The unadorned prose of Norwegian novelist Per Petterson divides readers, said Anna Mundow in The Boston Globe. Critics have labeled the language in his latest novel, To Siberia, both marvelously plain and “plain dull.” The same could have been said of his first novel published in America, Out Stealing Horses, which last year landed atop many American critics’ best-of-the-year lists. But Petterson is hardly laconic in person. He claims that he could barely stop talking for two years after his parents and a brother died in a ferry accident early in his career. But he considers fiction a different form of communication. “Writing is not confessional,” he says. “You should do therapy with your therapist.”

Petterson very consciously tries to limit the dialogue in his novels, said Ben Naparstek in the Hong Kong South China Morning Post. “I think dialogue is overrated in fiction,” he says. “What we do not say to each other outweighs what we actually say, and I think fiction should reflect that.” As significant as silences are to Petterson, however, the most distinguishing feature of his work may be his stark descriptions of Scandinavia’s landscapes. “I try to state the landscape, as it is—not evaluate it, calling it ‘wonderful,’ for instance,” he says. “Someone asked me once why I use the ocean in To Siberia as a symbol. But I don’t use it as a symbol. It is simply there.”