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'To Siberia'

A young girl dreams of Siberia and of skies that are "cold and clear."

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Ask most children to pick a vacation spot, and answers will probably range from “the beach” to “Disney World.” Budding sophisticates might come up with France or Italy. The place the young narrator of Per Petterson’s newly released novel longs to visit: Siberia.
Her beloved older brother, Jesper, not surprisingly, wants heat and sunshine.

“Jesper was heading for Morocco. That would be too hot for me. I wanted open skies that were cold and clear, where it was easy to breathe and easy to see for long distances,” she remembers.

The narrator of To Siberia also thinks the timber houses there will be somehow warmer than the damp brick of her own town in northern Denmark. As for the Gulag? She dismisses that as “Nazi propaganda.”

Dreams of Siberia, school, and Jesper get the narrator through a childhood that has the grim quality of a fairy tale. Then the Nazis invade Denmark, and all thought of travel vanishes as she watches her teenage brother get involved in the Resistance.


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