Fosse (1959-) is Norway's most translated and celebrated playwright since Henrik Ibsen. He claims to have started writing "embarrasingly early" - at the age of 12, he once said in an interview. And he actually started writing before gaining a real interest in reading. He first wrote lyrics, poems and little stories. "When I left my childhood, I started experiencing a distance that I might have tried to lessen by writing. But it wasn't mainly writing I was doing that early. I played the guitar a lot, and also tried my hand at the fine arts. I saw myself very early as what I called an artist. A slightly ridiculous boy in Strandebarm," he said in the same interview.
Strandebarm in western Norway is where Fosse grew up. Today he lives in Bergen, and geographically, western Norway is also the landscape of his literature. The greatest art experiences of his childhood were with music, and he claims to bring his musical experience with him in his writing, concerned mainly with rhythm, sonority and story.
Fosse has written novels, poetry, drama, essays, children's books and a movie script. His first drama was And We Shall Never Part (1994). Originally, however, Fosse never planned on writing for the stage, but was encouraged to do so by a director friend who has later directed several of Fosse's plays.
Reading Fosse's theatre scripts in particular, one might be tempted to think of it as dull and overly repetitive. But seeing them come alive on stage is realising that this is how we speak to each other - the endless repetitions, the pausing and silences, the embarrassing, hurtful or delightful silences, the searching, so often in vain, to find the right words to express what we think, or what we think that we think. Fosse also demonstrates masterfully how we contradict ourselves and say we'll do something even while starting to do the opposite.
Jon Fosse has received numerous Norwegian awards and an Austrian Nestroy theatre award, his works have been translated into more than 20 languages, and his plays are performed all over Europe. In 2002 the French illustrator Pierre Duba made a graphic novel from the play Someone Is Going to Come (french: Quelqu'un va venir).
I thought to myself that there is a place
where the children are all together before
they are born
Where the children are in their souls
But nevertheless they speak to one another
in their own way
a kind of angel language
(Looks at her, smiles)
And they ask themselves how bad it will probably be
Because they do not decide themselves
It is decided elsewhere where they will go
For one child after another it is decided
I'll come to Norway says one child
What an imagination you have
(from The Name, 1995)