Norwegian Writer Jon Fosse Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

From a Washington Post story by Jill Pellettieri headlined “Norwegian writer Jon Fosse receives the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature”:

The Norwegian novelist and playwright Jon Fosse has won the Nobel Prize for literature, the Swedish Academy announced, for works that “give voice to the unsayable.” .

“Fosse’s magnum opus is his ‘Septology’ in three books,” a representative of the Academy said, “completed in 2021, in which an elderly artist speaks to himself as another person” over the course of seven days. The critic Merve Emre, writing in a profile of Fosse for the New Yorker in 2022, said: “To read Fosse’s plays and novels is to enter into communion with a writer whose presence one feels all the more intensely owing to his air of reserve, his withdrawal.” And: “ ‘Septology’ is the only novel I have read that has made me believe in the reality of the divine.”

The California-based publisher Transit Books published “Septology,” translated by Damion Searls, as one volume in 2022. Prior to that, Transit had published it in three separate volumes titled “The Other Name,” “I Is Another” and “A New Name.” “A New Name” was a finalist for the National Book Award for translated literature and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Transit will release Fosse’s next novel, “A Shining,” the story of a Norwegian man lost in a remote forest, also translated by Searls, later this month.

Fosse was born in 1959 on the Norwegian west coast, and his large body of work spans genres, ranging from plays, novels and poetry collections, to essays, translations and children’s books.

The prestigious award, bestowed by 18 judges who make up the Swedish Academy, honors a writer’s entire body of work, not a single work. As Alfred Nobel, for whom the prizes are named, specified in his will, the prize should go “to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” The winner receives 11 million Swedish kronor — close to one million dollars.

French writer Annie Ernaux won the prize last year, receiving the Nobel “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” As Meghan O’Rourke wrote in The Washington Post, Ernaux “has produced a succession of slender, scorching and closely observed books about experiences that usually go unrecorded or unexamined.” Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel in literature in 2021, and American poet Louise Glück won in 2020.

Nobel winners in physics, medicine and chemistry were announced earlier this week. Two scientists, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, received the Nobel in medicine for their groundbreaking research on messenger RNA, which was critical to the development of Covid vaccines. The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded on Friday, and the Nobel Prize for economics will be awarded on Oct. 9. All 2023 winners are invited to an awards ceremony to be held on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

Jill Pellettieri is an editor for Book World. She previously served as deputy editor at The Yale Review and managing editor at Slate.

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