Jon Fosse: Norwegian Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

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For the first time in 95 years, a Norwegian has been awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. Here's an introduction to Jon Fosse.

Norway's literary community is celebrating following the announcement of Jon Fosse's award. In addition to him being the first Norwegian in almost a century to pick up the prize, it's also a first for nynorsk, the less common variant of written Norwegian.

Jon Fosse author promo.
Jon Fosse. Photo: Tom Kolstad / Samlaget.

He struggled to express his feelings following the announcement, saying, “I am overwhelmed and somewhat scared.”

The Swedish Academy, while announcing the award, praised Fosse for his “innovative drama and prose which gives voice to the unspeakable.” They further highlighted Fosse's distinct and unique style of writing.

Introducing Jon Fosse

Born in 1959, Fosse is an award-winning author, translator, and playwright from Hardanger. Residing in Oslo since 2011, he's considered one of the most important authors of modern times.

Debuting in 1983, Fosse has penned over seventy works spanning novels, stories, poems, children's literature, essays, and plays, translated into more than 50 languages.

Fosse's works have been noted to represent a modern continuation of the dramatic tradition established by Henrik Ibsen in the 19th century. He's renowned for his distinct language and almost musical, rhythmic writing style.

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Fosse concluded his magnum opus “Septology” in 2021 to outstanding reviews. The last volume, “A New Name,” received a dice roll rating of 6 in VG (the top score in Norwegian reviews). In February last year, Fosse received rave reviews for the entire work in The New York Times.

Surprised, but prepared

While surprised when he received the call about the award, Fosse admitted to NRK that he had been cautiously preparing for this possibility over the past decade. Since the announcement, his phone hasn't stopped ringing.

Norwegian books on a bookshelf in a library

Currently residing in Grotten, Oslo's state artist residence, Fosse chose to celebrate the occasion in Frekhaug, Nordhordaland, surrounded by his family. While acknowledging the significance of the Nobel Prize, Fosse's primary joy was for the recognition of Nynorsk, saying, “I am happy for Nynorsk's sake.”

Cecilie Seiness, the editor Fosse's publishing house, Samlaget, couldn't contain her excitement, exclaiming, “It's unbelievable! A big day for Jon Fosse, Samlaget, and Nynorsk!”

Congratulations from far and wide

Congratulatory messages have poured in from both Norway and abroad. Notable figures including author Jo Nesbø, Culture Minister Lubna Jaffery, Peder Lofnes Hauge of Noregs Mållag extended their best wishes.

Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre praised Fosse on Twitter, celebrating the “outstanding authorship that impacts people globally.”

Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun.
Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920.

The last Norwegian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature was Sigrid Undset in 1928. Fosse now joins the illustrious list of Norwegian Nobel laureates which includes Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1903), Knut Hamsun (1920), and Sigrid Undset (1928).

This is a historic day for nynorsk as Fosse is the first user of this language variant to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Fosse attributes much of this honor to Nynorsk itself.

Despite marking 40 years of authorship this year, Fosse has no intention of stopping. Writing, for him, is a way of life, he says.

The Nobel Prize in Literature is one of the five awards presented by the Nobel Foundation, with recipients chosen by the members of the Swedish Academy. It's regarded as one of the world's most prestigious literary awards.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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