Norwegian Jon Fosse, an accomplished novelist, essayist, and dramatist whose works are among the most frequently performed in Europe, was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 5, 2023. This prestigious award recognizes his extensive literary and theatrical career, marked by existential depth and a minimalist style.
The Nobel Prize in Literature has a history of occasionally stepping outside the boundaries of traditional literary genres. Take, for instance, Bob Dylan, who clinched the award in 2016 for introducing "new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." While some speculated that singer and poet Lana Del Rey could be the surprise winner for 2023, the ultimate laureate turned out to be Jon Fosse, an icon in theatrical circles worldwide. The Nobel Swedish Academy attributed the accolade to Fosse "for his innovative plays and prose that give voice to the unspoken."
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A Life in Words
Born in 1959 in Haugesund, on the western coast of Norway, Fosse is no stranger to accolades. A favorite among betting circles for the prize, he is a seasoned writer whose works have been translated into nearly 40 languages. Among other honors, Fosse received France's National Order of Merit in 2007. He has also penned children's stories like "Kant", "Black on Wet", and "Little Sister", further showcasing his versatile literary prowess, often referred to by him as "slow prose."
Mastery of the Stage
In theatre, a medium to which he turned after writing nearly fifteen narratives, his body of work is wide-ranging yet consistently features a refined style, enigmatic dialogues, and meaningful pauses. His first play, "And We'll Never Be Parted," was performed and published in 1994. Over the years, renowned directors like Claude Régy, Patrice Chéreau, and Thomas Ostermeier have adapted his works, stamping their authority on plays like "Someone is Going to Come", "Autumn Dream", and "Name."
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An Existential Explorer
Fosse's existential quests echo throughout his works, as evidenced in one of his most emblematic plays, "I am the Wind", penned in 2007 and revisited by Belgian collective tg STAN in 2021. The playwright enjoys dabbling in repetitions and abstractions, navigating a course through perennial questioning with his minimalist brush strokes. "I am overwhelmed and grateful", said an emotional Fosse upon receiving the award. "I consider this to be an award for literature that aims to be primarily literature, without any other considerations."