I Curse The River Of Time

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I Curse The River Of Time

by Per Petterson

Knopf Canada | August 30, 2011 | Trade Paperback |

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"How impossible it was to grasp that in the end something as fine as this could be ground into dust" (p. 213).
 
I Curse the River of Time, the new novel from the winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Out Stealing Horses, is a mesmerizingly beautiful book about love, regret, family secrets and failed revolution.
 
The novel takes us through thirty-seven-year-old Arvid's life and its descent towards a moment of terrible crisis. It traces his parents' hesitant support when he gives up his place at college to work in a paper mill, like his father; his experiences as a fervent young Maoist in Norway in the 1960s; the death of his younger brother; the passionate, enveloping romance that led to marriage and children and, for a time, happiness; the failure of that relationship, and its transformation into a source of harrowing pain.
 
By 1989, everything that gave Arvid's life meaning has melted into air. The collapse of the Berlin Wall mirrors the collapse of his marriage and his self-punishing alcoholism. When his mother is diagnosed with stomach cancer, Arvid sets off to their summer house in Denmark to be with her, meeting men and women from their past along the way. His despairing journey is also a quest for some kind of order in his life, perhaps even a new foundation. When Arvid finds his mother, and accompanies her in her illness, the novel turns to exploring the secrets that explain the distance between them - a distance that perhaps can never be crossed.
 
I Curse the River of Time describes the ways that the present and the past are always intertwined, and shows how the personal and political are one and the same. Written in a subdued and elegiac style, with flashes of devastating poetic beauty, it is an utterly absorbing experience, a book that displays wisdom of the kind that only profound loss can bring. Above all, it is a reminder of the power of great art to console us for life's burdens, an example of the way our dreams may brighten our bleakest moments.




From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 240 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: August 30, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307399397

ISBN - 13: 9780307399397

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– More About This Product –

I Curse The River Of Time

by Per Petterson

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 240 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: August 30, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307399397

ISBN - 13: 9780307399397

Read from the Book

1 All this happened quite a few years ago. My mother had been unwell for some time. To put a stop to my brothers’ nagging and my father’s especially, she finally went to see the doctor she always saw, the doctor my family had used since the dawn of time. He must have been ancient at that point for I cannot recall ever not visiting him, nor can I recall him ever being young. I used him myself even though I now lived a good distance away.   After a brief check-up, this old family doctor swiftly referred her to Aker Hospital for further examination. Having been for several, no doubt painful, tests in rooms painted white, painted apple green, at the big hospital near the Sinsen junction on the side of Oslo I always like to think of as our side, the east side that is, she was told to go home and wait two weeks for the results. When they finally arrived, three weeks later rather than two, it turned out that she had stomach cancer. Her first reaction was as follows: Good Lord, here I’ve been lying awake night after night, year after year, especially when the children were small, terrified of dying from lung cancer, and then I get cancer of the stomach. What a waste of time!   My mother was like that. And she was a smoker, just as I have been my entire adult life. I know well those night-time moments when you lie in bed staring into the dark, with dry, aching eyes feeling life like ashes in your mouth, even though I have probably worried more about my own
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From the Publisher

"How impossible it was to grasp that in the end something as fine as this could be ground into dust" (p. 213).
 
I Curse the River of Time, the new novel from the winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Out Stealing Horses, is a mesmerizingly beautiful book about love, regret, family secrets and failed revolution.
 
The novel takes us through thirty-seven-year-old Arvid's life and its descent towards a moment of terrible crisis. It traces his parents' hesitant support when he gives up his place at college to work in a paper mill, like his father; his experiences as a fervent young Maoist in Norway in the 1960s; the death of his younger brother; the passionate, enveloping romance that led to marriage and children and, for a time, happiness; the failure of that relationship, and its transformation into a source of harrowing pain.
 
