Saturday, April 09, 2011

I Curse the River of Time - Per Petterson

“I am 37 years old. . . . The Wall has fallen. And here I sit.” For Avid Jansen, life has come to a breaking point. The confident youth of the 70s moved by the dreams of new world is now on cross roads, Year is 1989 and the the Berlin wall is collapsed and the hope of a large generation including himself is in shatters. His marriage of 15 years is in ruins and his wife is about to leave him. His mother is diagnosed with cancer and she is off to her 'home' in Denmark. In other words the world around him is collapsing.

Following his mother, with whom he was never very close, from Norway ( where they live) to Denmark ( their vacation home) , he tries to win one of his loosing battles ( being a responsible son , he wanted to make sure that she is alright). However, things aren't as easy as he wanted it to be. He wasn't welcomed with any enthusiasm. Even here, he was timid and vulnerable as he had been through out his life.

Taking the title from a poem of Chairman Mao, quoted below by Avid:
"Fragile images of departure, the village back then.
I curse the river of time, thirty-two years have passed."
Avid likes these words because, “…it showed the human Mao, someone I was drawn to, someone who had felt how time was battling his body, as I had felt it so often myself; how time without warning could catch up with me and run around beneath my skin like tiny electric shocks and I could not stop them, no matter how much I tried.”

As he recounts his life and childhood during his journey to Denmark. His troubled relationship with his parents and siblings. The early life infatuation towards communism, which made him abandon the education to work in factories, his girlfriends and the childhood days in their vacation home. He was always the one struggling to find his footing in life. “I was searching for something very important, a very special thing, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not find it"

Dark, gloomy novel about abandonment and isolation. His characters are cold, aloof and cant get out of the shell they create themselves, tending towards existentialistic. They can never get warm to others or to themselves. Emotions are kept close to themselves and to the reader taking us through their struggle making us a part of them. However, they are likeable and stays with you even after the book finishes. While there is an overshadow of negativism in writing, there is never a dull moment. Petterson's writing leaves more unsaid, to the reader. It is not loud, silently grows in you as you go through the pages, leaving you with a tender feeling. Very good.
I Curse the River of Time ( 2008)

Per Petterson ( translated from Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund in 2010)

Harvill Secker

233 Pages

Rs 550/-
Other Reviews : NY Times, Guardian, Complete Review , Norden

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