cover image Men in My Situation

Men in My Situation

Per Petterson, trans. from the Norwegian by Ingvild Burkey. Graywolf, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64445-075-8

Petterson’s bracing latest captures the rhythms and anomie of grief with another story featuring Arvid Jansen, protagonist of In the Wake. A year after a passenger ferry catches fire, resulting in the deaths of Arvid’s parents and two brothers along with 155 others, his wife, Turid leaves him. Arvid wanders aimlessly, driving around Oslo and often sleeping in his beloved old Mazda. A successful writer, he can’t summon the will to pick up a pen. The time he’s allotted every other week with his three daughters, Vigdis and Tone and Tine, is especially painful for the eldest, 12-year-old Vigdis, who gets into a fit during a camping trip with Arvid after confiding about Turid’s own unhappiness. Petterson’s downbeat prose has a rhythm and flow both transparent and immediate, fueled by Arvid’s eloquence and failure to focus beyond the current moment. As deep as the well of his loneliness and sadness is, his emergence on the other side is equally gratifying. Arvid’s few stray words on the disastrous fire convey its monumental effect on him. This low-key outing will particularly resonate with the author’s fans. (Feb.)