The 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature has been given to Jon Fosse for “his innovative works and writing that give language to the unsayable,” according to the Swedish Academy, which unveiled the prize in Stockholm on Thursday.
Jon Fosse, 64, was born on Norway’s west coast. His oeuvre includes over 40 plays as well as poetry, novels, children’s books, essays, and translations.
Jon Fosse is well-known in literary circles around the world and has been dubbed the most creative living playwright. He has won significant European accolades and has long been completely funded by the Norwegian government, with an eternal salary and a home near the Royal Palace in Oslo.
Jon Fosse depicts common circumstances that we are all too familiar with. His extreme simplification of language and dramatic action convey in the simplest terms the most powerful human sensations of anxiety and powerlessness, the committee remarked.
Jon Fosse, greatest opus—seven sections in three novels collected together into a single volume titled “Septology”—portrays the story of an aged painter and widower who lives alone while confronted with the reality of religion, identity, art, and family life.
The formal experimentation in “Septology” has been commended. Jon Fosse’s introspective style is hardly disrupted by periods, giving his philosophical investigation an incantatory rhythm.
And I see myself standing and staring at the image with the two lines that cross in the center, one purple line and one brown line—it’s a painting wider than it is high, and I see that I’ve drawn the lines slowly, which opens the novel, which continues slowly yet breathlessly for nearly 1,000 pages.
“Septology” is made up of three books: “The Other Name,” “A New Name,” and “I is Another,” which tell a story that unfolds over seven days.
The work continues apparently indefinitely and without sentence breaks, but is technically held together through frequent themes and ritualistic gestures of prayer, Nobel committee head Anders Olsson remarked at a news conference on Thursday.
Jon Fosse, Greatest Work “Septology”
The narrative describes Asle, the narrator’s, battle to finish his painting – and contrasts him constantly with another Asle, who is also an artist but is afflicted by alcohol and serves as his counterpart. By pitting multiple portrayals of the same person against one another, the novel questions how we become the individuals we become.
The Septology is an important work that serves as an apology for his own destiny, a tribute to his late wife, and a Kunstlerroman about his own career as a painter, Olsson added.
Fosse mixes strong regional ties, both linguistic and geographical, with modernist creative techniques, the jury noted, naming Irish playwright Samuel Beckett and Austrian poet Georg Trakl as influences.
While Jon Fosse shares his ancestors’ pessimistic view, his gnostic perspective does not culminate in a nihilistic disregard for the world. His work is filled with warmth and humor, as well as a naive sensitivity that portrays his stark pictures of human encounters, the committee added.
Fitzcarraldo Editions, an independent London-based publisher formed in 2014, has now added a fifth Nobel Prize-winning author to its ranks in Fosse’s honor.
Fitzcarraldo has published four Nobel laureates in the last nine years, featuring Fosse, Svetlana Alexievich in 2015, Olga Tokarczuk in 2018, and Annie Ernaux in 2022. Fitzcarraldo also publishes translations by Elfriede Jelinek, the 2004 winner of the award.
However, the selection of Fosse as this year’s laureate will do little to dispel complaints that the council favors European writers over authors from other continents.
The Nobel Prize is a collection of honors presented yearly by the Swedish Nobel Foundation to people in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. In addition, the Sveriges Riksbank established a financial science prize in 1968. In 1901, the inaugural prize was granted.