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The Hills Reply

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  116 ratings  ·  18 reviews
An intensely graceful novel recounting scenes of the Norwegian countryside from one of Norway’s most beloved 20th-century writers.

Tarjei Vesaas’s final work before his death, this episodic novel drifts between dream-like abstraction and vivid description of seemingly ordinary yet heightened scenes of the Norwegian countryside. The many overlapping, semi-autobio
Paperback, 136 pages
Expected publication: December 10th 2019 by Archipelago (first published 1968)
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Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thos who listen beyond themselves
Shelves: read-in-2018
Sketches of lyrical introspection where man and nature fuse to become one entity. The prose is apparently simple, smooth and flowing, but a closer appraisal will reveal a symbology akin to the most complex philosophical treatise.
Identity, memory, loss and angst are perceived through the severity of the Norwegian landscape, which is revealed as the real protagonist of this meditative narrative. With a kind of overwhelming sensitivity and a bare lyricism that recalls the Japanese haiku, Vesaas im
Jim Fonseca

This Norwegian author (1897-1970) is best-known for his novel The Ice Palace. The book I am reviewing was his last work, written a couple of years before his death when he was 71. It’s a series of vignettes or memoirs of a young boy growing up. We aren’t told if these were real events that happened to the author but it’s likely they are true stores of his youth. They run the gamut from the mundane to the traumatic. Here are some of the stories:

This Norwegian author (1897-1970) is best-known for his novel The Ice Palace. The book I am reviewing was his last work, written a couple of years before his death when he was 71. It’s a series of vignettes or memoirs of a young boy growing up. We aren’t told if these were real events that happened to the author but it’s likely they are true stores of his youth. They run the gamut from the mundane to the traumatic. Here are some of the stories:


The first story sets the tone: a young boy, maybe ten years old, experiences the ‘endless drudgery’ of working with his father -- “He of the few and sharp words.” -- to shovel snow from dawn to dusk to clear a logging road that will likely fill with snow again during the night.

Another story has this same theme of drudgery: even as young boy he feels it is ‘not right’ that his mother and father fall into bed every night from exhaustion.

In another story he sees the dances of cranes as he lies hidden in a marsh.

He experiences his first puppy love standing and talking with a girl in the snow.

He falls, injured, into a river and drifts downstream clinging to a log for miles before he is rescued. Had it been winter rather than summer, he would have died of hypothermia.

After World War II he finds the bodies of five German soldiers dead in the woods.

A young boy sits up with his mother in the evening waiting for his father to come home – hopefully not drunk.

There is good writing and occasional poetry. I liked this passage:

“Words can cause trouble like large rocks in one’s path.
Wrong: Words can clear the largest rocks out of the way.
Wrong again: Words can turn into dark chasms unbridgeable for a whole lifetime.
We know very little about the power and destructiveness of words.”


Good stories and an easy read.

Norway woods from
Photo of the author from
Algernon (Darth Anyan)

I exist for the sake of the rivers beneath the earth.
To listen and to understand.
Not to understand, but to be close to where it is happening.

I may scare some readers away, but the only way I can describe this book is as a long introspective poem told in prose fragments or cantos. There is no plot, there is precious little in the way of characters and action. What we have here is a consciousness asking unanswerable questions, a contemplative look at existence, a stream of emotions s
Nate D
Fragile humanity alone in the undying magnitude of nature. Instants of crystalline clarity of word and deep psychic significance. Simple eloquence and beauty shaped into thought-series like drops of water rapidly following one another down a leaf, each in graceful expression of subtle design. Quiet resonance.

