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The Birds

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,536 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
With spare simplicity, this story tells 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 ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1957)
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Steven  Godin
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a gentle ripple across calming waters, or a songbird taking flight in the early morning sunrise, Tarjei Vesaas writes a delicately structured story of two siblings living a serene existence in rural Norway. Mattis is a sweet natured simpleton who burns the days away drifting off into his own world, whilst older sister Hege knits sweaters in their cottage by the lake. On occasions Mattis wonders around the local farms looking for work, picking crops, or bailing hay, but he finds it difficult ...more
Nov 02, 2014 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 03, 2014 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
Feb 17, 2014 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 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 ☔
Feb 02, 2016 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 21, 2013 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
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing

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
Aug 15, 2014 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 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 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
Nora Barnacle
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vesos je Ptice postavio vrlo jednostavno: na samo tri tačke koje su dovoljno stabilna podloga za teška pitanja koja će podići. Tu će stabilnost, uz uobičajenu severnjačku svedenost i mnogobrojne dijaloge iskorisi da anestezira čitaoca, kako bi lakše progutao gorke teme kojima se bavi, a nad kojima bi se svaki pristojan Francuz pošteno izridao u čipkasti brushalter neke kurtizane, a svaki bradati Rus napio pa usput i nešto zapalio.

Bez obzira što je norveška priroda krasna i što ptice cvrkuću, a M
Ben Winch
Jun 18, 2011 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
Feb 16, 2016 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.
Nate D
Apr 07, 2011 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.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Očekivao sam više. Previše mlako i jednostavno i prosto... obično. Stil je fin, minimalan i ostavlja dosta prostora čitaocu da dopuni i sam sagradi centralni norveški pejzaž, da se i sam saplete o prirodu poput Matisa, ali ipak imam utisak kao da sam odgledao bar deset sličnih knjiga/filmova, ne toliko po priči (koja prati pomenutog i ne naročito bistrog Matisa, ali nažalost ni ne naročito dragog; mogla je ova knjiga da bude i bolja da mi je više tj. uopšte stalo do gl. lika) koliko po bazičnoj ...more
Jan 01, 2010 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
Tanuj Solanki
Sep 19, 2013 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
Ratko Radeta
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Право мало скандинавско ремек-дело! Заиста је штета што је нешто овако преведено са 50 година закашњења...
Spram Ledenog dvorca, Ptice su na mene ostavile daleko slabiji utisak i baš se jasno vidi kako je eksperiment (stilski, tematski) započet u Pticama u LD-u našao savršenu formu. Čini mi se da je LD kompleksniji, dublji, i Vesos je našao idealnu meru onoga što treba reći i prećutati. Ptice me malo podsećaju na Nastasijevića i Kod Večite slavine, premda kod Vesosa nije toliko očita mitološka podloga (iako je ima, posebno u opisima prirode).

U svakom slučaju, mislim da oba dela vredi čitati, ali ako
Bezimena knjizevna zadruga
Nakon dugo vremena, uživao sam u predgovoru koje je izdavač priredio prvom izdanju i prevodu, što je u današnjem turbo vremenu nažalost zaboravljena kategorija. U knjizi sam pak, i pored svog kultnog statusa koje zasluženo nosi, uživao nešto manje. Pionir najboljeg norveškog stila, onog u kom šamaraju jasne i kratke rečenice, bukvalni i ničim obojeni dijalozi, u kom priroda uzima tako važno mesto, u kom nema velike drame, u kom je junak naizgled umereno zaostali momak koji živi u šumi sa sestrom ...more
Feb 19, 2016 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
Aug 16, 2015 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.
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
Apr 14, 2013 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 04, 2016 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
Nanna Helle Nerland
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Da jeg var ferdig med denne ville jeg helst gråte men så måtte jeg spise and til middag istedenfor Hehe ironisk eller hva??? Bra bok
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
Pablo Sánchez
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first time I read this book, I’d never heard of or read about Vesaas before, and I’ve seen him mentioned nowhere else since. I think this is quite a shame, because The Birds is a masterful, haunting novel that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
The novel is about a pair of siblings. Mattis, the younger brother, suffers from learning disabilities and finds it very difficult to interact with people, thus his sister, Hege, must look after him and provide everything he needs.

The book is subtle and
Aug 25, 2009 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.
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Nordic Book Club: May 2016 - The Birds 3 11 May 31, 2016 11:17AM  
What is the meaning of birds in The Birds? 2 16 Dec 19, 2013 10:26AM  
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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.” 14 likes
“This gave him another opportunity to use one of those words that hung before him, shining and alluring. Far away in the distance there were more of them, dangerously sharp. Words that were not for him, but which he used all the same on the sly, and which had an exciting flavour and gave him a tingling feeling in the head. They were a little dangerous, all of them.” 9 likes
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