when I discovered a couple of days...more
RH Walters
The first book I read by Petterson, Out Stealing Horses, examined the bond between a father and son; To Siberia explored a sister's love for her brother; and in I Curse the River of Time (a line from a poem by Chairman Mao), the sister from To Siberia becomes a perplexing icon for her son. I value Petterson's austere craftsmanship and the picayune details of Norwegian life, but this novel was difficult because the protagonist Arvid is so hopelessly lost. He never seems to find, or even know, wha...more
Steve
I Curse The River Of Time has a lot in common with Per Petterson's other novels: a narrator fairly unmoored and adrift, digging through memories to make sense of how the past has arrived at the present. This time, that back-and-forth between past and present isn't limited to a specific series of memories, but rather a number of memories from various times in the narrator's life, which makes for a somewhat jumpier flow between scenes but makes the character's mental chaos more tangible (it's most...more
Jessie
An important writer for me. Seems like I can only speak of his books in terms of the felt experience of reading them: his sentences so long and full of the sensory and the stuff that lies beyond the moral—I mean stuff as it is and not as it should or should not be—I well up with the as-is moments of my own life that I couldn’t change if I wanted to, but I don’t want to, right then in that moment of finishing his novel; I’m left wanting to smoke a cigarette I roll myself (because all the characte...more
Lori
Review copy from publisher


This seems to be a common theme for me lately - reading books I would not normally have read from authors I would not normally choose to read on my own, and absolutely LOVING the hell out them!

And that is a sad thing, isn't it? The thought of having missed out on this novel, of walking by it when it hit the bookstores next month without a flicker of interest had it not been made available to me for review through Graywolf Press, of possibly never having had the experien...more
Kathleen
I loved Out Stealing Horses - love, love, loved it - and would have rushed right out to read everything Petterson has ever written, if only I could read Norwegian. I didn't know I Curse the River of Time was even out until my husband gave it to me for our anniversary, and I dove right in.

Right away, I was filled with a sense of foreboding. It is dark, deep, powerful, and I couldn't put it down, even though it was profoundly unsettling. It is the story of a thirty-something man reeling from his i...more
Corny
Things seem to be going downhill for this author after Out Stealing Horses, which was a truly great novel. In this book, Petterson again explores the mother-son relationship but I was unable to empathize with the pathetic Arvid, who has made nothing of his life, despite apparent intelligence. Much is left unsaid in this novel, which shifts back in forth in time so much that the device becomes an annoyance. The title, we are told early on, comes from a quote by Mao in which he laments the movemen...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Not nearly as touching as Out Stealing Horses was, and I've been trying to figure out why. I think it has to do with the sense of disconnect that the characters have from one another (so you could argue that this is merely well-written, I suppose). Arvid Jansen's personal life is falling apart at the same time as his political idealism - it is 1989 and his avid Communism is failing, but nobody around him ever cared as much about it as he did anyway, so there isn't even anyone who he can share th...more
Janet
The Norwegian version of "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Spare and inscrutable.

A couple passages that stood out for me:

"She thought she knew who I was, but she did not..... She did not pay attention, she turned her gaze to other things. She saw me come in and didn't know where I had been, she saw me go out and didn't know where I was heading, how adrift I was, how sixteen I was without her, how seventeen, how eighteen..."

"...but when it came to dying, I was scared. Not of being dead, that I coul...more
James Gash
This is basically a story of a weak character, who bungles the most important moments in his life, either by misunderstanding them, or getting drunk in anticipation of them, or by letting others dominate them.
When his mother makes her final pilgrimage to her homeland, terminally sick and with business of her own, he chases after her with his own problems and need for attention. Everything, after all, is only about him. And he is quite the Lost Boy.
I read and totally enjoyed Petterson's OUT STEAL...more
Vicki
I knew about 30 pages in that I was not interested in finishing this book, but I kept reading because I loved Out Stealing Horses so much. I held out hope for an improbably exciting plot twist or even a reason to care about any of the characters, but sadly my hope was in vain. Also the pace of the writing was bad. It seemed like every single sentence was not only uncomfortably long, but also the exact same length as every other sentence. I found myself praying for dialogue just to break up the s...more
Renee
This book was described as "underwhelming" by a few reviewers compared to Out Stealing Horses (which I will definitely read). I didn't find anything underwhelming about this book. It is a beautifully written book (translated) about the very complex relationship between a mother and son. There were so many heart breaking passages, where Arvid (the son) gives his mother the perfect chance to validate his existence, but she just drops the ball.
Finally, I would describe this as a sparse book, with...more
Victoria
I cursed the river of time often while trying to get through this book. It took much more effort than its 227 would imply. And often it felt like I was reading it in its original Norwegian. Which of course, makes one wonder about my struggles with the book...was it the writing, the translation, or the reading that was an issue. But it was all worth it for this:

"...but the dying itself I could comprehend, the very instant when you know that now comes what you have always feared, and you suddenly...more
Anna
I'm a little in awe of this book. The meditation on time and its unstoppable march, the way it backs up in the mind or turns over on itself and loses track, the difficulty of harnessing it or living inside it and the problem of endings that are not wanted.... And what does not get said, the spaces between us even under time's hold.... This is a masterful book. Reading it is a punch in the gut, gives one the feeling of a need to hold on to something-- the voice is so spare and powerful, it might...more
Albena Shkodrova
It is cold at the beginning, and winds blow all through, rain falls, fingers, ears, water freeze, the pavement is wet, there are graveyards, factory fields, deserted northern beaches. The more you advance, the colder it gets. People, relations, lives fall apart, and at the end the cold is so severe, it is hardly bearable. It is so bad, that, as the main character would say, you almost enjoy it.
Very melancholic, without being openly sentimental, prose.
Dark, sad, northern. I liked it. Beautiful pi...more
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225944
Petterson knew from the age of 18 that he wanted to be a writer, but didn't embark on this career for many years - his debut book, the short story collection Aske i munnen, sand i skoa, (Ashes in the Mouth, Sand in the Shoes) was published 17 years later, when Petterson was 35. Previously he had worked for years in a factory as an unskilled labourer, as his parents had done before him, and had als...more
More about Per Petterson...
Out Stealing Horses To Siberia In the Wake It's Fine By Me Jeg nekter

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“...when it came to dying, I was scared. Not of being dead, that I could not comprehend, to be nothing was impossible to grasp and therefore really nothing to be scared of, but the dying itself I could comprehend, the very instant when you know that now comes what you have always feared, and you suddenly realise that every chance of being the person you really wanted to be, is gone for ever, and the one you were, is the one those around you will remember.” 9 likes
“But what I found out that summer . . . was that I could swallow whatever hit me and let it sink as if nothing had happened. So I mimicked a game that meant nothing to me now, I was going through the motions, and then it looked as if what I was doing had a purpose, but it did not.” 4 likes
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