Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse
Original title – det er als
Translator – Damion Searls
Source – personnel copy
One thing I have started to do since I moved house is buy a few very cheap books from amazon of writers I have had on my to read list forever. Jon Fosse is a point in case I have had him down for a few years as a writer to read since he started to feature near the top of the nobel hopefuls every year. I was a bit put of by the fact he is compared to beckett but when I saw this a recent book from Dalkey archive for under a pound plus postage I couldn’t resist it. I’m , pleased I did as this is my book of the year so far. I can see why Fosse has won every major prize at home and around the world barring the big one the Nobel.
I’ve seen much better boats, she says
I like this boat, Asle says
But couldn’t you get yourself a bigger boat a safer boat, Signe says
I don’t want a new boat , Asle says.
Why do you like this boat so much,Signe says
I knew the man who built it, and he built it for me,Asle says
He built boats his whole life, the man who built it and he built one for me, he says
Yes , Signe says
The boat had been a worry for his wife Signe before the day he drowned in the Fjord as she watched in the Black water.
Aliss at fire is one of those single paragraph work of monolgue, at time I was reminded of Thomas Bernhard for this long winded style. The book is told as a widowed wife looks back on the her life with her dead husband Asle , but also the family that has been on that spot next to the fjord where she sits on a bench looking out at the black water like she did the night her husband’s boat ran into trouble. She imagines the family over time in other boats other deaths on the fjord her connection to the boat times she asked him if he wanted a new boat for the lake and he said no he was happy with his old boat.This is an inner monologue of time drifting her life now than and before as ghosts seem to haunt here in the dark coming out to touch her almost, at points she even touches her own body to feel close to the past.A tale of a woman trying to cope with death.
But forward, it’s moving, and the boat moves out across fjord, out father and father, in the wind, in the rain and even through the darkness is dense and thick around him in a weird way it’s not dark he thinks, because the fjord is shining black then it it’s not really that cold, he is wearing his thick sweater keeping him warm from rowing,he thinks and he looks back over his shoulder and there up ahead, far away there, there near the middle of the Fjord, what is that over there ?
Asle on the water in the boat he had built for him. The use of black is interesting.
This is one of those short novellas , that last with you as a reader, I thought when i put it down it was like a lost Peirene in a way.The story is dark as dark as the black water , hair and nights that are a recurring theme in the book boats also crop up a lot maybe as a vessel from this life to the next maybe the Fjord is this families river of sticks. As I said I was reminded of Bernhard but also maybe the constant mention of black hair , black water remind me of Dylan Thomas under Milkwood especially took me back to seeing that as a one piece monologue by Richard Burton Nephew .This is death playing chess or the dark sections of a film by Roy Anderson the real dark side of Nordic life Fjord and boats are dangerous. Fosse may well win the Nobel in the next few years.
Have you read Fosse ?