Norwegian Author Jon Fosse Wins 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature

NTB/Ali Zare via Reuters
Jon Fosse poses during the launch of the third volume of Septologien, in Oslo, Norway, September 3, 2021.

STOCKHOLM, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Norwegian author and dramatist Jon Fosse won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable,” the award-giving body said on Thursday.

The prize is awarded by the Swedish Academy and is worth 11 million Swedish crowns (about $1 million).

The academy said that Fosse, born in 1959 in Haugesund on Norway’s west coast, had produced works spanning a variety of genres including plays, novels, poetry collections, essays, children’s books and translations. He is one of the world’s most performed playwrights, it said.

“Fosse blends a rootedness in the language and nature of his Norwegian background, with artistic techniques in the wake of modernism,” Swedish Academy member Anders Olsson said.

Fosse said he was “overwhelmed and somewhat frightened.”

“I see this as an award to the literature that first and foremost aims to be literature, without other considerations,” he said in a statement.

Fosse’s European breakthrough as a dramatist came with Claude Régy’s 1999 Paris production of his 1996 play “Nokon kjem til å komme” (“Someone Is Going to Come”).

His magnum opus in prose is the Septology he completed in 2021 – “Det andre namnet” (2019), “The Other Name” (2020), “Eg er ein annan” (2020), “I is Another” (2020), and “Eit nytt namn” (“A New Name” -2021).

Fosse, 64, who writes in the least common of the two official versions of Norwegian, said he regarded the award as a recognition of this language and the movement promoting it, and that he ultimately owed the prize to the language itself.

Known as “new Norwegian” and used by only about 10% of the country’s population, Fosse’s version of the language was developed in the 19th century with rural dialects at its base, making it an alternative to the dominant use of Danish that followed from a 400-year union with Denmark.

According to his publisher, Fosse’s work has been translated into more than 40 languages, and there have been more than 1,000 different productions of his plays.

Estabished in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel, the prizes for achievements in literature, science and peace have been awarded since 1901, becoming a career pinnacle in the fields.

The economics prize is a later addition established by the Swedish central bank.

Alongside the peace prize, literature has often drawn the most attention, and controversy, thrusting lesser known authors into the global spotlight as well as lifting book sales for well-established literary super stars.

Over the years, the literature prize has also picked winners well beyond the novelist tradition, including playwrights, historians, philosophers and poets, even breaking new ground with the award to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 2016.