Lars Guthrie's Reviews > Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
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Jun 28, 08

Read in June, 2008

As chilly as its Norwegian setting, Petterson's novel continues to haunt my thoughts weeks after reading it. Its very title and the many allusions to cowboy culture made me think about what frontier and re-invention means if the edge of the world is vast and dramatically sculpted desert that only ends with limitless ocean, or claustrophobic forest that transitions into Arctic ice. But mostly it made me think about no matter how much we think we know about others and ourselves, it's never complete nor definite. As Petterson writes, "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 fill in with their own feelings and assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours, and that lets you off the hook. No one can touch you unless you yourself want them to. You only have to be polite and smile and keep paranoid thoughts at bay, because they will talk about you no matter how much you squirm, it is inevitable, and you would do the same thing yourself." My highest recommendation.
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