Soul food from a writer's farm: Per Petterson returns to his working-class roots

Author Per Petterson. Photo:

Author Per Petterson. Photo:

With “Out Stealing Horses,” Per Petterson captured the hearts of readers around the world. His new novel returns to his working-class roots. Boyd Tonkin meets a city kid at home in rural Norway

I miss the haymaking by a day. In the fields around Per Petterson’s home, 60 rolling, forested kilometres east of Oslo towards the Swedish border, the cut bales stand as neat witness to his and his farming neighbours’ joint annual push to make the most of a fitful Norwegian summer. “I love physical work,” the writer says, unreproachfully, to the late-arriving interviewer who has dodged the hard bit. “I always did. My father liked it, and I take after him I think.”

The new roof on the main house stood firm against the winter’s heavy snow – “It was so cold for so long”. A rooster struts around the barn. In addition to a dozen chickens, he and his wife, Pia, have a few lambs. The slaughterman comes out to kill them in the yard; they never face a journey to the abbatoir. “The day I can’t do that, I won’t keep them any more.”

In season, hunters deliver to the door bloody packs of elk meat shot in the woods on his land. In the grounds, a cabin for work holds richly-stocked bookshelves, neat as sheaves. Back in the newly-built conservatory, we eat herb omelette from home-laid eggs and syllabub fruited with last season’s berries. Dog and cat pad companionably around. Even late in June, local firewood soon crackles in the grate.

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Source: The Independent

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.