‘Wakefulness’ (2007, Norwegian: Andvake), ‘Olav’s Dreams’ (2012, Nynorsk: Olavs draumar), and ‘Weariness’ (2014, Nynorsk: Kveldsvævd) are three novellas by Norwegian writer Jon Fosse that won the 2015 ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize‘ as a trilogy. Born in 1959, Jon Fosse is an internationally renowned playwright whose plays have been staged in Europe, Asia, and the US in more than a thousand different productions. In his home country Fosse’s novels are considered equally as important. These include such masterpieces as ‘Morgon og kveld’ (nominated for the ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize‘ in 2001) and ‘Det er Ales’ (2004). ‘Trilogien’ (The Trilogy) brings together three stories about a young couple, Asle and Alida. In the first book, ‘Andvake’, the couple are making their way through a Bergen shrouded in historical fog to find somewhere for Alida to feed their child. The time is far from clear: we soon seem to be in the 19th century, and soon after the traditions and customs of the Middle Ages resound through Bergen’s streets. An accident? Or a crime that changes the course of history? It is not until the second book, ‘Olavs draumar’, that we see the full consequences for the couple and their newborn son. In the trilogy’s final book, ‘Kveldsvævd’, we meet Alida once more as she tries to build a new life, and through their descendants we find out more about what happened to Alida, Asle, and their child. The three books comprise almost three hundred pages of prose, and through their condensed tableaux, they tell a story that stretches over generations and centuries. Fosse’s works are often characterised by repetition and by dwelling on subjects, but just like other texts by Fosse, these short stories also convey a wealth of dramatic events: death and murder, children and adults who lose one other, and the brutality of people in positions of power as well as within intimate relationships. The protagonists are perhaps the victims of offence, but are themselves not beyond committing offence when the need for life’s essentials is great enough. A coherent narrative emerges from the three episodes. The crime in book one with its mixture of mystery and evangelical pastiche takes on a different character once we have read the whole story: it is at once elevated into vision poetry and brought completely down to earth. According to the Adjudicating Committee, the 2015 prize winner is a rare example of innovative style hand in hand with content that has the ability to touch readers across time and place. Conveyed in a highly poetic form of prose and with a wilfully playful attitude to the narrative, this love story spans all times and no time. Like few others, the author manages to chisel out a highly personal literary form. Weaving biblical allusions, Christian mysticism and poetic imagery into the tension of the plot in a way that opens up the story of two people in love to a wider world and to history.
Bergen, Books, Culture, Literature, Norway