Book Review: An Angel Walks Through the Stage and Other Essays by Jon Fosse

I wouldn’t recommend anyone start with Jon Fosse here. Although he is a famed playwright, novelist and poet in Norway, he’s never been renowned for nonfiction. He actually published two books of essays totaling something like 600 pages early in his career before giving it up, and the present volume is a selection from those with one or two speeches that he gave later on. The pieces aren’t bad, in fact I really enjoyed them and gave the book 5 stars on Goodreads. It’s more that unless you’re already acquainted with Fosse’s work, you won’t get much out of them.

A lot of the essays here are about theory, but none are so dense as to be bogged down in academic prose. Instead, Fosse comments on philosophy and figures like Derrida, discussing more their impact on his thinking than any scholarly interpretations. There are also flashes of his biography here and there, like his schooling or his music-loving teenage years, nowhere hear anything comprehensive but, given the lack of information on Fosse in English, fans should delight in what’s here.

Many of the essays here are short, small thoughts rather than comprehensive arguments, just a page or two, with topics ranging from plays to Beckett to Bernhard.

If you already like Fosse and enjoy Literature with a capital “L” (I can’t imagine there are many from the first category that don’t fall in the second), then this is another great addition to Fosse’s oeuvre available in English. If you’re looking for a good place to start with him and neither Morning and Evening or I Am the Wind appeal to you, don’t worry, more reviews of his novels and plays are forthcoming.

Book Review: I am the Wind by Jon Fosse

I have previously written about Jon Fosse and his skills as a prose writer, but this is the first play I have read by him. He is the world’s most performed living playwright, and translations of almost all his plays are available in English, but for whatever reason, he has never caught on in the English-speaking world.

With sparse dialogue reminiscent of Beckett and Pinter, this is not a play for everyone. It features two characters, The One and The Other, in a small boat in an unnamed body of water, and most of the play consists in just them talking. Their talk, ridden with pauses and unfinished thoughts, might frustrate those who want them to come right out and say what is on their mind, but that is one of the play’s big themes: the inadequacy of language.

Readers more action-minded will be pleased to know that the characters do not sit around waiting for the whole play. There is a chilling event that brings the short text to its conclusion, which, to avoid spoilers, I will not say much about other than it puts a new light on the preceding dialogue.

I must emphasize again that this is not for everybody, but for anyone who ever enjoyed Beckett or a similar writer, this is a real treat. Most of Jon Fosse’s plays are collected in volumes containing 5 or 6 plays; this is one of the few standalones. For those who want to try out Fosse but do not want to commit to a handful of works, this text is great. It is a shame Fosse is not more well known over here, although with him now being mentioned as a possible future Nobel laureate, perhaps that will soon change.