Jeff Scott's Reviews > I Curse the River of Time

I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson
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Sep 23, 14

bookshelves: fiction, communism, scandinavian-fiction
Read from October 08 to 15, 2010

This book was difficult to get through. The title should read, I Curse my Worthless Spine as the main character is a spineless coward. His mother would say, "He is thirty-seven years old, but to call him a grown-up would be an exaggeration." There is a scene earlier in the book where the main character, Arvid, decides to drop out of school to be a working man at a factory, thinking it will make him a better Communist. When he tells his mother at a cafe, she promptly slaps him in front of everyone.

Further reading finds that their parents were killing themselves to build a life for their children so that they would not have to work so hard, and now their son is throwing it all down the drain. One parent killed from overwork, the other now has stomach cancer. It's scenes like this throughout the book that make me want to slap him too. Petterson's character is in sharp contrast to Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia. Those characters were faced with realities from World War II and the Nazi invasion. The futlity in fighting something so large is something people can connect to. You fight and face odds not expecting to overcome them, but in Curse, the character freely lays down without any opposition.

The writing is beautiful. Descriptions of pain and loss can be felt deeply. I enjoyed how Petterson uses different events and movements as characters. Arvid hangs his hat on Communism taking over the world, and the movement crumbles at the same time his life crumbles, his wife leaving him and his mother with cancer. I love that about Petterson books. However, it doesn't overcome this whining character, it is just too much.

Perhaps it might get even get worse, later when I was all alone? I was afraid it might get worse. I was afraid of what it would do to my body, the pain I felt in my chest, that would get worse, the struggle to swallow the tiniest bit of food, that would get worse, and the unexpected numbness in my legs, my thoughts swirling around like damaged radio waves, and in my sleep the wild endless falls; all this would probably get worse, and then the shocking realization there was nothing I could do about it. No act of will would get me out of this state, no leap of thought to pull me up. P25

...though many times I have stood like that in the night, looking out over the sea: there is a calm there to be found which at times I have badly needed. p 31

...how time without warning could catch up with me and run around beneath my skin like tiny electric shocks and I could not stop them, no matter how much I tried. And when they let up at last and everything fell quiet, I was already a different person than I had been before, and it sometimes made me despair. P 57

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 realist that chance of being the person you really wanted to be, is gone forever, and the one you were, is the one those around you will remember. p 231
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Reading Progress

10/12/2010 page 57
25.0% "...how time without warning could catch up with me and run around beneath my skin like tiny electric shocks and I could not stop them, no matter how much I tried. And when they let up at last and everything fell quiet, I was already a different person than I had been before, and it sometimes made me despair."
10/15/2010 page 224
100.0% "#fridayreads He's thirty-seven years old, but I wouldn't call him a grown-up. That would be an exaggeration."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jaci (new)

Jaci Great review and retitling! Saves me the trouble of reading the book as I liked To Siberia and this one was on my list.


Jeff Scott Thank you for the comment. I had a harsher review of the character, but thought better of it and changed it. :)


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