The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas is one of the most beautifully haunting novels you will ever read.
The Birds is set in Norway and tells the story of Mattis and his doomed attempts to make sense of the world. Mattis is a young man with learning difficulties who lives with his older sister, Hege. He tries to become more autonomous, but finds instead that despite (or perhaps because of) his attempts his daily life becomes all the more chaotic and complex.
The best translation of this novel is the one by Torbjørn Støverud and Michael Barnes. They have somehow managed to retain and convey all of the spaciousness, the calm delicacy, and the almost mesmeric qualities of Vesaas’s writing style.
The back cover blurb of their edition, published by Peter Owen, states that it is: ‘One of Vesaas’s most important novels… The author reveals a deep and compassionate insight into human nature and a lyrical response to the Norwegian landscape.’
The Birds is a delicately told, moving and deeply emotional story. It is most definitely worth reading.
by Tarjei Vesaas
Translated by Torbjørn Støverud and Michael Barnes
Published by Peter Owen
(c) R J Dent (2009)