flapped paperback

A Shining

Jon Fosse

Translated by Damion Searls

Published 1 November 2023
French paperback with flaps, 56 pages


I was taking a drive. It was nice. It felt good to be moving. I didn’t know where I was going, I was just driving. Boredom had taken hold of me – usually I was never bored but now I had fallen prey to it. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do. So I just did something. I got in my car and drove and when I got somewhere I could turn right or left I turned right, and at the next place I could turn right or left I turned left, and so on. I kept driving like that. Eventually I’d driven a long way up a forest road where the ruts gradually got so deep that I felt like the car was getting stuck. I just kept driving, until the car got totally stuck. I tried to reverse but I couldn’t, so I stopped the car. Turned the engine off. I was sitting in the car. Yes, well, now I’m here, I thought, now I’m sitting here, and I felt empty, as if the boredom had turned into emptiness. Or maybe into a kind of anxiety, because I felt something like fear as I sat there empty, looking straight ahead as if into a void. Into nothingness. What am I talking about, I thought. There’s the forest in front of me, it’s just a forest, I thought. All right then, this sudden urge to drive off somewhere had brought me to a forest. And there was another way of talking, according to which something, something or another, led, whatever that might mean, to something else, yes, something else. I peered into the forest in front of me. Forest. Yes. Trees right next to one another, pines, pine trees. And between the trees was brown soil that looked like it was mostly dry. I felt empty. And then this anxiety. What was I scared of. Why was I scared. Was I so scared that I couldn’t get out of the car, didn’t dare to. Well, this was the end of the forest road I had driven onto and gotten stuck on, I was near where the road ended. And that was probably why I felt this anxiety, because I had gotten my car stuck at the end of a forest road, and here, at the end of the forest road, there was nowhere I could turn around. And I couldn’t remember having driven past a shoulder or turn-off since I’d started on this forest road. And that might well be true. Yes, because if I’d seen somewhere to turn around I would definitely have stopped the car and turned around, since it’s not like driving on a narrow road through this landscape of low hills was making me feel any less bored, on the contrary, it made the boredom worse. But I hadn’t seen anywhere to turn around, I was probably waiting the whole time for one to turn up, yes, waiting to see somewhere I could steer the car to the side, back up a little, drive forward again, maybe do it a few more times, yes, until eventually of course the car would be turned around and I could drive back down the forest road to the main road, and then drive to a town, but what town, to some town anyway, where there were people, and I could maybe buy something, a hot sausage in a bun for example, or maybe, I mean it could happen, I would come across a little roadside coffee shop where I could stop and get myself some dinner. I mean it’s possible. And then I suddenly realized it had been several days, I couldn’t remember how many, since I’d last had dinner. But that’s probably how it is for all of us who live alone. It’s like a chore to make yourself dinner, yes, it’s just easier to grab whatever’s closest, a slice of bread if I have any bread in the house, and put something on it, often it’s just mayonnaise on the bread and then two or three slices of lamb sausage. But is that what I should be sitting here thinking about, as if I have nothing more important to worry about. But then what should I be thinking about. But how stupid is that, asking that, thinking that. I went and got my car stuck on a forest road, far away from any people, and I can’t get it free, so that means I have more than enough to keep me busy, yes, busy is what they call it, busy getting the car unstuck. Because the car can’t just stay stuck how it is now.


A man starts driving without knowing where he is going. He alternates between turning right and left, and finally he gets stuck at the end of a forest road. Soon it gets dark and starts to snow, but instead of going back to find help, he ventures, foolishly, into the dark forest. Inevitably, the man gets lost, and as he grows cold and tired, he encounters a glowing being amid the obscurity. Strange, haunting and dreamlike, A Shining is the latest work of fiction by Jon Fosse, ‘the Beckett of the twenty-first century’ (Le Monde).

‘Jon Fosse is a major European writer.’
— Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of The Wolves of Eternity

‘The Beckett of the twenty-first century.’
Le Monde

‘Fosse has been compared to Ibsen and to Beckett, and it is easy to see his work as Ibsen stripped down to its emotional essentials. But it is much more. For one thing, it has a fierce poetic simplicity.’
New York Times

‘Jon Fosse has managed, like few others, to carve out a literary form of his own.’
— Nordic Council Literature Prize

Praise for Septology

‘A deeply moving experience. At times while reading the first two books of Septology, I walked around in a fugue-like state, wondering what it was that I was reading, exactly. A parable? A gospel? A novel bereft of the usual markings of plot, time, and character? The answer appeared to be all of the above, but although I usually balk at anything mystical, the effect was haunting and cumulative ... I hesitate to compare the experience of reading these works to the act of meditation. But that is the closest I can come to describing how something in the critical self is shed in the process of reading Fosse, only to be replaced by something more primal. A mood. An atmosphere. The sound of words moving on a page.’
— Ruth Margalit, New York Review of Books

‘Fosse’s fusing of the commonplace and the existential, together with his dramatic forays into the past, make for a relentlessly consuming work: Septology feels momentous.’
— Catherine Taylor, Guardian

‘With Septology, Fosse has found a new approach to writing fiction, different from what he has written before and – it is strange to say, as the novel enters its fifth century – different from what has been written before. Septology feels new.’
— Wyatt Mason, Harper’s

‘Having read the Norwegian writer Jon Fosse’s “Septology”, an extraordinary seven-novel sequence about an old man’s recursive reckoning with the braided realities of God, art, identity, family life and human life itself, I’ve come into awe and reverence myself for idiosyncratic forms of immense metaphysical fortitude.’
— Randy Boyagoda, New York Times

‘[P]alpable in this book is the way that the writing is meant to replicate the pulse and repetitive phrasing of liturgical prayer. Asle is a Catholic convert and, in Damion Searls’s liquid translation, his thoughts are rendered in long run-on sentences whose metronomic cadences conjure the intake and outtake of breath, or the reflexive motions of fingers telling a rosary. These unique books ask you to engage with the senses rather than the mind, and their aim is to bring about the momentary dissolution of the self.’
— Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

‘The translation by Damion Searls is deserving of special recognition. His rendering of this remarkable single run-on sentence over three volumes is flawless. The rhythms, the shifts in pace, the nuances in tone are all conveyed with masterful understatement. The Septology series is among the highlights of my reading life.’
— Rónán Hession, Irish Times

‘Fosse intuitively — and with great artistry — conveys ... a sense of wonder at the unfathomable miracle of life, even in its bleakest and loneliest moments.’
— Bryan Karetnyk, Financial Times

Jon Fosse was born in 1959 on the west coast of Norway and is the recipient of countless prestigious prizes, both in his native Norway and abroad. Since his 1983 fiction debut, Raudt, svart [Red, Black], Fosse has written prose, poetry, essays, short stories, children’s books, and over forty plays, with more than a thousand productions performed and translations into fifty languages. A Shining is his seventh work of fiction to appear with Fitzcarraldo Editions, after Scenes from a Childhood, The Other Name: Septology I–II, I is Another: Septology III–V, A New Name: Septology VI–VII, Aliss at the Fire and Melancholy I–II.

Damion Searls is a translator from German, Norwegian, French, and Dutch, and a writer in English. He has translated eight books and a libretto by Jon Fosse as well as books by many other classic modern writers.