One of the most well-known authors from Norway is Jon Fosse. He was born in 1959 and spent his childhood on a modest farm on the nation’s west coast. After completing his literature degree at the University of Bergen, he worked as a full-time author, journalist, and teacher.
A prolific writer arose through Fosse’s career. His range of work is wide-ranging and extensive; it includes children’s books, dramas, essays, poetry, and even novels. His playwriting alone has garnered him international praise and more than a thousand productions across fifty different languages.
It makes sense why The New York Times dubbed him “the Beckett of the twenty-first century.” We questioned him about the books that have had the biggest impact on him when he was nominated for the International Booker Prize for the second time in 2022 for the third and concluding book in his Septology trilogy, A New Name: Septology VI-VII. The books listed below have influenced his life.
Books Liked By Him:
Collected Poems by Olav H. Hauge
The poet Olav H. Hauge lived in Ulvik, which is a nearby village to where I was raised. He is regarded as one of the foremost poets from Norway. When I was a teenager, I read some of his poetry, and some of them really spoke to me. I was born fifty years after Hauge. He became elderly, and in his final years, I occasionally met with him and received some handwritten notes from him. They now rank among my most prized possessions.
Collected Poems by Georg Trakl
Along with being a poet, Hauge was a translator. His collection of translated poems from the languages of English, German, and French has been widely disseminated in Norway. In my teen years, I read these translations. I was especially fascinated with his translations of German poetry. Paul Celan, Hölderlin, and particularly Georg Trakl. I was pretty young when I acquired Trakel’s German translation of his Collected Poems. They had a lasting influence on me, with Sebastian in Dream, his major collection, having the most likely. I translated that collection into Norwegian a while back. Although Trakl’s poetry doesn’t translate well into English, there are still many different English translations of his works accessible.
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a German author who started writing at the same time as Trakl did with his poems. The Trial is his best and most well-known book. I read this book when I was a young man, and it continues to be the piece of literature that most moves me, along with all of Kafka’s other works. The Trial was recently released in Norway in my own translation. I also translated some of his stories, which are among the best he ever wrote. Kafka altered the way we perceive the world, which in turn altered the world.
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury is one of the books I read when I was relatively young that has had the largest influence on me. I spent a lot of time reading and attempting to understand this challenging book. This book left me with a variety of lasting impressions, and it continues to be one of those reading experiences that stays with me constantly.
Collected Shorter Plays by Samuel Beckett
I first encountered Beckett’s stage-written works in an Oslo performance of three of his shorter plays. I hadn’t seen a lot of theater at the time, but I definitely recall that evening. Beckett’s have remained with me ever since. Of course, I appreciate his significant pieces like Waiting for Godot, but I believe his later, shorter plays to be his best.
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I read a few of the main modernist novels in my early twenties. And I fell in love with Virginia Woolf’s books. I started with Mrs. Dalloway. It seemed to me that she was just letting the words fly, and each one landed just where it belonged in a flowing motion, like the most exquisite literary music you could imagine. As a result of reading this book, my understanding of literature was altered.
Books written by him:
The recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature for this year is the 64-year-old novelist, playwright, essayist, and poet Jon Fosse. He is currently poised to surpass his old pupil Karl Ove Knausgrd as the most well-known contemporary Norwegian author in the world. Fosse has received praise for his work as a playwright and has been dubbed “the new Ibsen”; this is supported by the fact that, after Ibsen’s plays, his plays are produced the most frequently in Norway. Despite years of widespread praise, Fosse’s books have just recently started to become more widely read in English translation, so this is where we’ll start.
The entry point
Scenes from a Childhood is a collection of compelling (and usually very brief) pieces by Fosse that spans his writing career from 1983 to 2013. The main themes of his work—childhood, memory, family, and faith—along with a strong feeling of dualism and fatalism—are introduced through them. They represent the progression of life from extreme youth to old age and are fragmentary, elliptical, and occasionally purposefully unsophisticated. Red Kiss Mark of a Letter and And Then My Dog Will Come Back to Me are standouts.
If you only read one
In Fosse’s 2023 novella Aliss at the Fire, an elderly woman named Signe lays by the fire in her home near a fjord while daydreaming about herself and her husband Asle, who disappeared one day while rowing on the water in a storm. It is typical of Fosse’s work: depressing, with a grand use of a recurring central image, that of blackness, and structured around the influence of family history (the title character, Aliss, is Asle’s great-great-great-grandmother), doubles, and repeated actions: Asle’s grandfather shared the same name as him and perished by drowning. mysterious and hypnotic.
If you’re in a rush
The Boathouse, which was released in 1989, is the closest thing Fosse has ever written to a crime novel. The 30-year-old narrator appears to have failed in every aspect of his life; he is a virtual recluse who lives with his mother and appears incapable of taking care of himself. His most notable accomplishment was playing in a rock band with his childhood friend Knut, with whom he has since lost touch. But one summer, a fortuitous meeting with Knut—who is now married and rather successful—will have a tragic outcome. The narrator is simultaneously working on a novel that is an acute observation of every moment of his “restless” existence. This is the epitome of Fosse’s advice to his students to “write, don’t think” when this book was being written in the late 1980s in Bergen.
