Magazine article World Literature Today

The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am

Article excerpt

Kjersti A. Skomsvold. The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am. Kerri A. Pierce, tr. Champaign, Illinois. Dalkey Archive. 2011. isbn 9781564787026

If melancholy can be sweet, then The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am is just that. Kjersti Skomsvold's debut novel, which won Norway's 2009 First Novel Prize, provides a brief, sentimental glimpse into what it means to be lonely. The gloom of such a weighty (and tried) theme is relieved, refreshingly, by the narrator, Mathea, an aging introvert who is charmingly naïve, occasionally funny, often whimsical, but always sad.

Mathea Martinsen, fragile in mind, body, and soul, nears the sunset of her life. For reasons not fully explained, she is easily intimidated by the outside world, especially by other people. The causes are both real and imagined. At the grocery store, for example, cashiers ignore Mathea completely. For them, she represents just one face in a thousand that they will serve that day. This fact is devastating: "I just pack my groceries into my bag and go. And if I was kidnapped five minutes later, and the cops came by and showed him my picture, the boy would say he'd never seen me before in his life." Even though she is desperate for attention from anyone, Mathea cannot muster the courage to engage anyone in conversation. The abyss between Mathea and the rest of the world is just too immense.

The Faster I Walk reveals the sad trappings of life at its loneliest, but in such a way that does not depress. Mathea eagerly reads the newspaper each morning in order to discover who has died before her own time is up. …

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