More series of prose poems than the novel I had taken it for originally, but there's a certain thematic arc holding things together. Not for nothing the vignettes are numbered in a specific
Kasa Cotugno
Impressionistic and yet naturalistic, this release from Archipelago publishing house presents a work of Tarjei Vesaas, one of Norway's most honored authors, as yet unavailable in translation. Semi biographical scenes present Norwegian rural life, but it is unclear as to the era. Versaas was born in 1897, so the coming of age sequences are more identifiable. I was particularly taken by an evening in which the narrator sits motionless as a "tussock" (even more so because tussocks to respond to bre ...more
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Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A set of stories of varying length, appealing to the senses as much as to the mind. I came to an idea of the Norwegian landscape through the author’s descriptions and his communication of how it made him feel in different episodes of his life. Many of the stories are more poetry than prose, and I confess I found a couple of the shorter ones pretty much impenetrable.

Those involving distinct characters appealed to me most. I was struck particularly by the story of the young boy lying c
Felix Hayman
May 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read this book so many times and have searched and searched for faults, but there are none.This is as sparse a series of sketches you will ever read and you will not for one second be disappointed, because writers have too much of a tendency to over extend and over exaggerate the written word.Not so, Tarjei Vesaas. Few realise that he was nominated for the Nobel prize 8 times! and this book proves a reason why.
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wish I had known this was a collection of short stories before starting it. I spent the first several "chapters" attempting to make connections between the characters. Finally, by the fifth story, I could experience each as a stand-alone. As with many short story collections, this isn't cover-to-cover perfection. Several are too formless for my taste, either completely lacking characters (such as The Wasted Day Creeps Away on Its Belly and The Tranquil River Glides Out of the Landscape) or are nothing ...more
Kyle Osland
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A vital collection of little internal sketches. Some are certainly more accessible than others, but each deals with topics we will all must pass through in time. Primarily for those who are already Vesaas fans, not a work to start with.
May 20, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the only book by Vesaas I had to give up on, Uncharacteristically self-indulgent, and entirely lacking in his usual excellent pacing.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
I found this hugely underwhelming after reading the stunning The Ice Palace. Some of Vesaas’ observations are marvellous in this short work, but I found that it felt quite disjointed overall.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Norwegian poet and novelist Tarjei Vesaas' unconventional final 1968 novel "The Boat in the Evening" is strikingly ethereal even by his usual gossamer standards. Opening with two preludes in verse, it's a collection of meditative fragments that reflect on the charged inner worlds that lies beyond surface appearances (rocks, snow, bird migrations, and rivers), with a (presumed) variety of perspectives and narrators. The effect is more prose poetry than conventional narrative, under-girded by a ma ...more
Dylan O. Bates
I was enjoying it to begin with, but by the time I was halfway through, the tone was really beginning to irritate me. I can’t say whether this was the work itself, the translation, or my frame of mind. Two or three of the vignettes were certainly well worth reading, however. Maybe I’ll try reading it in the Norwegian some day, when I’m more relaxed...
Jacqui Huntley
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
An intriguing set of essays that read as short stories. It's written in a beautiful way expressing feelings about landscape, waterscape and nature extremely vividly. Any people mostly seem rather incidental but certainly part of the landscape. Some stories are distinctly bizarre with no obvious pattern through them, others gentle ambles through the trees or water or rocks. Life goes on at a very slow and steady pace. - the plodding of the boy, his father and horse pulling logs out of a snowy for ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian
A beautiful but difficult book. The writing is often gorgeous, poetic and full of lonely longing, but some passages are very abstract and almost devoid of narrative or characterization. A fascinating work of modernist fiction that requires very careful reading. I've read three Vesaas books so far, and he hasn't disappointed me yet. It's a wonder he isn't more widely known.
Archana Aggarwal
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you Net Galley. Beautiful and lyrical. a short but excellent read. Loved it. The descriptions of nature are poetic and the situation of the self in it are very moving.
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
See for my review.
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English Translati...: Tarjei Vesaas - The Hills Reply 1 8 Aug 26, 2019 12:00PM  

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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 often cover 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 emotion ...more
“Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes.” 185 likes
“Bewilderment increases in the presence of the mirrors.” 29 likes
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