Friday, February 26, 2010

Stealing Horses

The Alexandria Campus Book club met on Friday 26 Feb to discuss Per Petersen's novel Out Stealing Horses.

Is the narrator a sympathetic character or someone hard to connect with? Does the novel have an inconclusive ending or is its ending, like life, simply an end and not a conclusion? Was the attention to detail tedious and repetitive or an engrossing slice of life? Has anyone ever read a Scandinavian novel that wasn't bleak?
These and other questions exercised 8 Alexandria faculty members who engaged with Sullivan's story of isolation, alientation and loss.

The next book club selection will be John Patrick Shanley's play Doubt. Copies available in the Library.


stanzot said...

Hi Everybody,
This book brought up old memories for me, so I wanted to relate them to you. At this point, you're probably wondering why I would have old memories about Norway. Here goes:

In 1971 I went to Europe with two American friends and while in the northernmost area of Germany I made a Norwegian friend named . . . Per. In early March of 1972, Per and I decided to hitchhike from Goteborg, Sweden, to Bergen on the west coast of Norway, where his brother lived. We left on a very cold morning and got several short rides throughout the day. Early that evening we arrived in Oslo and met some people at a discotheque that put us up for the night. The next morning we started out across Norway for the west coast.

The weather was very cold in Norway and we started running into snow as we ascended the mountains. Rides were very hard to get, as there weren't many hitchhikers in this part of the world. That night we ended up half frozenat dark in a tiny town named Hensedal. We walked into the police station there and asked if they would let us sleep in a cell so we wouldn't freeze. The one cop there agreed, searched us, and locked us in for the night. The next morning he gave us toast and coffee and sent us on our way.

That day we got only short rides as we ascended the mountain range that runs the length of Norway. Late in the afternoon, as the sun was setting, we had come to a crawl in heavy snow at a resort town high in the mountains, where we found out the pass across the mountains was closed because of avananche threat. Per and I sat in the ski resort lodge and I played songs on my guitar, which I had carried with me. For the rest of the evening, I played and the lodge host fed us drinks and snacks. That night, he let us stay in one of the lodge rooms.

The next morning we headed back to Sweden and got a ride on a ski bus that was also forced to turn back because of the closed pass. At dark, we found ourselves in a raging blizzard at a border station at the crossing from Norway to Sweden . It was a tiny one-man station overlooking the gorge that separated the two countries. The man at the border station wouldn’t let us outside, so we stood in the driving snow until finally a truck driver stopped and agreed to take only one of us in the tiny cramped cab of his truck. Per and I flipped a coin to see who would go and he won, so I stood out by the drive-up window of the border station waiting for cars for about 8 hours. I was pretty sure I would die of hypothermia there and probably not be found until the snow melted later in the spring. At some point late in the middle of the night, a car stopped to ask the guard a question and I tried to ask him for a ride, only to discover that I couldn’t move my mouth enough to speak. He figure out what I wanted, though, and helped my into his car. I was able to mumble the name of the city I wanted to get back to before I fell so deep asleep I didn’t remember anything until the next night when he shook me awake and told me we were in Goteborg. I dug an address out of my pocket some friends of Per’s he had made there on a prior visit, where he dropped me off. It was the middle of the night and I just let myself in the unlocked door to their small apartment and lay down on the sofa and fell into another deep sleep.
In the morning, I woke up to an empty apartment and found a note on the kitchen table that read, in good English, “Help yourself to whatever you can find to eat.” I ate, showered, and walked back to the port to catch the ferry back to Germany that evening. Per had gotten back about and caught the ferry on the previous day. I caught up with him a day later in Kiel.

We didn't steal horses, but it was an adventure. My feet have been very sensitive to cold ever since then.


BJ said...

The descriptions in this book were so beautiful. While I could feel the main character's loneliness, I also noticed a peace that seemed to descend on him during parts of the book. It seemed he really felt quite guilty about the death of the twin brother although it was not directly his fault. Seemed, too, as if he made a connection to his daughter which he had not really had. I would like very much to hear about what folks thought of the ending...are we just alone after all?