Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Norwegian short stories

Original title (part of ) – kortare Prosa

Translator and selector of the collection – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

It is strange I choose this book today. As it was just a couple of days ago we found out that the Nobel prize for this year is due to be announced in a years time alongside the 2019 Nobel. Well, today’s writer Jon Fosse is a writer that has been slowly climbing the ladder of Nobel betting. He has written a number of Novels and plays. He has won various awards Including the Nordic lit prize and the French order of merit. I have featured him in his novel Aliss at the fire . So I was pleased to see a collection of his stories, coming out from Fitzcarraldo.

THE AXE

One day Father yells at him and he goes out to the woodshed, he gets the biggest axe, he carries it into the living room and puts it down next to his father’s chair and asks his father to kill him. As one might expect, this only makes his father angrier

One of the vignettes from the first piece.

 

This is a number of stories collected together the first part of the collection is a collection of Vignettes about a childhood , there is a child like sense to the prose from Father holding an axe, through those points in childhood when things start to be notice like the time someone has a pink handbag, girls, the first smoke, the odd youth Asle we see through the young boys eyes drunk at first on some community steps and then later the older lads father grabs the youth as some pallets come crashin down on the dock near where he just was. Then we have a longer novella which in some ways had a similar theme to the curious incident of the dog in the night as a dog is killed. This death involves a dispute between neighbors. It is told from a young boys perspective so we see his view of the world. Then the last part is an older brother still a young voice talking about his young sister in another collection as his sister is born and the times they have together like falling asleep in the same bed his sister’s hands in his hair.

I think the man by the bend has shot your dog.She says

I hear her say that she thinks the man by the bend has shot my dog. What ? what is she saying? shot the dog? What can she mean someone’s shot my dog.

I saw the go and I heard a bang.

What the fuck is she saying ? shot the dog ? What the fuck does she want ?

Just now, she says

Shot the dog? I say

Yeah. I saw the dog, she says. I saw the dog run up to his house and then I heard a bang, it had to be a gun.

I looked at her and I know that if someone’s killed my dog i’m going ti kill whoever did it

THe novella “And then my dog will come back to me ” about a dog dying and who did it

This has a real sense of a writer at the height of his powers. That as a writer Fosse likes to use the bare minimum view of the world. These stories show what a subtle touch can do, these stories are like the diamond that is seen by the diamond cutter as they see it in the rough diamond each story has been cut and polished til they sparkle. The vignettes are like a captured glimpses of a life almost like the snatches of dreams those glimpse we each remember in the morning maybe not even place or time just what happened. Fosse has been compared to the greats and as this is the second book by him I have read and I am still left wanting to try more. Have you read Fosse?

 

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Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse

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Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse

Norwegian fiction

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 ?

Nobel Prize for Literature 2013 is Alice Munro

Well it’s that time of year again when we stare into the world of Literature and try to guess the winner of Nobel prize it is like shooting minnows in a swimming pool many names mentioned this time the usual Nadas ,Murakami ,Djebar and Munro .New Names like Alexievich ,Fosse and Marias this year who knows the betting seems to point to Svetlana Alexievich as favourite a late run on Thoig’o and Djebar at this time half hour before this time Nobel have provide an Embedded feed here

Thanks for Lisa for heads up on this

The winner this year is Alice Munro The short story writer

Here is her Wikipedia page 

And a link to the short story the bear came over the mountain on new yorker here 

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