The Hills Reply


Translated from by

Published: 12/10/19



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Book Description

Tarjei Vesaas’s final work, The Hills Reply, is a flow of intensely lyrical autobiographical scenes. The vivid beauty of the wilds of Norway grounds the narrator’s interior flashes. The first sketch finds a boy, his father, and their packhorse clearing a logging road buried in snow as their surroundings give way to a crisis. Profound insights into human behavior, solitude, and nonverbal communication stand up to the power and immensity of the natural world. The land speaks to (and at times almost swallows) the central character, as he is pushed to the edge of what a body and mind can endure. The hypnotic pulse of Vesaas’s prose blurs the line between memory and hallucination, as it stares bravely into the unblinking eye of Nature. An unforgettable book, The Hills Reply is a visceral salute to the human spirit, to the ecstasy of wilderness, and to their tender overlapping.

(Tarjei Vesaas’s) last book. A visionary masterpiece. I revere Vesaas and Elizabeth Rokkan. First published in 1968 but feels philosophically and stylistically brand new for the major concerns of our time as regards nature, time and human loss. Astonishingly beautiful and strange.
Max Porter

The text is a masterful subversion of nostalgia, and a unification of place, person, and past. Divided into episodes, each section is a meditation on the existential symbiosis between consciousness and its surroundings. . . . Like Van Gogh’s Café at Night, where structures, people, and the unknowable ether above join to form a single unit, The Hills Reply intimates a concerted artistic whole through philosophical and aesthetic connectivity.
John Kazanjian, Entropy Magazine

Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesaas (also the author of The Ice Palace and The Birds) writes with an unassuming wonder that fills each moment with beauty and dread. The Hills Reply was Vesaas’ final book and in a hallucinatory fashion it again renders the smallness (but also precision) of the human mind against the immensity of the natural world. Vesaas is amazing in any season.
Nate McNamara, Lit Hub

Vesaas’s story . . . rumbles with an ache for connection to people, animals and visions, and ultimately the earth, which waits to fulfill our mortal destinies. It is also enlivened by a discipline of active dreaming, the writer tuning in to “the pulse in the night . . . for what one does not understand.”
David Varno, On the Seawall

The hypnotic pulse of Vesaas’ prose blurs the line between memory and hallucination, as it stares bravely into the unblinking eye of Nature. An unforgettable book, The Hills Reply is a visceral salute to the human spirit, to the ecstasy of wilderness, and to their tender overlapping.
Translated Lit

This episodic novel was Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesaas’s last book before his death, and the English translation by Elizabeth Rokkan relates a complex, overlapping set of vignettes that take place against the backdrop of the Norwegian countryside.
Emma Specter, Vogue’s ”22 Best Books to Read this Winter”

Vesaas writes beautifully about the natural world, but he presents it as a frequently harsh and brutal place. Early in the book, one character encounters a crane, and a sublime passage about the grace with which birds move gives way to something much more visceral . . . There’s beauty to be found outdoors, but it’s not without its horrors.The conflicted role of humans in nature is a familiar theme, but few narratives hum with the surreal power of this one.

This final work by one of Norway’s most significant writers of the 20th century has the abstract, colorist strangeness of Matisse’s late wall-hangings. What would happen if landscape entirely superseded people (as if this doesn’t happen when we die). Here’s a beautiful, arresting answer.

John Freeman, Lit Hub

Tarjei Vesaas is the best and most interesting Norwegian writer after the Second World War. His language is so sensitive, so open to his characters’ minds and the landscape they inhabit, that it gives form to that space between – between people and other people, between people and nature – the space where our lives unfold.

Karl Ove Knausgaard

Just as one should write a note to an old teacher whose guidance becomes increasingly meaningful as the years go by, one should pay homage to those writers who have brought enjoyment and healing. Tarjei Vesaas belongs to them.
Brita K. Stendahl

A clear crystal of imagination . . . a rare kind of masterpiece.

Daily Telegraph

A rare mixture of creative vitality, conviction and artistry.

The Guardian

An excellent translation by Elizabeth Rokkan catches the quiet, poetic mood.

Sunday Telegraph

Infinitely calm and strong.

Daily Telegraph

Disturbing and beautiful . . . elaborate and powerful.

Sunday Times

A book of great strength and beauty.

The Times

Vesaas reflects on nature as if writing from a time before cities conquered the earth; it cannot be beautiful because it is not yet lost . . . For us, nature cannot return to the state before it was named, it cannot return to a time before cities conquered the earth, it can only come within an inch. Vesaas closes this final inch.
Tommy Cunningham, Who Can Lift It?

Read Dorris Lessing’s 1993 review of Tarjei Vesaas’ The Ice Palace for The Independent.

Check out Tarjei Vesaas’ poem “Sun-corner” online.