The 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Jon Fosse “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”
The dramatist, 64, was born in the city of Haugesund on Norway’s western coast, but is hardly recognized outside of his native country. However, the author is well-known throughout the world in literary circles and is referred to be “the most produced living playwright.” He has received renowned honors from across Europe and has long received full support from the Norwegian government, including a lifetime income and housing close to Oslo’s Royal Palace. He received the National Order of Merit of France’s Knighthood in 2007.
“His immense oeuvre, written in Norwegian Nynorsk and spanning a variety of genres, consists of a wealth of plays, novels, poetry collections, essays, children’s books, and translations,” the Nobel committee stated in its citation. Although he is currently one of the playwrights with the most performances worldwide, he is also gaining recognition for his prose.
The Nobel committee chairman mentioned Fosse’s “artistry in the wake of modernism” while discussing the winner during his announcement. The author has frequently been referred to as “the new Henrik Ibsen,” while Samuel Beckett was also mentioned. Damion Searls, however, used a different parallel in an essay published in The Paris Review in 2015.
“Think of the four elder statesmen of Norwegian letters as a bit like the Beatles,” he wrote. “Per Petterson is the solid, always dependable Ringo; Dag Solstad is John, the experimentalist, the ideas man; Karl Ove Knausgaard is Paul, the cute one; and Fosse is George, the quiet one, mystical, spiritual, probably the best craftsman of them all.”
The playwright started out as a novelist and didn’t make it big as a playwright until he was in his forties. His debut play, Nokon kjem til komme, which had been written in 1992, received a Paris production in 1998, solidifying his name as an international dramatist. His translator, Ann Henning Jocelyn, claims that his work has since been performed in more than 60 nations worldwide.
The Nobel Committee has come under fire for favoring writers from Europe and the United Kingdom. Only five writers of color have received the literature prize in the past 20 years. The 83-year-old French author Annie Ernaux received the honor the previous year.