Norwegian Author Jon Fosse Wins 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature for Innovation in Literature
Oslo, October 5, 2023 – Celebrated Norwegian author Jon Fosse has been awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature for his groundbreaking contributions to the world of literature, particularly for his innovative plays and prose that give voice to the unsayable.
About Jon Fosse
Jon Fosse, born in 1959 in Haugesund on the picturesque Norwegian west coast, boasts an extensive body of work encompassing various genres, including plays, novels, poetry collections, essays, children’s books, and translations. While Fosse is now renowned as one of the world’s most widely performed playwrights, his influence extends to the realm of prose as well. His debut novel, ‘Raudt, svart’ (1983), which courageously tackled the theme of suicide, set the stage for his subsequent literary endeavors with its rebellious and emotionally raw narrative.
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Fosse’s journey to becoming a prominent dramatist in Europe reached a milestone with Claude Régy’s 1999 Paris production of his play ‘Nokon kjem til å komme’ (1996; ‘Someone Is Going to Come,’ 2002). Even in this early work, Fosse’s distinct style was evident. He was noted for his radical simplification of language and dramatic action, which allowed him to convey profound human emotions like anxiety and powerlessness in the simplest of terms. This unique ability to evoke humanity’s loss of direction and the potential for deeper experiences akin to divinity has positioned him as a major innovator in contemporary theatre.
Similar to the great Norwegian Nynorsk literature precursor Tarjei Vesaas, Fosse seamlessly blends strong local ties, both linguistically and geographically, with modernist artistic techniques. His literary influences include notable names like Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard, and Georg Trakl. While Fosse shares a pessimistic outlook with his predecessors, his distinctive gnostic vision doesn’t lead to nihilistic contempt for the world. Instead, warmth, humor, and a naïve vulnerability permeate his works, juxtaposed with stark images of human experiences.
In his second novel, ‘Stengd gitar’ (1985), Fosse presents a haunting exploration of one of his central themes—the critical moment of irresolution. The story revolves around a young mother who, while taking out the trash, inadvertently locks herself out of her apartment with her baby still inside. Faced with the Kafkaesque dilemma of being “before the law,” she is torn between seeking help and abandoning her child. Fosse’s narrative style, often described as ‘Fosse minimalism,’ strips the story down to its essential elements, creating an instantly relatable and evocative tale.
In his work ‘Sterk vind’ (2021), often referred to as ‘a dramatic poem,’ Fosse’s increased use of imagery and symbolism in his plays becomes evident. His incorporation of lyrical language, dating back to his first poetry collection, ‘Engel med vatn i augene’ (1986), has always been a hallmark of his writing. The recently published ‘Dikt i samling’ (2021), a collection of his poetry, underscores the pivotal role poetry has played in shaping his elementary diction and understanding of the boundaries of language.
Jon Fosse’s selection as the recipient of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature recognizes his profound impact on the world of letters, where he continues to explore the boundaries of language and human experience.
For more information about the Nobel Prize in Literature and Jon Fosse’s work, visit here.
Anders Olsson, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, The Swedish Academy