In his novels and plays, the Norwegian author has continually probed the limits of the perceptible world.
By Merve Emre, October 6, 2023
In Oslo, in September, I attended the preview of Jon Fosse’s play “I Svarte Skogen Inne” (“Inside the Black Forest”).
The theatre was small and dark, without a stage, and the scenery was minimal: a large illuminated rock in the middle, some scattered trees, and the audience members, many of whom were seated in folding chairs ringed around the rock. A trumpeter entered first, blowing long, melancholy notes, followed by a young man. The man explained that he had gone for a drive and, when his car had stalled, he had wandered into the woods. It grew darker and colder, and the audience heard the voices of an older man and an older woman speak about the young man, expressing their distress at the direction his life had taken. Then, without warning, a young woman appeared.
She was called a younger woman in the script, but it would have been better to describe her as a presence—or, to borrow the title of Fosse’s new novel, “Kvitleik,” a shining. She was a modern angel, a peroxide blonde with stern cheekbones, in a glittering white slip dress and a white fur stole. Her hair was cropped. Her feet were bare and beautiful and caught the light from the rock with each step. She spoke to the man, urging him to return home. As he roamed the theatre, trembling, followed by her voice and the trumpet, he stopped right next to the chairs of the audience members to argue, to plead, although it was not always clear for what. “My own shame is bigger than myself,” he screamed. I watched the faces of the audience; most of them remained impassive, stony. They looked down at their hands or feet and away from his stricken face. In their withdrawal, they seemed no different from the trees that surrounded them.