By 1989, everything that gave Arvid's life meaning has melted into air. The collapse of the Berlin Wall mirrors the collapse of his marriage and his self-punishing alcoholism. When his mother is diagnosed with stomach cancer, Arvid sets off to their summer house in Denmark to be with her, meeting men and women from their past along the way. His despairing journey is also a quest for some kind of order in his life, perhaps even a new foundation. When Arvid finds his mother, and accompanies her in her illness, the novel turns to exploring the secrets that explain the distance between them - a distance that perhaps can never be crossed.
 
I Curse the River of Time describes the ways that the present and the past are always intertwined, and shows how the personal and political are one and the same. Written in a subdued and elegiac style, with flashes of devastating poetic beauty, it is an utterly absorbing experience, a book that displays wisdom of the kind that only profound loss can bring. Above all, it is a reminder of the power of great art to console us for life's burdens, an example of the way our dreams may brighten our bleakest moments.




From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Per Petterson was born in Oslo in 1952 and worked for several years as an unskilled labourer, a bookseller, a writer and a translator until he made his literary debut in 1987 with the short-story collection Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes, which was widely acclaimed by critics. His novel Out Stealing Horses has been translated into forty languages and won many prizes, including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.




From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

WINNER 2009 – Nordic Council’s Prize for Literature WINNER 2009 – Norwegian Critics’ Prize WINNER 2009 – Brage Prize A Financial Times Best Book A New York Times Notable Book “Petterson’s style makes the reader . . . reflect about how parent-child relationships both change and yet can remain static as the years pass and people deal with their inevitable disappointments. . . . This novel will appeal to those who appreciate spare, contemplative writing.” —  Winnipeg Free Press   “The Scandinavian writer masterfully captures a family’s sorrow and disconnect, turning the chasm between a grown son and his mother into a vivid portrait of longing for something just out of reach. . . . Per Petterson is a master at writing the spaces between people.” —  Los Angeles Times   “Petterson’s atmospheric prose — melancholy, tempered, and terse — is the real force keeping the various plots in orbit.” — The New Yorker   “[Petterson’s] characters open their hearts to the reader, making us witnesses to their most private selves. . . . Petterson has the ability to be simultaneously restrained and terribly tender. . . . There is a quality that I can only call charm, or something like charm, to Petterson’s essentially dark and lonely sensibility.” — The New York Times Book Review “Per Petterson is a profoundly gifted novelist.
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Bookclub Guide

1.

How would you describe Arvid's personality? How would you describe the style in which the novel is written? Do you find the style reflects the character, or not?



2.

What is the source of the title, and why does it matter?



3.

Why does Arvid never feel fully a part of his own family?



4.

What roles do politics play in I Curse the River of Time? How do political and personal projects affect each other in the book?



5.

Why is Arvid unable to speak at his mother's fiftieth birthday party? What does the scene add to the book, or to your sense of his character?



6.

Discuss the differences between the various journeys within the novel.



7.

Arvid is a contemplative person, but what kind of things does he do in the novel, and what do they tell us about him?



8.

How does alcohol matter in the book? Why?



9.

What role do the characters apart from Arvid play in the book? How do they change him?



10.

What kind of person is Arvid's mother, and how would you characterize their relationship? How does it change over the course of the book?



11.

How do the characters in I Curse the River of Time deal with problems?



12.

What is your favourite part of the novel, and why?



13.

What is the significance of other novels in the book? Why are Arvid's mother's reading habits described at such length? How do they affect Arvid's?



14.

In what ways is this a uniquely Norwegian book, if at all?



15.

What role does Hansen play in the novel?



16.

There are many little stories, often memories, within the novel: Arvid taking a dog to be put down; the scene at the holiday cabin with the young woman who would become his wife; Arvid chopping down the pine tree. Which strikes you as the most significant or affecting, and why?



17.

How does the structure of the book contribute to its exploration of Arvid's past and present experience?



18.

What is the importance of Arvid's father in I Curse the River of Time?



19.

What does I Curse the River of Time leave you thinking about families?



20.

Which other author or authors does Per Petterson's work make you think of? Why?



21.

Have you recommended I Curse the River of Time to your friends? Why, or why not?



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