I finished reading Per Petterson’s In the Wake a week before I heard the news about my brother’s death. I tend to think that there are forces around us that guide us to face the next challenge befallen us. I picked the book in Kinokuniya in Singapore during my 3-day stay after my trip to Indonesia in January 2008. I had read that Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses received great reviews so I took a leap of faith and bought his other book as well.
In the Wake is a sorrowful story into the depth of grief that Arvid experienced years after his parents and his two younger brothers perished in a ferry accident. It’s a kind of grief that he stored inside, which I can understand better now after my younger brother’s early departure. He had a feeling of detachment to the emotions experienced by others around him and yet haunted him for years to come.
The book is beautifully written and a wonderful story for people who have experienced grief, or at least can understand what it can do to us. Per Petterson also craftfully weaves in the sense of Norwegianism into the book: Arvid’s father’s first love came from Denmark and couldn’t stand Norway’s ‘backwardness’, isolation and rustic beauty. Having been to Norway and Denmark and also knowing a little bit of scandinavian sibling rivalry amongst Norway, Sweden and Denmark makes this book extra enjoyable for me.
I was also particularly awestruck when I read about Arvid’s encounter with the Kurdish immigrant who stayed in the same apartment building (pp182 – 187). Through wordless conversation, the immigrant could understand the emotional turmoil that Arvid experienced – and all of this was described so beautifully in the pages. I can copy and paste the section here but I’m afraid that I will destroy the beauty.
In the Wake has just made its way to one of my treasured works of fiction. Truly a masterpiece.