Out Stealing Horses

Petterson, Per: Ut og stjæle hester

Rashid Bin Hameed Prize for best Translated Novel 2009 
International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2007
One of the 5 Best Fiction Books of 2007, New York Times
One of the 10 Best Fiction Books of 2007, Time Magazine
One of the 10 Best Fiction Books 2007, Entertainment Weekly
A New York Library Book to Remember 2007
Le Prix Mille Pages 2007
Le Prix Litteraire Europeen Madeleine Zepter 2007
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2006
Norwegian Critics' Prize 2003
Norwegian Booksellers' Prize 2003

In 1948, fifteen-year-old Trond spends a summer in the country with his father. The unexpected events that come to pass alter his life forever. An early morning adventure out stealing horses, leaves Trond confused when his friend Jon suffers a sudden breakdown. Behind this scene, he will discover, lies a personal tragedy: the first incident in the gradual destruction of the two boys’ families.

As an old man, living in a remote part of Norway, Trond chances upon a character from that fateful summer who stirs up painful memories and forces him to look back at his past.

Out Stealing Horses is a poignant and moving tale of a changing perspective on the world, from youthful innocence to the difficult acceptance of betrayal, and of nostalgia for a simpler way of life.

 Click here for English sample translation.

Praise for  Out Stealing Horses:

"A huge achievement!"

"... a sustained and penetrating novel which catches the reader particularly through its intense prose"

“Per Petterson’s novel Out Stealing Horses is a novel which implants itself in the soul, as darkly entrancing as the Norwegian forest in which it is set – a boy on the cusp of adulthood, a transformative summer of tragedy, the air and light of Norway captures in clean, spare prose”
 (Sunday Herald)

“What Petterson catches so effectively is the thing that haunts all of us, the knowledge of how fragile life is, and the anticipation of the moment this is proven to us. He captures the essence of a man's vast existence with a clean-lined freshness that hits you like a burst of winter air - surprising and breathtaking...The narrative is a beautiful balance between an anchored sentience and a naturally-flowing stream of consciousness. Petterson writes with robust unpretentiousness, and his prose may be unadorned yet it is porous with atmospheric sentiment. His story gathers pace like growing up, and stimulates heart and mind like a brisk country walk”
 (Daily Express)

"Superb Scandinavian noir"
 (Times - The 100 Best Books of the Decade)
 “an impressive novel of rare and exemplary moral courage... a true gem, compact yet radiant”
 (Independent on Sunday )

“Novelist Per Petterson’s deeply atmospheric writing about his native Norway has rightfully won him numerous critical awards…The bleak subject matter is elevated by the poetry of Petterson’s writing, and the quietly unfolding plot acts as a vehicle for his vivid descriptions of the country. Readers feel the snow-covered countryside and scent of new-felled cedar as keenly as the writer clearly did. This stunning novel will tell you more about the Norwegian countryside and psyche than the most enthusiastically well-informed guidebook”
 (Sunday Telegraph)

”The intimate sensation of live … sticks in one’s heart … (one) can feel it throughout the book as if one were reading a Hemingway … There is a colossal peace to the narration … In 2003 this was the book everyone was talking about in Norway and it has been awarded prizes and been a huge success with readers. Hardly surprising. Read it yourself!”
 (Politiken, Denmark)

”Our Nordic neighbours have an enviable natural backdrop … and Per Petterson really uses the scenery lyrically to accompany the internal and external reckoning”
 (Information, Denmark)

”Per Petterson is master of the fragmented, backward glances of memory. He if anyone can coax forth the blue tones of melancholia and nuance them, tones one hardly knew existed. This is superb”
 (Jyllands-Posten, Denmark)

”Petterson writes so perfectly that one can see the landscape, feel the wind, smell the soil and he does it so undemonstratively that one feels one has a place in the story… This is the mundane transformed into something magical … like Dickens, Petterson paints people and milieux so accurately and in such detail that a great deal of the time one feels like reading selected paragraphs out loud. Ut og stjæle hester is a rare book, a book one looks forward to coming home to”
 (Fyens Stiftstidende, Denmark)

”Petterson’s first novel in Swedish is permeated with careful work. The Norwegian novelist Per Petterson is being introduced to Swedish readers by virtue of a story as subtle as it is striking… This is endlessly entrancing reading”
 (Göteborgsposten, Sweden)

”Petterson elegantly shifts his focus between the then and now and the pitch and subtext shift from starving teenage years to decrepit old age … The great thing about Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses hester is that his eye is always on the small things, on the body and the physical, on the ever present ties between father and son”
 (Smålandsposten, Sweden)

