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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Faster I Walk,
the Smaller I am

Kjersti A. Skomsvold

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Title: The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am
Author: Kjersti A. Skomsvold
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 147 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am - US
The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am - UK
The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am - Canada
The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am - India
Je schneller ich gehe, desto kleiner bin ich - Deutschland
  • Norwegian title: Jo fortere jeg går, jo mindre er jeg
  • Translated by Kerri A. Pierce

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Our Assessment:

B+ : very light touch for dark subject

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Harvard Crimson . 18/10/2011 Leanna B. Ehrlich
Irish Times A 29/10/2011 Eileen Battersby
World Literature Today . 1-2/2012 Shaun Randol

  From the Reviews:
  • "In this brief and impressionistic novella, Skomsvold offers not so much a narrative as a snapshot of one woman’s lonely life. (...) Skomsvold’s portrayal of Mathea’s emotional life is balanced and perfectly realistic. (...) Though Skomsvold’s terse language occasionally lacks description, it is the bluntness with which she renders Mathea’s world that makes it a more plausible exploration of the mind of a senile woman." - Leanna B. Ehrlich, The Harvard Crimson

  • "This is a debut of alarming confidence, yet Kjersti A Skomsvold, winner of the 2009 Tarjei Vesaas prize for a first literary work, in Norway, never allows the intelligence to settle into the merely clever. She is also sufficiently confident to avoid the obvious. Her use of ambiguity is assured, at times inspired. It is very funny, desperately sad and very true. (...) This is a profound work, truthful, unsettling and oddly euphoric. Mathea, part Everywoman and Everyman, is wholly heroic. Her story, as well as Skomsvold’s offbeat, open-eyed vision, rings true, too true." - Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

  • "The Faster I Walk... reveals the sad trappings of life at its loneliest, but in such a way that does not depress. (...) For a debut novelist, Skomsvold is deft at transporting the reader into the world of an imaginary other." - Shaun Randol, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am is narrated by Mathea Martinsen, now very old and very alone and practically invisible -- though her invisibility is partially her own fault, as she has a very difficult time connecting and engaging with other people. She craves some attention yet avoids most human interaction even when it is offered. She has some ambition -- but has nothing to strive for. Typically, when she gets up she thinks:

     Live life. Seize the day. I'm standing next to my bed, but I don't know how to seize my day. Finally, I decide to do what I always do: read the obituaries.
       She goes on her errands -- to the grocery store, mainly -- but most of her experiences in the outside world are exercises in futility. She is practically moving in a separate world; she can and often does go essentially entirely unnoticed.
       Mathea reminisces about her life, and her husband, Epsilon. They never had children, and she practically never worked, so she has always lived in her own little world. Without Epsilon -- even though he is still a part of her very vivid imagined life -- she lives practically only with her own thoughts, and at her age her mind also appears to be going.
       The only extraordinary thing that happened to her in her life was that she was once struck by lightning -- but, aside from that single instant, the rest of her life has been completely unremarkable. But it's not like she is out of touch: she makes reference to people and events such as Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl kept in a cellar for years, and to Yoko Ono, and wishes she were under house arrest like Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the whole world demanding her freedom:
Amnesty International would campaign, people from every country would write letters of protest, they'd hold demonstrations and chant rhyming slogans: "Let there be no doubt, we want Mathea out," with special emphasis on rhyming words. But nothing would work, and wouldn't it be nice to have an excuse.
       It's that ambivalence -- the craving for public recognition and yet the desire for complete retreat -- that makes Mathea a compelling character and voice. She is so terribly alone, but she can't break out of the many layers of self-imposed isolation. Old age now plays a part in it, but this has always been who she was.
       Early on she describes how:
     When I was a child, I always dreamed of being taken away by an ambulance, and when there was one nearby, I'd cross my fingers and whisper: "Let it be me, let it be me," but it never was me, the ambulances were always moving away from me, I could tell by the sirens.
       That pretty much sums up her and her life: the desire for attention, the unrealistic wish for the kind of attention available (a healthy child should hardly pin her hopes on an ambulance coming to pick her up), and the feeling of being completely ignored.
       Mathea's tone is not self-pitying; indeed, in her own peculiar way she tries to be pro-active -- she's just not very realistic about how to go about things. This gives The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am a very upbeat feel, even as it remains an account of depressing isolation, life at the very periphery of society, and decline in old age. It makes for an effective narrative, though there's also a creepy feel to it.
       An impressive and well-written work, The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am is also very discomfiting (in no small part because of that upbeat tone).

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 October 2011

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The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am: Reviews: Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold: Other books by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Norwegian author Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold was born in 1979.

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© 2011-2017 the complete review

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