Excerpt of Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
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Early November. Its nine oclock. The titmice are banging against the
window. Sometimes they fly dizzily off after the impact, other times
they fall and lie struggling in the new snow until they can take off
again. I dont know what they want that I have. I look out the window
at the forest. There is a reddish light over the trees by the lake. It
is starting to blow. I can see the shape of the wind on the water.
I live here now, in a small house in the far east of Norway. A river
flows into the lake. It is not much of a river, and it gets shallow in
the summer, but in the spring and autumn it runs briskly, and there are
trout in it. I have caught some myself. The mouth of the river is only
a hundred metres from here. I can just see it from my kitchen window
once the birch leaves have fallen. As now in November. There is a
cottage down by the river that I can see when its lights are on if I go
out onto my doorstep. A man lives there. He is older than I am, I
think. Or he seems to be. But perhaps thats because I do not realise
what I look like myself, or life has been tougher for him than it has
been for me. I cannot rule that out. He has a dog, a border collie.
I have a bird table on a pole a little way out in my yard. When it is
getting light in the morning I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of
coffee and watch them come fluttering in. I have seen eight different
species so far, which is more than anywhere else I have lived, but only
the titmice fly into the window. I have lived in many places. Now I am
here. When the light comes I have been awake for several hours. Stoked
the fire. Walked around, read yesterdays paper, washed yesterdays
dishes, there were not many. Listened to the B.B.C. I keep the radio on
most of the day. I listen to the news, cannot break that habit, but I
do not know what to make of it any more. They say sixty-seven is no
age, not nowadays, and it does not feel it either, I feel pretty spry.
But when I listen to the news it no longer has the same place in my
life. It does not affect my view of the world as once it did. Maybe
there is something wrong with the news, the way it is reported, maybe
theres too much of it. The good thing about the B.B.C.s World
Service, which is broadcast early in the morning, is that everything
sounds foreign, that nothing is said about Norway, and that I can get
updated on the position of countries like Jamaica, Pakistan, India and
Sri Lanka in a sport such as cricket; a game I have never seen played
and never will see, if I have a say in the matter. But what I have
noticed is that The Motherland, England, is constantly being beaten.
Thats always something.
I too have a dog. Her name is Lyra. What breed she is would not be easy
to say. Its not that important. We have been out already, with a
torch, on the path we usually take, along the lake with its few
millimetres of ice up against the bank where the dead rushes are yellow
with autumn, and the snow fell silently, heavily out of the dark sky
above, making Lyra sneeze with delight. Now she lies there close to the
stove, asleep. It has stopped snowing. As the day wears on it will all
melt. I can tell that from the thermometer. The red column is rising
with the sun.
All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when
everything was going well, as it often did. I can say that much. That
it often did. I have been lucky. But even then, for instance in the
middle of an embrace and someone whispering words in my ear I wanted to
hear, I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was
only silence. Years might go by and I did not think about it, but that
does not mean that I did not long to be there. And now I am here, and
it is almost exactly as I had imagined it.
In less than two months time this millennium will be finished. There
will be festivities and fireworks in the parish I am a part of. I shall
not go near any of that. I will stay at home with Lyra, perhaps go for
a walk down to the lake to see if the ice will carry my weight. I am
guessing minus ten and moonlight, and then I will stoke the fire, put a
record on the old gramophone with Billie Holidays voice almost a
whisper, like when I heard her in the Oslo Colosseum some time in the
50s, almost burned out, yet still magic, and then fittingly get drunk
on a bottle I have standing by in the cupboard. When the record ends I
will go to bed and sleep as heavily as it is possible to sleep without
being dead, and awake to a new millennium and not let it mean a thing.
I am looking forward to that.
From Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. Translation copyright 2007 by Anne Born. All rights reserved.