TUE—April 9—6 PM, free
*This program will take place via Zoom.*



MoreLectures + Literary

Read and discuss literature with our Nordic Book Club Online! Each month we select a novel from some of the best Nordic literary voices to read and discuss via Zoom. On April 9, in celebration of Norwegian author Jon Fosse’s recent award of the 2023 Nobel Prize for Literature, we’ll be reading the first two volumes of his acclaimed Septology series, a radical and transcendental exploration of the human condition as told through the story of two aging painters each called Asle — one a widower on the southwest coast of Norway, and one a struggling alcoholic in the city of Bjørgvin — as they confront eternal questions of death, love, faith, and hopelessness. All seven volumes of Septology are available in collection here in translation by Damion Searls; today’s discussion will focus on Volumes I & II, published under the title The Other Name.

The Other Name follows the lives of two men living close to each other on the west coast of Norway. The year is coming to a close and Asle, an aging painter and widower, is reminiscing about his life. He lives alone, his only friends being his neighbor, Åsleik, a bachelor and traditional Norwegian fisherman-farmer, and Beyer, a gallerist who lives in Bjørgvin, a couple hours’ drive south of Dylgja, where he lives. There, in Bjørgvin, lives another Asle, also a painter. He and the narrator are doppelgangers—two versions of the same person, two versions of the same life.

Written in hypnotic prose that shifts between the first and third person, The Other Name calls into question concrete notions around subjectivity and the self. What makes us who we are? And why do we lead one life and not another? Through flashbacks, Fosse deftly explores the convergences and divergences in the lives of both Asles, slowly building towards a decisive encounter between them both. A writer at the zenith of his career, with The Other Name, the first two volumes in his Septology, Fosse presents us with an indelible and poignant exploration of the human condition that will endure as his masterpiece.


Born in 1959 in Strandebarm, in Vestland, western Norway, Jon Fosse’s remarkably prolific career began in 1983 with his first novel, Red, Black, and since then he has published numerous novels, stories, books of poetry, children’s books, and essay collections. He began writing plays in 1993, with Someone Is Going to Come, and since then he has written almost 30 plays, including A Summer’s Day, Dream of Autumn, Death Variations, Sleep, and I Am the Wind. Since the mid-90s his plays have had unparalleled international success, being performed over a thousand times all over the world; his works have been translated into more than 50 languages. Today Fosse is one of the most performed living playwrights, but he has continued to write novels, stories, and poetry of exceptional quality. In 2015 he received the Nordic Council Literature Prize for his work Trilogy, consisting of Wakefulness, Olav’s Dreams, and Weariness. Fosse’s earlier novels Melancholy I and II, Morning and Evening, and Aliss at the Fire have also received wide critical acclaim. Fosse received the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature, and has been awarded numerous prizes both in Norway and abroad. The three books that comprise his magnum opus, Septology—The Other Name, I is Another, and A New Name—are published by Transit Books.

From the Nobel Prize Organization:

In his radical reduction of language and dramatic action, [Jon Fosse] expresses the most powerful human emotions of anxiety and powerlessness in the simplest everyday terms. It is through this ability to evoke man’s loss of orientation, that he is a major innovator in contemporary theatre. Despite Fosse’s negative outlook, there is great warmth and humour in his work, and a naïve vulnerability to his stark images of human experience.