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Unformed Landscape

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Paperback published by Other Press (Other Press)

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Unformed Landscape begins in a small village on a fjord in the Finnmark, on the northeastern coast of Norway, where the borders between Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia lie covered in snow and darkness, where the real borders are between day and night, summer and winter, and between people. Here, a sensitive young woman like Kathrine finds few outlets for her desires. Half Norwegian, half Sami (an indigenous people), Kathrine works for the customs office inspecting the fishing boats arriving regularly in the harbor. She is in her late 20s, has a son from an early marriage, and has drifted into a second loveless marriage to a man whose cold and dominating conventionality forms a bold stroke through the unformed landscape of her life. After she makes a discovery about her husband that deeply wounds her, Kathrine cuts loose from her moorings and her confusion and sets off in search of herself.

Her journey begins aboard a ship headed south, taking her below the Arctic Circle for the first time in her life. Kathrine makes her way to France and has the bittersweet experience of a love affair that flares and dies quickly, her starved senses rewarded by the shimmering beauty of Paris. Through a series of poignant encounters, Kathrine is led to the richer life she was meant to have and is brave enough to claim.

Using simple words strung together in a melodic alphabet, Peter Stamm introduces us, through a series of intimate sketches, to the heart of an unforgettable woman. Her story speaks eloquently about solitude, the fragility of love, lost illusions, and self-discovery.
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Unformed Landscape begins in a small village on a fjord in the Finnmark, on the northeastern coast of Norway, where the borders between Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia lie covered in snow and darkness, where the real borders are between day and night, summer and winter, and between people. Here, a sensitive young woman like Kathrine finds few outlets for her desires. Half Norwegian, half Sami (an indigenous people), Kathrine works for the customs office inspecting the fishing boats arriving regularly in the harbor. She is in her late 20s, has a son from an early marriage, and has drifted into a second loveless marriage to a man whose cold and dominating conventionality forms a bold stroke through the unformed landscape of her life. After she makes a discovery about her husband that deeply wounds her, Kathrine cuts loose from her moorings and her confusion and sets off in search of herself.

Her journey begins aboard a ship headed south, taking her below the Arctic Circle for the first time in her life. Kathrine makes her way to France and has the bittersweet experience of a love affair that flares and dies quickly, her starved senses rewarded by the shimmering beauty of Paris. Through a series of poignant encounters, Kathrine is led to the richer life she was meant to have and is brave enough to claim.

Using simple words strung together in a melodic alphabet, Peter Stamm introduces us, through a series of intimate sketches, to the heart of an unforgettable woman. Her story speaks eloquently about solitude, the fragility of love, lost illusions, and self-discovery.
Product Details
Paperback (168 pages)
Published: April 17, 2006
Publisher: Other Press
Imprint: Other Press
ISBN: 9781590512265
Other books byPeter Stamm
  • In Strange Gardens and Other Stories

    In Strange Gardens and Other Stories
    With the precision of a surgeon, Peter Stamm cuts to the heart of the fragile and revealing moments of everyday life. They are bankers, students, mothers, or retirees. They live in New York City or somewhere in Switzerland, they work in London or Riga, they cross paths in a Fado bar in Lisbon. They breathe the banal routine of daily life. It is to these ordinary people that Peter Stamm grants center stage in his latest collection of short stories. Henry, a cowherd turned stuntman, crisscrosses the country, dreaming of meeting a woman. Inger, the Dane, refuses her skimpy life and takes off for Italy. Regina, so lonely in her big house since her children left and her husband passed away, discovers the world anew thanks to the Australian friend of her granddaughter, who helps Regina envision her next voyage. In these stories, Stamm's clean style expresses despair without flash, through softness and small gestures, with disarming retorts full of derision and infinite tenderness. There, where life hesitates, ready to tip over—with nothing yet played out—is where these people and their stories exist. For us, they all become exceptional. Praise for Unformed Landscape: "Sensitive and unnerving. . . . An uncommonly intimate work, one that will remind the reader of his or her own lived experience with a greater intensity than many of the books that are published right here at home." —The New Republic Online

    On a Day Like This

    On a Day Like This
    A new novel of artful understatement about mortality, estrangement, and the absurdity of life from the acclaimed author of Unformed Landscape and In Strange Gardens On a day like any other, Andreas changes his life. When a routine doctor’s visit leads to an unexpected prognosis, a great yearning takes hold of him—but who can tell if it is homesickness or wanderlust? Andreas leaves everything behind, sells his Paris apartment; cuts off all social ties; quits his teaching job; and waves goodbye to his days spent idly sitting in cafes—to look for a woman he once loved, half a lifetime ago. The monotony of days has been keeping him in check; now he hopes for a miracle and for a new beginning. Andreas’ travels lead him back to the province of his youth, back to his hometown in Switzerland where he returns to familiar streets, where his brother still lives in their childhood home, and where Fabienne, a woman he was obsessed with in his youth, visits the same lake they once swam in together. Andreas, still consumed with longing for his lost love and blinded by the uncertainty of his future, is tormented by the question of what might have been if things had happened differently. Peter Stamm has been praised as a “stylistic ascetic” and his prose as “distinguished by lapidary expression, telegraphic terseness, and finely tuned sensitivity” (Bookforum). In On a Day Like This, Stamm’s unobtrusive observational style allows us to journey with our antihero through his crises of banality, of living in his empty world, and the realization that life is finite—that one must live it, as long as that is possible. Praise for Unformed Landscape: “Sensitive and unnerving. . . . An uncommonly intimate work, one that will remind the reader of his or her own lived experience with a greater intensity than many of the books that are published right here at home.” —The New Republic Online “If Albert Camus had lived in an age when people in remote Norwegian fishing villages had e-mail, he might have written a novel like this.”—The New Yorker “Unformed Landscape has a refreshing purity, a lack of delusion, a lack of hype.”—Los Angeles Times

    We're Flying

    We're Flying
    Following the publication of the widely acclaimed novel Seven Years comes a trove of stories from the Swiss master Peter Stamm. They all possess the traits that have built Stamm’s reputation: the directness of the prose, the deceptive surface simplicity of the narratives, and deep psychological insight into the existential dilemmas of contemporary life. Stamm does not waste a word, nor does he spare the reader’s feelings. These stories are a superb introduction to his work and a gift for all those who have come to regard his fiction as a precise rendering of the contemporary human psyche.

    Seven Years

    Seven Years
    Alex has spent the majority of his adult life between two very different women—and he can’t make up his mind. Sonia, his wife and business partner, is everything a man would want. Intelligent, gorgeous, charming, and ambitious, she worked tirelessly alongside him to open their architecture firm and to build a life of luxury. But when the seven-year itch sets in, their exhaustion at working long hours coupled with their failed attempts at starting a family get the best of them. Alex soon finds himself kindling an affair with his college lover, Ivona. The young Polish woman who worked in a Catholic mission is the polar opposite of Sonia: dull, passive, taciturn, and plain. Despite having little in common with Ivona, Alex is inexplicably drawn to her while despising himself for it. Torn between his highbrow marriage and his lowbrow affair, Alex is stuck within a spiraling threesome. But when Ivona becomes pregnant, life takes an unexpected turn, and Alex is puzzled more than ever by the mysteries of his heart.    Peter Stamm, one of Switzerland’s most acclaimed writers, is at his best exploring the complexities of human relationships. Seven Years is a distinct, sobering, and bold novel about the impositions of happiness in the quest for love.

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