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Jon Fosse, Norwegian Novelist and Playwright, Wins Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘Voicing the Unsayable’

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden — In a recognition of his unique approach to exploring the depths of human experience, Norwegian novelist and playwright Jon Fosse was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, October 5, 2023.

Celebrated “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable,” Fosse has earned accolades in Europe for decades and is now gaining traction among English readers.

Fosse’s evocative works have frequently drawn comparisons to the writings of previous Nobel recipients Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett.

This distinction was a long time coming for Fosse. In 2013, a surge in bets predicting his win caused British bookmakers to halt wagers temporarily. The prize, however, went to Canadian writer Alice Munro that year.

This esteemed award brings Fosse recognition and a substantial financial windfall of 11 million Swedish krona (approximately $991,000).

Fosse’s selection by the Swedish Academy has garnered mixed reactions. While his literary prowess is unquestionable, some critics argue that the choice represents a move away from the Academy’s recent efforts to diversify its pool of honorees.

Historically, women and non-European or North American writers have been underrepresented among the award’s recipients.

Ahead of the announcement, speculation about potential winners included diverse talents such as Chinese writer Can Xue, Japan’s Haruki Murakami, Australia’s Gerald Murnane, and Hungarian author Laszlo Krasznahorkai.

Jacques Testard, Fosse’s British publisher, spoke of the laureate’s groundbreaking literary approach in a phone interview, emphasizing Fosse’s “unique prose style, incantatory and almost mystical.”

He also highlighted the significance of Fosse’s choice to write in Nynorsk, a lesser-used language in Norway, as a noteworthy political statement.

Fitzcarraldo Editions, a British publishing house that’s become synonymous with Nobel laureates, has amplified Fosse’s voice in the English-speaking world. Just last year, the publishing house celebrated another Nobel win with author Annie Ernaux.

From his first novel in 1983, “Red, Black,” to his most recent exploration of a man’s divine reckoning in “A New Name: Septology VI-VII,” Fosse has continued to challenge and enchant readers.

The Nobel committee lauded his expansive contributions, noting, “While he is today one of the most widely performed playwrights in the world, he has also become increasingly recognised for his prose.”

As the literary world celebrates Fosse’s well-deserved recognition, many anticipate even greater international interest in his profound body of work.

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