Echoland by Per Petterson, translated by Don Bartlett
by Per Petterson, translated by Don Bartlett
Arvid is 12 and on vacation in Denmark with his family at the home of his maternal grandparents. The atmosphere is tense; no one seems happy, while edgy Arvid’s reflex response to life is “Don’t touch me.”
It is a random, staccato, third person narrative, heavy with descriptions of the seaside and often stilted observations.
Norwegian Per Petterson made his international breakthrough with his laconic fifth novel, Out Stealing Horses which was published in 2003. The English translation subsequently, and deservedly, won the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His fourth novel, In The Wake (2000; English translation 2002) is based on the tragic deaths of his family in a ferry disaster and is very strong.
Petterson has a beguiling voice and his candid, autobiographical excursions into the personal invariably convince. Family is his theme and he is unafraid of brutal realism as is evident from the stark drama, I Refuse (2012; 2014.) Echoland, a self-conscious first novel which was published in Norway in 1989, and is now translated, is an apprentice work; cryptic, episodic and laboured. Its interest to his admirers is in revealing Petterson’s development.