Someone Else’s Dog

Tessa Hadley

  • I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, translated by Anne Born
    Harvill Secker, 233 pp, £12.99, July 2010, ISBN 978 1 84655 301 1

The Norwegian writer Per Petterson’s best-known novel, Out Stealing Horses (2005), won praise and prizes, and was an international bestseller. It opens with Trond, a man in his sixties who has retreated to longed for solitude in the woods, encountering another man late at night outside his house – the second man is worried because his dog keeps running off (there are wolves in the forest). They have a brief conversation about killing dogs: the second man remembers shooting an Alsatian that was harrying deer when he was 18. As the novel unfolds the two men come to realise that they are tied together by an all but forgotten incident in their wartime childhoods: ‘In one instant everything was changed and destroyed.’ The novel is downbeat, disenchanted, wintry. Trond anticipates the approaching millennium:

I will stoke the fire, put a record on the old gramophone with Billie Holiday’s voice almost a whisper, like when I heard her in the Oslo Colosseum some time in the 1950s, almost burned out, yet still magic, and then fittingly get drunk on a bottle I have standing by in the cupboard. When the record ends I will go to bed and sleep as heavily as it is possible to sleep without being dead, and awake to a new millennium and not let it mean a thing. I am looking forward to that.

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