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I Curse the River of Time

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  2,701 Ratings  ·  444 Reviews

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
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Picador (first published October 2008)
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Fragile images of departure, the village back then.
I curse the river of time; thirty-two years have passed

Arvid Jansen, the narrator of the novel, is occupied with own failures. Disappointed with youthful ideas, embittered with marriage that is on the rocks, and to cap it all off he just learnt about mother’s illness and her unexpected journey to native Denmark, to their summer house. On strange impulse Arvid follows her and by the way for a moment escapes own troubles, and the whole novel is
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
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,
Sep 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ( -- kept rescuing me from my impatience.
João Carlos
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian, l2014

Per Petterson (n. 1952)

“Maldito Seja o Rio do Tempo” do norueguês Per Petterson (n. 1952), tem como personagem principal Arvid Jansen e o fio condutor da história decorre, essencialmente, de três grandes acontecimentos: a sua mãe tem um cancro no estômago, o seu casamento com 15 anos chega ao fim e a queda do Muro de Berlim.
Três grandes mudanças – morte, divórcio e convulsão geopolítica – enquadradas por uma narrativa que se desenvolve e amplia entre a Noruega e a Dinamarca, num conflito geracio
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
But something had happened, nothing hung together any more, all things had spaces, had distances between them, like satellites, attracted to and pushed away at the same instant, and it would take immense willpower to cross those spaces, those distances, much more than I had available, much more than I had the courage to use.

In I Curse the River of Time, from some unidentified future year, Arvid Jansen looks back at November of 1989 – a month that saw the confluence of three major personal uphe
Translated by Charlotte Barslund.

Discarded from London Borough of Lewisham Library.

Opening: All this happened quite a few years ago.

#57 TBR Busting 2013

Didn't like this navel-gazing much at all.


5* Out Stealing Horses
4* To Siberia
4* In the Wake
2* It's Fine By Me
2* I Curse the River of Time
This is a book about endings. The narrator Arvid Jansen's marriage is ending. His mother has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Arvid's narrative is preoccupied with the vanished structures of his childhood. A footbridge once crossed over the reedy shore and accessed the good swimming spots. The Palace Theater on the quay is gone. The Ferry Inn is now the Bar Sinatra. A bar he once frequented moved about two years ago and relocated a few streets down. Even the old ferry, the Holger Danske, is i ...more
M. Sarki
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This book was similar to his other I have read, Out Stealing Horses, in that the first person narrator recalled various events in his life. This book did not speak to me in the same way, however.

The book switches between the present and these various memories. It was occasionally difficult at first to know what time period I was reading. Arvid recalls falling in love with an unnamed woman, who I have assumed became his wife (though that is not clear), and from whom he is getting a divorce. He al
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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
Aug 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
James Gash
Mar 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Önceki iki romanı gibi çok sardı bu romanı da, Per Peterson geleceğin Nobel adayı bence.
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
Aug 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norway, read-in-2014
Înainte de a începe lectura, aflasem doar că este o poveste tristă și că Per Petterson are un stil personal de a scrie. Am pătruns destul de greu în atmosfera romanului pe care l-am citit în engleză (la început, pare că nu se întâmplă mai nimic), ba, la un moment dat, chiar am fost tentată să-l abandonez și să caut traducerea în limba română. Am perseverat, totuși, iar povestea m-a învăluit în cele din urmă cu izul ei melancolic, cu miros de ploaie de sfârșit de toamnă.

Într-adevăr, Per Petterso
Aug 30, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, audio
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.

Ida Jackson
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jeg ble så glad når det dukket opp en referanse til Faulkner i midten av denne romanen, fordi jeg tenkte på Faulkner hele veien mens jeg leste. Aha, tenkte jeg, vi har en skrivehelt til felles, Per Petterson.

Dette var min første Petterson-roman. Jeg har holdt meg unna altfor lenge. De har virket macho og traurige, ensomme menn som røyker sigaretter og mimrer om AKP. Og ja, denne romanen handler om en ensom mann som røyker en god del, og han mimrer en god del om AKP. Men den er så forbasket godt
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading_europe
Cursing the river of time may be what you want to do, but it's not of much use. Time will pass anyway; Life, death, divorce, avoided memories and maybe a wasted life? Time is certainly turning for Arvid: His marriage, his mother and his ideology is dying (And he gave up getting an education and possibly lost his family to the latter). And still most of it is unsaid and the heavy weight of the unspoken lies over the (lack of) relationship.
This would be a great setup for tragicomedy, but it stays
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, nook, first-reads
*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.

Apr 02, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
How on God's green earth is it possible to ruin a fantastic title like that with such subpar writing? I'm sad.
Monica Carter
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: btba
If I walk from the college at the corner an down Goteborggata, which I often did, I soon reached the Freia chocolate factory. My mother worked there. She stood at the assembly line in Confectionery eight hours a day, five days a week, plus overtime and had done so for many years. All over Daelenenga and Rodelokka there was the smell of chocolate, of cocoa, in the mornings especially, when the air was sharp and a little damp maybe, and it was only when I had been out drinking too many pints the
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
Kristine Brancolini
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Jun 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, translations
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
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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
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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.” 15 likes
“A dead dog is more quiet than a house on the steppes, a chair in a empty room.” 7 likes
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