“‘You were always reading Dickens at home,’ she says. ‘I remember that well. You in your chair with a book, miles away, and I’d go up to you and pull your sleeve and ask what you were reading, and at first you didn’t seem to recognise me, and then you replied “Dickens”, with a serious look, and I thought that reading Dickens was not the same as reading other books; that it was something quite unusual, which perhaps not everyone did; that was how it sounded to me. I didn’t even know Dickens was the name of the author of the book you were holding. I thought it was a special kind of book that only we possessed.'” – from Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson, Graywolf Press, p. 196-7.
This is a very wonderful book. From Thomas McGuane’s NYT review, which I suggest you avoid reading all of until you’ve read the book:
This short yet spacious and powerful book — in such contrast to the well-larded garrulity of the bulbous American novel of today — reminds us of the careful and apropos writing of J. M. Coetzee, W. G. Sebald and Uwe Timm. Petterson’s kinship with Knut Hamsun, which he has himself acknowledged, is palpable in Hamsun’s “Pan,” “Victoria” and even the lighthearted “Dreamers.” But nothing should suggest that his superb novel is so embedded in its sources as to be less than a gripping account of such originality as to expand the reader’s own experience of life.
I agree completely. (And you’ve got to love this: “the well-larded garrulity of the bulbous American novel of today”) I’ve not been so engrossed in a book in a long time. You can read the first chapter of it right here.
The Elegant Variation is giving away a copy of the book today to a lucky random winner, so stop over and get in the running.