When Fosse’s 1999 play Dream of Autumn received its English language premiere in Dublin in 2006, the Guardian critic opined, “I can’t help but wonder if the cultural gap between Fosse’s world and our own is too wide.” But in the 17 years since then, a lot has changed in Europe and the rest of the world. The plot of the drama is straightforward, but the underlying themes are complex: a man and a woman meet in a cemetery and start dating; perhaps they were acquaintances in a previous existence. The man’s parents arrive for a funeral as they are leaving the cemetery, and as is customary for Fosse, time jumps forward by years in a lingering, yearning dance of intergenerational circularity.
The one worth persevering with
Lars Hertervig, a 19th-century landscape painter who died penniless in 1902 at the age of 70 and whose life was marred by the hallucinations and delusions that gave his paintings such a dreamlike, exquisite quality, is deeply explored by Fosse in Melancholy I and II. Hertervig first experienced psychosis while attending Düsseldorf’s art school, and the novels—originally published independently but now collected in one volume—not only examine mental illness but also focus heavily on what it means to be an artist. Melancholy II serves as a coda, with many narrative perspectives, including that of a would-be fictional biographer, many years after Hertervig’s passing. Melancholy I chronicles the young Hertervig’s obsessions, fears, and eventual breakdown during one horrible day.
The focus of Fosse’s septology, which consists of seven works (helpfully condensed into three volumes called The Other Name, Is Another, and A New Name), is Asle, an elderly artist who lives in a secluded area in south-west Norway. Asle, a Catholic convert like Fosse, is debating identity, time, and the arts. It is a remarkable piece about existential crises, memory loss, and persistent doppelgängers, real or imagined – the life lived and the possible life lived in the person of the shadowy other. Without a break between sentences, the author creates a terrifying and gripping story that makes the reader feel as though they are actually living Asle’s existence. A man, an artist, and a person come full circle in Septology, a work of profound religious faith, saying, “It’s definitely true that it’s only when things are darkest, blackest, that you see the light.”
The corpus of work by literary powerhouse Jon Fosse serves as a testament to the influence of minimalism and introspection in contemporary literature. Themes, writing style, and literary influence of some of his most well-known books have been examined in this blog article. Fosse’s writings are a journey into the human spirit, from the eerily gorgeous vistas of his Norwegian settings to the profound psychological examinations of his characters.
Fosse stands out as a really unique voice in modern literature thanks to his distinctive writing style, which is distinguished by sparse prose and a concentration on his characters’ inner life. His mastery of the craft is demonstrated by his ability to communicate complex ideas and existential dilemmas with only the most basic linguistic choices. You will inevitably be dragged into the inner lives of his characters whether you read “Melancholy” with its self-reflective first-person narration or “Morning and Evening” with its beautiful language.
The examination of human interactions, which are frequently marked by isolation and a sense of separation, is one of the recurrent themes throughout Fosse’s work. In “Melancholy,” we see the protagonist’s and his wife’s tense relationship, which is characterized by a strong sense of longing and unmet desires. It is impossible to avoid thinking about our own relationships with loved ones in light of Fosse’s profound and terribly relatable representation of this emotional distance.
Fosse dives even more deeply into the human mind in “The Other Name: Septology I-II,” examining the idea of identity and the duality of existence. Asle, the main character, wrestles with existential issues after running across his own doppelgänger, which leads to a number of profoundly philosophical and thought-provoking existential reflections. Fosse’s skill as an intellectual writer is demonstrated by the way he skillfully incorporated philosophical issues into his story.
Fosse’s realistic depiction of nature and the surroundings is another outstanding feature of his work. In his books, the Norwegian environment is more than just a setting; it has a life of its own. Readers are taken right into the heart of Norway by Fosse’s descriptions, which take them across the country’s rough coastline, vast fjords, and isolated islands. His stories become more compelling as a result of the depth and authenticity this sense of location gives to them.
Additionally, Fosse’s investigation of time in “Morning and Evening” as a fluid and non-linear idea is evidence of his creative storytelling. He questions accepted ideas of time by having his characters reflect on the past, present, and future. In doing so, he invites readers to think about how intertwined all of life’s events are, as well as how our memories affect how we see the world.
In conclusion, reading a book by Jon Fosse is a unique and thought-provoking experience. His novels are a literary treasure trove. His writings ring true long after the last page has been turned because of his simple style, profound psychological insights, and evocative descriptions of nature. Fosse’s writing is not only enjoyable to read but also a profound investigation of the human condition because of how he explores human connections, identity, and time, which forces readers to confront their own existential problems. A tribute to the enduring ability of literature to enlighten the depths of the human psyche, Jon Fosse’s books are well worth the exploration whether you’re a devoted reader or are just discovering his works.