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Whistler Reads: OUT STEALING HORSES

abstract: Our next Whistler Reads book selection is going to appeal to all the male (and female) members who joined last month who tend to nonfiction. Challenge yourself to some world-class fiction. To our regular members, you are in for a treat. The spare, haunting prose of Per Petterson, Norway's most prominent fiction writer, has been receiving critical acclaim worldwide for his third novel, Out Stealing Horses: A Novel. Published by Graywolf Press, this story will captivate you from the first page forward. The style is nothing like typical North American prose. Here is a book I would encourage you to read out loud to family or friends in segments each night,for the pure pleasure of capturing this beautiful translated work. Join us at the Whistler Public Library on Thursday, March 6th 7-9 pm. Discussion Questions Below

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January 06, 2008

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  • Since this month marks the opening of the new Whistler Public Library, it is appropriate that January's WR selection is written by a former librarian and bookseller. Out Stealing Horses spent 70 weeks on the Norwegian bestseller list, and is available in translation in 24 countries worldwide. English translation is by Anna Born, a poet, critic and translator.

    It tells the story of sixty-three-year-old Trond, who has settled into a rustic cabin in an isolated part of eastern Norway to live the rest of his life with a quiet deliberation. A meeting with his only neighbor, however, forces him to reflect on that fateful summer when he and a friend went out to steal horses.


    "Petterson’s subtle prose and profound vision make Out Stealing Horses an unforgettable novel—an achingly good read." Kirkus Review


    Per Petterson was born in 1952. His first work, a volume of short stories, was published in 1987, followed by three novels: To Siberia, In the Wake, and Out Stealing Horses. OSH has earned him the prestigious Dublin Literary Award, in hot competition with heavyweight authors J.M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, and Cormac McCarthy. It is also the recipient of the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize and the Critics’ Award for Best Novel, and won Britain’s prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The novel received accolades from reviewers and writers alike, from the New York Review of Books to Newsweek.

    Start the new year off right with a commitment to reading for pleasure and supporting literacy in our village. Order your copy online or reserve a copy via Armchair Books. Then join us Thursday, March 6th, in the new Whistler Public Library, for an intimate group discussion that will differ from our last meeting's more formal presentation, and promises to be a unique and stimulating experience. About WR and Previous Events


    Discussion Questions

    1. The story begins with the main charactor, Trond telling about his surroundings: "Early November, it's nine o'clock. The titmice are banging against the window... I look out the window at the forest. There is a reddish light over the trees by the lake. The wind has begun to blow. I can see the shape of it on the water... I live here now, in a small house in the far east of Norway." pg 1. What about the cadence of this writing invites you into the story; relaxes you?
    The Oxford dictionary defines "character" as
    1. the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
    2. one such feature or trait; characteristic.
    3. moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
    4. qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.What qualities would you give Trond?

    2.Setting. Setting can be a verb, a noun or an adjective. In its noun form it means, "the surroundings or environment of anything." The setting is a distinct part of the book. Does the author do a good job of making you feel how the countryside has shaped the inhabitants, challenged the inhabitants, provides security and succor for the inhabitants? What did you like or dislike about the setting? Did it remind you of any time and place in your own life? How do these remembrances affect your emotions?

    3.Time. The story is told in the first person as though in the present moment with flashbacks to the childhood years of the narrator. Actually, Trond was fifteen when most of the remembered story takes place. Did you like this technique? Did you find it confusing or easy to follow when the author switches between time periods from chapter to chapter, and even within chapters between paragraphs as the story picks up momentum? Did you feel there were two stories being told, or perhaps three, and where did they all meet?

    4.Coming of Age. Trond experiences many things during his summer: the friendly rivalry between his neighborhood friend, the stealing horses episode, his first death, mastering the river, the logging operation. All these physical challenges. Did you reflect on your own childhood? Can you compare it to children's experiences today? Can it be said that any one thing "makes a boy into a man" or "a girl enter womanhood" (aside from the obvious physical changes brought on with puberty)?

    5.Relationships. The important relationship that the narrator is describing is Trond's relationship with his father in his teens, and what happens subsequent to the summer he spends with his dad in 1948. Trond of course is himself a father. Trond the teenager discovers something about his father that haunts him the rest of his life. Let's discuss that secret. Then let's discuss the complexities of life in families (or any important relationship) that involves secrets between people - the nature of trust, the nature of love. How lack of trust affects people. How people's views change over time with their own life experiences.

    6.War. Trond's father had lived during the Second World War during the German occupation of Norway. He was involved in helping people escape the Germans. There were complicit relationships in the town: the wealthy landowner, the neighbor farmwife, the town mechanic. This is where the term "out stealing horses" derives. What is it code for? Can you imagine living through a war and then having to cope afterward with all the people who acted in various ways during it? What was the important incident that happened (during the war) to shape these characters' lives?

    7.Infidelity. Abandonment. Grief. Each successive chapter begins to lay the foundation for Trond's big revelation about his father. What did you think of the author's technique in telling this part of the story? "I clearly remember the night that in the cabin when my father was not in bed as he said he would be." (pg 109) Were you surprised by this turn of events? What warning signs did we have in the pages leading up to the boats on the other side of the dock? How does the author see-saw our emotions here with further information as he peels the skin of the onion in this story?

    8.When Trond is sent home on the bus and eventually determines that his father has abandoned him, his mother and sister, who was receiving the attentions? What did you think of Lars?

    9.Trond describes his mother much less in the story - she is a lesser character - but there is one scene when he travels with her across the border into Sweden to collect the money. What did you think of the mother? What did you think of the attitudes between people in Sweden and people in Norway, that whole "border" experience? What is the significance of "the suit"?

    10.What did you come away with after reading this book? Can you compare the writing with any other author's style? What were the universal elements to the book that have appealed to both critics and the masses? When books are both a popular success and a critical success (earning prizes) what does that say about the writing? Petterson won the Dublin Literary Award in tough competition with Coetzee, McCarthy and Rushdie - have you read works by any of these others? What about the fact that Per Petterson is Norwegian and a former librarian and book seller interests you? Would you like to read more books by Petterson, or other translated works? How much of your reading is from translated pieces? Do you have an opinion on reading translations?

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    Select "Invited to join an existing group"
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    Worthy Links

    The Guardian Review: Per Petterson wins Independent Foreign Fiction prize, by Michelle Pauli.

    The Independent: Fiction prize winner's work is addled with memories, by Boyd Tonkin.

     

     

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