cover image It’s Fine by Me

It’s Fine by Me

Per Petterson, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Graywolf, $22 (208p) ISBN 978-1-55597-626-2

Part of Petterson’s backlist (which is being published in English following the breakout success of Out Stealing Horses), this spare but memorable novel features Arvid Jansen, the protagonist of I Curse the River of Time, as the only friend of Audun Sletten, a young man whose reticence conceals a wellspring of feeling. Not a lot happens in the novel: a teenage Audun moves to Oslo and a new school; allows himself to be befriended by Arvid; reads Hemingway and dreams of becoming a writer; remembers his dead brother, Egil, and his cruel father; and tries to take care of those he loves—his mother, his sister, and his friend—without showing too much emotion. Fans of Petterson will recognize his confident prose, as well as his concern with solitude and the essential privacy of experience, but one need not be familiar with the author’s oeuvre to appreciate his precise storytelling. Petterson’s achievement in this work lies in conveying the passionate alienation of a young man caught between a childish need for protection and a powerful desire to protect. Rights director: Jane Kirby, Random House. (Oct. 2)