Little known in the English world, Fosse is one of the most acclaimed living playwright’s in the world. But his first passion was writing novels, and this one proves he has some serious prose skills.
The first 15 pages of the novella describe in real time the birth of Johannes, the other 80 the last day of his life. Despite unfolding in a cliché way, this is a great, heartfelt read. Condensing Johannes’s life into two points could have easily been used as a gimmick but Fosse pulls it off, and by the end of this short, short book you feel like you’ve seen Johannes’s whole lifespan.
Don’t be deceived by the length—this is a surprisingly dense, stream of conscious novella. But don’t be put off by that either, because the language here is simpler (but still just as poetic) compared to similarly written books. Once you get used to the style it’s not too hard to follow, no leaps through times, and matches the disorientation Johannes feels when he wakes up on a day when everything is the same but at the same time different.
This is one of Fosse’s more critically acclaimed works back home. It was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize and ranked fourth on a list of the top 25 Norwegian books published from 1981 to 2006. I’d recommend anyone who wants to read Fosse’s prose start here (although you can’t go wrong with Aliss, either).