A Shining

Jon Fosse

Translated by Damion Searls

French paperback with flaps, 56 pages | Paperback, 48 pages
Published 5 October 2023

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Winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature

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).

‘Haunting and lyrical, this slim volume is a suitably enigmatic introduction to the Norwegian author’s work.’
Ángel Gurría-Quintana, Financial Times Books of the Year 2023

A Shining can be read in many ways: as a realistic monologue; as a fable; as a Christian-inflected allegory; as a nightmare painstakingly recounted the next morning, the horror of the experience still pulsing under the words, though somewhat mitigated by the small daily miracle of daylight. I think the great splendour of Fosse’s fiction is that it so deeply rejects any singular interpretation; as one reads, the story does not sound a clear singular note, but rather becomes a chord with all the many possible interpretations ringing out at once. This refusal to succumb to the solitary, the stark, the simple, the binary – to insist that complicated things like death and God retain their immense mysteries and contradictions – seems, in this increasingly partisan world of ours, a quietly powerful moral stance.’
Lauren Groff, Guardian

‘Fosse’s prose doesn’t speak so much as witnesses, unfolds, accumulates. It flows like consciousness itself…. This is perhaps why A Shining feels so momentous, even at fewer than 50 pages. You never quite know where you’re going. But it doesn’t matter: you want to follow, to move in step with the rhythm of these words.’
Matthew Janney, Financial Times

‘We are in the presence of rare literary greatness. It is for this greatness that the Swedish Academy has justly awarded Jon Fosse the Nobel prize.’
Paul Binding, Times Literary Supplement

‘The translation by Damion Searls perfectly judges the pitch and rhythm …producing a natural reading beat. […] A Shining is a neat example of Fosse’s gift for portraying porous psychological states, and its publication is perfectly timed for a satisfying Samhain evening read.’
Rónán Hession, Irish Times

A Shining is marked by what is perhaps Fosse’s defining skill: his ability to effortlessly marry the mundane and the sublime. The author is himself a practicing Catholic; he was received into the Church in 2012, and a certain spiritual seriousness is at the heart of his works’ power, even while their spirit everywhere shuns the dogmatic. Expect from Fosse neither the supposedly infallible truths of the pulpit nor Scripture’s resonant cadence. The experience of reading him is of a different order entirely, one more humble, and perhaps as illuminating.’
Luke Warde, Sunday Independent

‘In this spare tale of disorientation and longing, by the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, a man gets stranded on a back road in a forest and wanders deep into the trees…. Fosse uses fleeting allusions to a world beyond the reach of the narrator to explore some of humanity’s most elusive pursuits, certainty and inviolability among them. His bracingly clear prose imbues the story’s ambiguities with a profundity both revelatory and familiar.’
New Yorker

‘The physical and otherworldly hinterland of A Shining through which Jon Fosse is the guide is at once terrifying and deeply reassuring.’
— Catherine Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

‘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

‘He touches you so deeply when you read him, and when you have read one work you have to continue…. What is special with him is the closeness in his writing. It touches on the deepest feelings that you have – anxieties, insecurities, questions of life and death – such things that every human being actually confronts from the very beginning. In that sense I think he reaches very far and there is a sort of a universal impact of everything that he writes. And it doesn’t matter if it is drama, poetry or prose – it has the same kind of appeal to this basic humanness.’
— Anders Olsson, Nobel committee 

Praise for Septology

‘A deeply moving experience.’
— 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

‘It ties 2666 by Roberto Bolaño as my favourite book from the twenty-first century…. What I read was nothing less than a desperate prayer made radiant by sudden spikes of ecstatic beauty.’
— Lauren Groff, Literary Hub 

‘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

Septology is the only novel I have read that has made me believe in the reality of the divine, as the fourteenth-century theologian Meister Eckhart, whom Fosse has read intently, describes it: “It is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us.” None of the comparisons to other writers seem right. Bernhard? Too aggressive. Beckett? Too controlling. Ibsen? “He is the most destructive writer I know,” Fosse claims. “I feel that there’s a kind of – I don’t know if it’s a good English word – but a kind of reconciliation in my writing. Or, to use the Catholic or Christian word, peace.”’
— Merve Emre, New Yorker 

‘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. In 2023, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature ‘for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable’.

Damion Searls is a translator from German, Norwegian, French and Dutch, and a writer in English. He has translated nine books by Jon Fosse, including the three books of Septology.