Sunday, October 24, 2021

Out Stealing Horses compared to I Curse the River of Time


In Out Stealing Horses Trond Sander is devoted to his father much as Arvid is attached to his mother in I Curse the River of Time.  In the latter we don’t learn about Arvid past the age of 37.  In the former, Trond is 67 looking back on a time when he was a boy.  

I sampled some reviews, in which the writers preferred Out Stealing Horses to I Curse the River of Time.  I wonder how much this preference has to do with the out-of-doors attraction to horses, horse-back riding, logging and living in a somewhat prepper situation as opposed to Arvid’s more family and town oriented situation.  Arvid seems more despicably neurotic than Trond, and perhaps will turn more resolutely to drink after his mother dies, but Trond faces his disappointments by desensitizing himself.  When he took his pension he didn’t purposely abandon his daughters, he was overwrought because of the death of his wife and sister and didn’t give them a thought.  The eldest daughter, Emma, through great effort tracks him down.  She wonders out-loud if he’d rather she hadn’t, and being honest he tells her he isn’t sure.

But as she gets ready to leave, in a panic he realizes that comment is wrong and begs her to stay.  She assures him that she has no intention of abandoning him now that she knows where he lives, but tells him to get a telephone.

The ending of I Curse the River of Time is much more powerful than that of Out Stealing Horses.  I was initially disappointed with the latter, but upon thinking it over I realized that Petterson had told me everything I needed to know: Jon’s mother and Trond’s father were in the resistance during the war.  Jon’s father was not and by not wiping out footprints, despite her needing him to, he let his wife be found out by the Nazis.  Trond’s father rescues Jon’s mother and perhaps during the time they are away they become romantically involved.

Jon’s mother has the strength of Arvid’s mother and is better balanced.  Furthermore, Jon’s mother, being in the resistance and later a hard worker in support of logging activities is much more attractive.  Also, she was clearly not a supporter of the Nazi occupation, and we may be pardoned for suspecting that Arvid’s mother was.  

Trond comes to understand that his father is not as wonderful as he had imagined.  His father using his wartime skills, carries out an escape from his family.  Trond three years after his sister and wife dies does something seemingly similar, but it isn’t planned, he simply couldn’t find in himself the ability to be around people; which later when his daughter finds him he discovers to be a correctable problem. 

We do learn a bit about what happened to Jon’s mother.  Jon, after the accident that caused the death of his brother Odd, went to sea and spent a few years traveling the world.  Eventually he returned and took over the family farm where his mother was living.  [No mention is made of Trond's father; so if he initially left his family to be with Jon's mother, the relationship didn't last.] Jon's brother Lars, who had been running the farm, did something akin to what Trond has done, and moved off to a remote cabin in semi-wilderness.  Lars has chosen to have no further contact with his mother or Jon.  And incidentally, Trond though valuing Jon at one time as his best friend, doesn’t plan to reestablish a relationship with him.  He will be spending his remaining years hanging out with Lars, interspersed with visits and phone calls from his eldest daughter and probably the younger one as well.

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