This year’s Nobel Prize winner for literature, Norwegian author Jon Fosse, is one of the bookmakers’ frontrunners and has been considered a strong contender for the past decade.
Still, it was a surprise when Mats Malm, permanent secretary of the Nobel committee, read out Fosse’s name. A day earlier, Swedish critic Agri Ismail said the Norwegian playwright and novelist’s chances of winning were “too obvious”. The Swedish Academy has defied bookmakers’ predictions and caught critics off guard many times in the past, and if there was one consensus in the run-up to the award, it was that the prize would not go to Europe, where six of the past ten winners have come. from.
At Fox, however, the prize went not just to a European writer but to a writer with a strong Nordic background. “A rather reserved and cunning writer,” literary critic Per Wirtén said of Swedish broadcaster SVT. Fosse’s early novels were “a kind of mumbled monologue, usually from the fringes of society: the alcoholic, the poor, the outcast. I thought that was a great choice.”
Fosse is not only the first writer since Harold Pinter in 2005 to win the world’s most prestigious literary prize primarily for a play, but also the first since Sigrid Undset in 1928. ) and the first winner in the history of the prize to write in a dramatic form. New Norwegian is one of the two official standards of the Norwegian language, along with Bokmål. While 85-90% of Norwegians today use Bokmal as their writing standard, only about 10-15% of the population uses Nynorsk. Damion Searls, Fosse’s English translator, said many Nynorsk speakers consider him a “national hero” because of his support for the language.
Astrid Hygen Meyer, literary editor of the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen, believes that the award adds a political dimension in the Norwegian context: “The Nynorsk language is a minority that is always under pressure language, and Foss was a strong advocate of the Nynorsk language and he demonstrated the unique literary qualities of this written language,” she said.
For Fox, the award marked his true arrival on the international stage. His works have been translated into more than 50 languages, and many of his plays are regularly performed in Scandinavia as well as in Germany and France. However, they never fully penetrated Anglophone theater. His seven novels “Seven Worlds” changed this situation, and its sixth to seventh parts “A New Name” were shortlisted for the British International Booker Prize and the American National Book Award.
Fosse’s victory on Thursday also marked another step forward in Norway’s quiet emergence as Europe’s understated cultural powerhouse. Recent years have seen the success of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s novels, the critical acclaim of Joachim Trier’s romantic comedy The Worst Man in the World, and Netflix’s pulpy Trolls ” and “Ragnarok” also achieved impressive ratings. Now, the Nordic country of more than 5 million people has another Nobel Prize to brag about.