”Petterson writes beautiful prose which clusters around sensual depictions of nature and animals, the harsh and hazardous adventures by the river. And not least the dramas of the war … His juicy rendering of a masculine world consisting of hay-making, lumberjacking and chain saw massacres on a blown-down birch is terrific”
 (Aftonbladet, Sweden)

”The broad expanse of nature, its brutality, beauty and ambivalence have been described by Petterson in rhythmic, breathing, partly plaintive and almost painfully concrete prose”
 (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany)

”This is made-up life: of absolutely compulsive and unaffected necessity”
 (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany)

”One never gets closer to life. A novel which gives us the feeling of having accompanied someone else’s life and taken part in every single sensation”
 (Brigitte, Germany)

”Drawing closer to a life secret is told in a puzzling yet crystal clear way. You have to admire that”
 (SWR, Germany)

”One may be surprised by how peaceful it is in this book despite so much going on … Neverthless, by virtue of his peaceful, powerful and utterly unstrained prose, one feels that Per Pettersen has imbued life with new balance”
 (Die Zeit, Germany)

”In language as crystal clear as the Norwegian river which flows throughout the novel, Petterson manages to touch on all the fundamentals of existence and yet steer clear of clichés. Petterson is an author in full control of his tools, both in the description of the animated and sensual landscape which serves as the stage for this human comedy, and in his description of the overwhelming feelings his characters experience”
 (Pages des Librairies, France)

“A novel of considerable quality, very nicely rendered”
 (The Scotsman)

“An amazing novel about the various phases of life, about the moments that change you forever”
 (Lire, France)

“Petterson’s novel spares us the clichés, the conventional images. Or rather, the clichés and conventional images are here reinvented and supplied with an intensity that makes them appear new... Petterson manages to reach the tragic just through simple, beautiful sentences that reflect the gloomy surface of the main character’s spiritual life. They are like little, cautious stabs of pain"
 (Le Nouvel Observateur, France)

“The novel not only deals with the great existential questions about love and betrayal, truth and death, it also radiates a fascinating poetry about creation and perishability…. a lyrical tribute to the Nordic nature”
 (Neue Züricher Zeitung, Switzerland)

”A wonderfully told story about love and joy, youth and old age, about nature and loneliness”
 (WDR, Germany)

"A climax of this year’s Norwegian literature. In "Ut og stjæle hester", only what needs to be said, is said, without any unneccesary words or gestures. With perfect control of literary devices, Per Petterson has composed and told a condensed masterpiece"

"Clear as a bell... a tone in between intensity and understatement"
 (Dagens Næringsliv)

"Beautiful about male drudgery in pre-modern Scandinavia. Like a Norwegian cowboy movie"
 (Dagens Nyheter)

"Petterson’s prose is beautiful as it sneaks onwards with sensual descriptions of nature and animals, violent and dangerous adventures by the river. And not least the drama during the war... His juicy reproduction of a masculine world consisting of hay gathering, timber floating and motor-saw massacres on a blown-over birch is luminous"

"Per Petterson illuminated the life-changing crises of adolescence and the sunlit summer forests in Out Stealing Horses: a true gem, compact yet radiant"
 (The Independent)

"Readers feel the snow-covered countryside and scent of new-felled cedar as keenly as the writer clearly did. This stunning novel will tell you more about the Norwegian countryside and psyche than the most enthusiastically well-informed guidebook"
 (The Telegraph)

"The genius of this beautiful, candid work lies in its tone of gentle, if at times angry, reflection ... Out Stealing Horses, a very special miracle of a book, triumphs through Petterson evoking a sense of watching one man's memory piece together the elements, both immense and tiny, that create a life"
 (The Irish Times)

"One is filled with unconditional joy - and pain! - on reading the works of the Norwegian author Per Petterson. Petterson's novels succeed on the strengths of their inherent, fragile energy. This is true of all of them, not least the latest, a clear-cut gem of a novel (...) Out Stealing Horses contains every aspect of a Nordic wilderness. As readers (...) we are invited along on a journey (...) a story about banishment from paradise. About things forgotten that always rise to the surface. A story as old as mankind, recounted with such pain as if it had happened for the very first time"
 (Weekendavisen, Denmark)

Out Stealing Horses is a perfect example of an art of storytelling where nothing much appears to be happening, but that in a way lets the reader understand that calm is something external and fictitious, because there is, under the smooth surface, an ocean that is rough at the bottom and that can at any time set off a ravaging storm.”
 (Que Leer, Spain)

First published: 2003, Forlaget Oktober
 Per Petterson:   Biography and bibliography

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