Unformed Landscape and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
  • List Price: $18.00
  • Save: $3.50 (19%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Used: Good | Details
Sold by hippo_books
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Item qualifies for FREE shipping and Prime! This item is used.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Unformed Landscape Hardcover – April 17, 2005

See all 6 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$2.49 $0.01

Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed


The Bone Clocks
David Mitchell's hypnotic new novel crackles with invention and sheer storytelling pleasure. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; First Edition edition (April 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590511409
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590511404
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,623,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

If Albert Camus had lived in an age when people in remote Norwegian fishing villages had e-mail, he might have written a novel like this. Kathrine, a customs inspector, abandons husband and son, because she's unsure whether she has "missed anything or not." In Paris and beyond, she connects with a series of men, and, after finding the world much as she expected (a garden café in Paris looks "the way a Norwegian who has never seen a garden café might imagine one to look"), returns to her fjord in Finnmark. In Stamm's portrait, a scenario that could have been half-baked captures what seems a particularly Nordic view of adult life: austere pragmatism mixed with mordant wit.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

From Booklist

Twentysomething Kathrine lives in a small village on the northeastern coast of Norway, Land of the Midnight Sun. There the seasons are marked by long periods of light and darkness, the aging of residents by increased impatience and frustration with the dark and the cold. A trip on cross-country skis to visit the keepers of the lighthouse constitutes an outing. As a customs inspector of the fishing boats docking there, Kathrine, though she has never been south of the Arctic Circle, touches the lives of far-travelers. She lives with the boy born of her short-lived marriage to a man she sees routinely and comfortably about the village. Her second marriage to cold, officious Thomas, who doesn't touch her, leads to his family's condemnation of her and her subsequent journey away from home, son, job, parents, and townspeople. Hofmann's translation of Stamm's clipped German flows smoothly yet as powerfully as the waters that surround Kathrine's restrictive life and carry her far away but closer to herself than ever. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 9 customer reviews
He creates characters for whom we care.
Roger Brunyate
Without squandering sentences describing his Kathrine's outer appearance, Peter Stamm shows us her inner being.
Giordano Bruno
It reads at times like a prose proem describing the slow-motion opening of a flower bud.
Friederike Knabe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard Roche on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Peter Stamm sets Unformed Landscape in the remotest area of Norway, in a village that can only be reached by boat, where most people either fish or work for the fish factory. It is near the borders with Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Stamm describes the political borders, covered by snow and darkness, as irrelevant and ignored. "The real borders were between day and night, between summer and winter, between the people."

The central character is Katherine, a young woman who works for the customs service; she spends much of her time inspecting Russian boats for illegal cigarettes and vodka. She is only twenty-two at the beginning of the story, but she is already divorced from the father of her son, a boy who is never referred to by name until half way through the novel. She likes her job because she meets many people who have seen the outside world; Katherine has been to Hammerfest twice, but she has never been south of the Arctic Circle. The best day of her life was the day she rode in a helicopter to make a raid on a Russian trawler; she enjoyed seeing the fjords from the air. She has very few options in her life. She is agrees to marry Thomas because it might improve her situation; this proves to be a bad decision.

I do not want to reveal too much, to spoil the mystery of the story, which covers six years of Katherine's life. It takes most of the novel for the reader to come to know the quiet woman, whose past is revealed very slowly by the author.

Reading Unformed Landscape feels a lot like watching a Scandinavian film; I was surprised to learn the author is Swiss. He probably has seen many European films; he has one of his characters watch Truffaut's Belle du Jour. I suspect anyone who enjoys Ingmar Bergen films will enjoy this novel.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joel Graber on October 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Painfully spare account of a year or two in the life of a young civil servant, an introspective woman not physically described but surely comely, and spare as well, who had not much ventured from her seaside village somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. One unloving spouse, then another, still in her twenties, a beautiful child not yet unhappy, a Protestant minister who hanged himself in the terminal one long dark night, a Dad who toiled for nothing and withered to nothing, a fine suitor lost at sea off a trawler, infrequent sex brief as the light and cold as the thin clear air, all resolved with more great sadness. A beautiful human evocation of the bleakness of the north and, as someone noted, recalling Camus's hopeless landscapes of the Sud.
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on July 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... thought Kathrine."

Christian, the man she's come all the way from the Arctic to France in hopes of loving, is of a similar mind: "The less you make yourself at home," he says, "the easier it is to leave." Elsewhere, in Aarhus, Denmark, Kathrine observes that the world is all just houses and people, "bigger and noisier" but nothing really that she hadn't seen at home. "There's not a lot of room in a person," she feels. "Ungefähre Landschaft" is the story of Kathrine's running away from and returning to ... to what? Kathrine was, as my own Nordic family would say, 'behind the door when enchantment was passed out.' Enchantment is what she seeks, and enchantment is what she has no ability to feel. Her emotional life is as bleak as the snowbound darkness of the village where she lives, north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. After two failed marriages and a child she has no attachment to, Kathrine simply goes 'AWOL' from her past.

This English translation of this bleakly moving novella, by Michael Hofmann, is likely to be excellent. Hofmann is a poet as well as an extraordinary translator of Kafka, Joseph Roth, and his own father Gert Hofmann. I discovered the Swiss author Peter Stamm by looking for other books Hofmann had chosen to translate but then ordering the German language edition. I have no doubt that "Unformed Landscape" will be adequately translated, partly because of Hofmann's skill and partly because Peter Stamm's writing style is as terse and sparse as the thoughts of the characters he portrays. Several critics have tried to suggest that "Ungefähre Landschaft" ends as a testament to Kathrine's bravery for seeking the "light" that is so scanty in her Nordic fringeland, or that she comes back to a life made richer by her encounters with the sensory South.
Read more ›
7 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
[The author of the book is PETER STAMM, not Michael Hofmann, as listed above. Hofmann is, however, the excellent translator.] The landscape of the title, in the far North of Norway, is not the true subject of this bracingly sparse novella, which is more devoted to the inner landscape of the heart. Peter Stamm's setting is landscape as a state of mind: "The fjeld looked like a drawing made of a few scribbled lines. Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway, up here they all looked alike. The borders were covered by snow, the snow joined everything up, and the darkness covered it over. The real borders were between day and night, between summer and winter, between the people."

Kathrine is a woman in her twenties, half Norwegian, half Sami (Lapp), who works as a customs inspector on this remote coast. Stamm describes her past history and her present life in this vast but abbreviated landscape in equally terse language: "Kathrine had married Helge, she had had a child, she had divorced Helge. She went to the lighthouse, she stayed there overnight, and she came back the next day." Her life is centered around her small village, the fish packing factory, the Fishermen's Refuge, the Elvekrog village bar, and the church, not that Kathrine has much time for that. She does her job, leaving the child with her mother. She sees a few male friends. She will get married again without fanfare, but this marriage will turn out no better than the first. She has never ventured below the Arctic Circle.

Until one day she takes the Hurtigruten coastal steamer and heads South. It is a journey of self-discovery, and she sees places that she had only read about. More importantly, she sees herself in those places, the same self, but different too.
Read more ›
10 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?