Before I Burn

Before I Burn
A Novel
Gaute Heivoll; Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett A Lannan Translation Selection

“[Before I Burn’s] power is not in who did it or even why, but in the brutal clarity of Heivoll’s unhurried and mesmerizing sentences, pushing through a chilly landscape like the steady shining of blue headlights.”Harper’s Magazine

“It’s impossible to fully experience another person’s perspective. To know why they set buildings on fire, or why they feel compelled to write books. But Before I Burn makes a persuasive case that the novel is still the best method we've got.”—NPR

About the Book

Based on a true account: an international literary sensation about an arsonist on the loose in rural Norway and of the young man haunted by the story
In 1970s Norway, an arsonist targets a small town for one long, terrifying month. One by one, buildings go up in flames. Suspicion spreads among the neighbors as they wonder if one of their own is responsible. But as the heat and panic rise, new life finds a way to emerge. Amid the chaos, only a day after the last house is set afire, the community draws together for the christening of a young boy named Gaute Heivoll. As he grows up, stories about the time of fear and fire become deeply engrained in his young mind until, as an adult, he begins to retell the story. At the novel’s apex at a literary festival in Italy, the lives of Heivoll’s friends and neighbors mix with his own life as the identity of the arsonist and his motivations are slowly revealed. Based on the true account of Norway’s most dramatic arson case, Before I Burn is a powerful, gripping breakout novel from an exceptionally talented author.

Additional Reviews

“[Before I Burn] succeeds as a dual character study: of the criminal as he goes about his wicked work, and of the narrator as he tries to make sense of a hazy but vital piece of his hometown’s history.”The New York Times

"Heivoll's book is tense and taut, taking us inside the mind of an arsonist in a way that is frightening and tragic."Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“Ferociously readable. . . . Before I Burn is an uncomfortably creepy, frequently heartbreaking investigation written by one good young man into the lives of three good young men.”Shelf Awareness