03 July 2008

Per Petterson

[from Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, translated by Anne Born, 2007]

. . . alongside the cabin wall there was a big patch of stinging nettles, growing tall and thick, and I worked my way around them in a wide arc, and then my father came round the house and stood looking at me. He held his head aslant and rubbed his chin, and I straightened up and waited to hear what he would say.

"Why not cut down the nettles?" he said.

I looked down at the short scythe handle and across at the tall nettles.

"It will hurt," I said. Then he looked at me with half a smile and a little shake of his head.

"You decide for yourself when it will hurt," he said, suddenly getting serious. He walked over to the nettles and took hold of the smarting plants with his bare hands and began to pull them up with perfect calm . . .

The sun was high in the sky now, it was hot under the trees, it smelt hot, and from everywhere in the forest around us there were sounds; of beating wings, of branches bending and twigs breaking, and the scream of a hawk and a hare's last sigh, and the tiny muffled boom each time a bee hit a flower. I heard the ants crawling in the heather, and the path we followed rose with the hillside; I took deep breaths through my nose and thought that no matter how life should turn out and however far I travelled I would always remember this place as it was just now, and miss it.

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel

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