When non-English writers get their work published in translation you often find that when they enjoy success in translation, their publishers begin to translate and publish books from their back-catalogue. Per Petterson is in this situation; his books Out Stealing Horses, To Siberia and I Curse The River of Time have been very well received and now his publishers have decided to publish It’s Fine By Me which was written in 1992 but was first published in English in this edition of 2012.
Its Fine By Me is semi-autobiographical and could be called a “coming of age” novel in that it follows the life of Audan between the ages of 12 and 18. Audan lives with his mother and sister in a working-class suburb of Oslo. He had a brother who was killed in a road accident and Audan now struggles with his role as “number one son”, while his shadowy and violent father comes and goes, wreaking havoc whenever he turns up on the scene. Interestingly Audan’s best friend is Arvid who is the main character in the earlier book, I Curse the River of Time.
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. I assumed that the publishers were now publishing 20 year-old work from an immature Petterson, but was surprised to find that I probably liked this one more than any of the author’s later works. I immediately liked Audan’s “voice” (the book is written in the first person) and found myself sympathising with his troubles. He exhibits all the traits of adolescence – from wearing sun-glasses at all times to finding ways of separating himself from his mother. But his struggles are real and he deals with them courageously if not always successfully.