Saturday, October 23, 2021

More on I Curse the River of Time

Petterson doesn't provide clarifying names in all cases, especially of the girls or women that Arvid is attracted to.  Also, he doesn't always provide the dates that things occur.  When he is young, there is a girl in a blue coat, her brother's, who is attracted to Arvid, comes to his house, goes to a cabin with him.  She is very young. At the end of section III, "Isn't it fun, she said and smiled.  I let the oars rest in the rowlocks.  The water around the boat fell silent, and silently the cabin was floating up above the rocks and smoke rose softly from the chimney, and how impossible it was to grasp that in the end something as fine as this could be ground into dust."

The next section sums up Arvid’s state during the final grinding into dust.  Arvid’s mother is close to death but she shuns Arvid to some extent as she has always done.  She thinks he is weak and has never properly matured, never properly grown up.  The view of the girl in the blue coat is different.  She thought him strong.  This girl believes him to be stronger and better balanced than he really is.  He is convinced by her, marries her, but doesn’t live up to her expectations.  Perhaps people who marry young imagining an idyllic future never, or almost never do.

Arvid loves his two daughters and they love him, but whatever trauma is involved in his separation from his “first” wife and from his daughters isn’t described.  The fact that he has more than one divorce is indication that he doesn’t learn enough from his failures.

Arvid does however remember the seemingly idyllic time with the very young girl who became his wife as something wonderful but he doesn’t understand how it became ground to dust.  He puzzles a bit but soon returns to his passion for and preoccupation with his mother.

Arvid's emotional dependence upon his mother is undoubtedly one cause of his marriage's deterioration, but his love of Communism is another.  The fall of the Berlin wall is for Arvid, a cause of great grief.   A committed Communist, not deterred by any of the evils of Stalinism, someone mourning the fall of the Berlin wall, might have been difficult for a less committed very young girl in a blue coat to tolerate.

In regard to this barely mentioned development, the very young girl with whom he recalls having a “fine thing” that inexplicably became ground to dust, I frankly passed it by and read on, but a few lines later thought to myself "wait a minute" and went back.  The girl in the blue coat must become Arvid's wife.

One learns, I suppose that one needs to pay close attention when reading Petterson The steps between the perfection of the time at the cabin and Arvid's wife divorcing him are not described, but the sudden contrast, something we are not prepared for is stunning.  Furthermore, we have in the course of the novel learned enough about Arvid to know he is the one who let it happen, who let the relationship deteriorate, who is the cause of this thing being ground to dust.

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