[The JRB Daily] Norwegian author and dramatist Jon Fosse receives the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature

The 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Norwegian playwright, novelist and poet Jon Fosse.

The Swedish Academy said the award was for Fosse’s ‘innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable’.

Mats Malm, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said he had just spoken to Fosse on the phone, while he was driving in the Norwegian countryside.

‘Not every laureate believes me when I make the call,’ Malm said ‘but he was prepared to have confidence until one o’clock [when the prize was announced].’

Fosse’s work, written in Norwegian Nynorsk, is extensive, and spans a variety of genres, including about forty plays, as well as novels, poetry collections, essays, children’s books and translations.  

Fosse was born in Haugesund, Norway, in 1959. He suffered a serious accident at the age of seven, and the near-death experience is said to have greatly influenced his writing. His debut novel, Raudt, svart (Red, Black), was published in 1983. His first play, Og aldri skal vi skiljast (And We’ll Never Be Parted), was performed and published in 1994. His work has received multiple awards, including the Ordre National du Mérite of France, the Ibsen Award and the European Prize for Literature. He was ranked eighty-third on a 2007 list of the top one hundred living geniuses by The Daily Telegraph.

Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel committee, said Fosse was ‘one of the most widely performed playwrights in the world’.

‘Fosse blends a rootedness in the language and nature of his Norwegian background with artistic techniques in the wake of Modernism,’ he said.

‘In his radical reduction of language and dramatic action, he exposes human anxiety and ambivalence at its core.’

The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to ‘the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction’, according to the will of prize founder Alfred Nobel.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 11 million Swedish kronor (about R19 million).

Fosse was a strong bookmakers’ tip to take the award, along with Romanian novelist Cărtărescu, experimental Chinese author Can Xue, Salman Rushdie and perennial favourites Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai and Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.

Last year’s laureate was French author Annie Ernaux.

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