Wednesday, 18 December 2019

The Hills Reply by Tarjei Vesaas


The Hills Reply by Tarjei Vesaas
First published in Norwegian as Beaten om kvelden in Norway in 1968. English language translation by Elizabeth Rokkan published by Archipelago Press on the 10th December 2019.

One of my Classics Club Challenge reads, my 1960s read for my 2019-20 Decade Challenge and a 2019 New Release Challenge read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


An intensely graceful novel recounting scenes of the Norwegian countryside from one of Norway's most beloved 20th-century writers.

Tarjei Vesaas's final work before his death, this episodic novel drifts between dream-like abstraction and vivid description of seemingly ordinary yet heightened scenes of the Norwegian countryside. The many overlapping, semi-autobiographical vignettes of The Hills Reply relate a deep appreciation for the complexity of the human condition, nature, and relationships.

Although described as a novel in the synopsis, The Hills Reply felt to me more like a short story collection or, rather, a collection of disconnected scenes because several of these sixteen vignettes don't have much in the way of a narrative thread. I absolutely loved three of the stories: As It Stands In The Memory, The Drifter And The Mirrors, and Washed Cheeks. Each has gorgeously poetic prose, vivid scenery and a narrative in which I could completely empathise with the characters. The three are very different in idea and tone, but I felt that each spoke to me on a deeply emotional level. I ended up with my three star rating because of their strengths. In fact it is fortunate that one was the first story and another comes earlier in the collection because otherwise The Hills Reply could easily, unfortunately, have been a DNF.

I understand that The Hills Reply was Vesaas' last complete book and I did wonder if the esteem in which he was held clouded some editorial judgements! I was disappointed that alongside the previously mentioned glimpses of amazing writing there was plenty that I simply found impenetrable. Streams of words which gave me no clue to what Vesaas wanted to say or what his scenes were supposed to depict. It was like suddenly being faced with an untranslated story (or six) although I am confident I wasn't trying to read Norwegian! A hit and miss collection that sadly for me was heavier on the misses.


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8 comments:

  1. Hit and Miss certainly sums up the frequent issues I have with anthologies! I tend to avoid them mostly as I get bored if the first few stories don't excite me!

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    1. Or the first are great, but others feel like padding! It's rare I get a whole collection that I love too

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  2. Sorry to hear you didn't like it as much as you had hoped.

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  3. Sorry you didn't like this one though after your review I can see why. Hopefully the next one is better!

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    1. There were good points, but overall this wasn't a great choice for me

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  4. I love how diversely you read translated works. I don't think this would be one for me because it sounds a little too disjointed and scattered.

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    1. I was disappointed with this in the end. Strangely it's Norwegian and I haven't done too well with any books from that country

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