11 April 2003
Jon Fosse (born in 1959) belongs to the generation of writers that in the 1980’s introduced post-modernism into Norway. He made his debut with the Tarjei Vesaas-inspired novel Red, Black in 1983; after it came the novel Locked Guitar and a poetry collection, Angel with Water in His Eyes (1986). Up to the middle of the 1990’s Fosse continued to stand out as an essayist and a novelist who used a writing technique that can be described as “scream-of-consciousness”. The action always takes place in the present, and there is no omniscient narrator who knows more about the action than what is experienced at any time by the first-person narrator. Jon Fosse has given his own fiction technique the English name of writing, and he is preoccupied with writing rhythm. His rhythm is repetitious and is so close to the first-person’s consciousness that one can speak of the novel’s rhythm as mirroring the first-person’s experience of the world; the same thoughts and sensations occur again and again, manic obsessions that display the locked patterns of action. Jon Fosse has written two novels based on the life of the Norwegian painter Lars Hertervig (1830-1902), Melancholia I and Melancholia II. These two novels are the highpoint in his novel writing so far.
In recent years, he has concentrated exclusively on writing plays. In his plays, too, the encounters between characters are the focus, and it is stressed that the encounters can be so powerful that they change the characters, that uncertainty over how far each has been understood and understands the other torments the characters to such an extent that they plunge into new attempts to understand. Not knowing brings into play a new speech, a kind of slip-of-the-tongue speech. It is also an everyday speech that catches the intentions behind what is said. The little that is said is so charged that it communicates below the surface all it is impossible to say. It is in his work with voice, with the way a thing is spoken, that Fosse has accomplished something quite extraordinary. Fosse has had a great breakthrough with his plays, become a favourite of the media, and been performed in theatres all over Europe.