Arvid Jansen: A Familiar Face: Background information when reading It's Fine By Me

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

It's Fine By Me

by Per Petterson

It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson X
It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 208 pages
    Sep 2013, 208 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Arvid Jansen: A Familiar Face

Print Review

In It's Fine By Me, on his first day at Veitvet School in 1965, 13-year-old Audun Sletten meets Arvid Jansen – a young man who would become his best, and one of his only, friends. "A few girls were skipping rope, and coming straight towards me was a boy on crutches… I glanced left and right, but there was no one else by the fence. He had dark, curly hair and boots like mine, with KINKS written on the one and HOLLIES on the other… I had decided not to make friends with anyone at this school, but this bloke was hard to refuse."

Though he plays a secondary role to Audun in It's Fine By Me, Arvid Jansen will be familiar to Per Petterson fans; he has starred in four of the author's other works, each of which describes the character's life at a different stage, from the tender age of six all the way through his late thirties.

  • In Petterson's debut, a collection of short stories entitled Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes (Aske I munnen, san I skoa, 1987), we meet six-year-old Arvid who lives in Veitvet in Oslo. He has a father who works in a shoe factory and a Danish mother. The stories explore Arvid's relationship with his father.
  • Echoland
  • Two years later, in Petterson's first novel, Echoland (Ekkoland, 1989), Arvid is now twelve years old, spending the summer with his grandparents in Denmark in a tiny flat above his grandma's milk shop. He's a kid who lets the world worry him, and often wonders why his grandmother cries behind closed doors, what happened between his mom and dad before he was born. And why does he think so much about Bruno Angelini, the baker's son from Naples who is one of his ancestors?
  • Then – after his sidekick role in It's Fine By Me (Det er greit for meg, 1992) – Arvid returns in In the Wake (I kjølvannet, 2000). One morning, when Arvid comes-to in the doorway of a bookstore in Oslo, his grief comes rushing back to him in devastating flashes: many of those he has loved are dead, he's estranged from his wife and family, and he abandoned his career as a writer and bookseller. Now, he must confront his demons and recognize his own role in the disaster that killed his family.
  • I Curse the River of Time
  • Finally, in I Curse the River of Time (Jeg forbanner tidens elv, 2008), it is 1989 and Communism is crumbling in Europe. Arvid – now 37 – is in the throes of a divorce at the same time his mother is diagnosed with cancer. As he attempts to negotiate the present, he casts his mind back to holidays on the beach with his brothers, to courtship, and to his early working life, when, as a young Communist, he left his studies to work on a production line.

In an article in The Guardian (January 2009), Petterson explains about Arvid: "He's not my alter ego, he's my stunt man. Things happen to him that could have happened to me, but didn't. He has my mentality." Although Arvid was not created as an autobiographical character, there are similarities between the two men. Tragically, in real life, Petterson's father, mother, brother, and nephew all died one night when a ferry on which they were travelling caught fire. In In the Wake, Arvid suffers the trauma of a similar situation. "What [Arvid] goes though in 14 days, I went through in two years," Petterson says.

Though we don't know whether Arvid will make appearances in Petterson's future works, we can only hope he does. Either way, it's a rare treat to get to know this character so well in the context of so many different stories.

Article by Elena Spagnolie

This article was originally published in October 2012, and has been updated for the September 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Wonder Valley
    by Ivy Pochoda

    A visionary and masterful portrait of contemporary L.A. from the author of Visitation Street.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist


Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.