It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson

Do brutal climate and harsh environs inevitably lead to such stories? Auden is a survivor. The question is whether he will escape as well as survive. This is a grim story of abuse, alcoholism, dead-end jobs, petty town mentalities. But above it is a level of joy for the reader in the lovely prose, the simple, minimal way in which Petterson does his work. And surely the one will transcend the other by the end leading to something like a happy future. Auden’s a reader and in his heart he’s a writer. Could the author really leave the hopes of this young man and the reader dashed?

Maybe. I’m not going to give that away. Suffice to say I read this with my heart in my mouth, during the course of today. It’s short and very difficult to put down.

Petterson’s on two out of two with me.

3 thoughts on “It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson

    • I’ve put it on my to-read list, Manuel. I am surprised and not surprised by your comments about translation in your post. My partner is about native level in Swedish and he sees the strong connection between that and German. However, some of my favourite literature is German (eg Frisch and Durrenmatt) and I feel like (that’s speaking as a mono-lingual English speaker) they translate well into English. I often feel that of Scandinavian books I read too.

      I wonder if it’s the style of book rather than the language which makes translation work – that a style rather than a language translates well. That would explain why I love some things translated from Swedish but not others. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t that the style suits the language, but that it suits me.

      • Yep. You nailed it. At the time I read this novel I just wanted to go and learn Norwegian! I’ve heard Swedish and Norwegian are similar languages (a bit like Portuguese and Spanish perhaps), but that’s as far as I can go. Had I read this in English I quite sure my experience would have been totally different. Depending on the language I read in changes my perceptions, but maybe that’s me.

        This discourse made me think about Ferrante and Goldstein. It doesn’t surprise me that Goldstein didn’t start learning Italian until she was in her thirties – Ferrante is great despite, not in any way because of, Goldstein’s translation, which is workwomanlike at best, and clunky at worst (I’ve read Ferrante’s work both in Italian and in English). That Goldstein refuses to move on from Scott Moncrieff’s error-ridden, and stylistically inappropriate, translation of Proust is evidence of a weak mind. The new Proust translations are certainly worth comparing with the older ones – in fact, I think they are mostly far superior. But what do I know?

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