Jon Fosse: The Unspeakable Voice of Nordic Literature – Nobel Prize Winner

2023-10-05 11:33:35

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Jon Fosse, a master of spare Nordic literature in a sprawling body of work ranging from plays to novels and children’s books, won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday for works that “give voice to the unsayable.”

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Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee, said Fosse’s work is rooted “in the language and nature of his Norwegian background.”

“I am overwhelmed and grateful. I see this as an award to the literature that first and foremost aims to be literature, without other considerations,” Fosse, 64, said in a statement released by his publishing house, Samlaget.

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One of his country’s most-performed dramatists, Fosse has written some 40 plays as well as novels, short stories, children’s books, poetry and essays. The Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, said it was “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”

Mats Malm, permanent secretary of the academy, reached Fosse by telephone to inform him of the win. He said the writer was driving in the countryside and promised to drive home carefully.

A 2021 rehearsal for the premiere of the opera “Sleepless,” adapted from a trilogy by Jon Fosse. Photo by Nina Hansch/ picture alliance via Getty Images

Fosse is the fourth Norwegian writer to get the Nobel. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson got it in 1903, Knut Hamsun was awarded it in 1920 and Sigrid Undset in 1928.

His work “A New Name: Septology VI-VII” — described by Olsson as Fosse’s “magnum opus” — was a finalist for the International Booker Prize in 2022.

The Nobel Prizes carry a cash award of 11 million Swedish kronor ($1 million) from a bequest left by their creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. Winners also receive an 18-carat gold medal and diploma at the award ceremonies in December.

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Last year, French author Annie Ernaux won the prize for what the prize-giving Swedish Academy called “the courage and clinical acuity” of books rooted in her small-town background in the Normandy region of northwest France.

Ernaux was just the 17th woman among the 119 Nobel literature laureates. The literature prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers, as well as too male-dominated.

In 2018, the award was postponed following sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, which names the Nobel literature committee, and sparked an exodus of members. The academy revamped itself but faced more criticism for giving the 2019 award to Austria’s Peter Handke, who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.

Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands.

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