flapped paperback

I is Another: Septology III-V

Jon Fosse

Translated by Damion Searls

Longlisted for the 2022 Dublin Literary Award
Published 7 October 2020 | French paperback with flaps, 288 pages


And I see myself standing and looking at the picture with the two lines, a purple line and a brown line, that cross in the middle and I think that it’s cold in the main room, and that it’s too early to get up, it doesn’t matter what time it is, so why did I get up then? I think and I turn off the light in the main room and I go back to the little bedroom and I turn off the light there and I lie back down in bed and I tuck the duvet tight around me and Bragi lies down against me and I think well I got a little sleep last night, even if not that much, and today is Wednesday and it’s still early in the morning, or maybe it’s still nighttime? I think and it was so cold in the main room that I didn’t want to get up, I think and I pet Bragi, rub his back, and then I look into the darkness and I see Asle sitting on the swing outside his front door and he’s not swinging, he’s just sitting there, and he’s thinking he can’t figure out anything to do and he swings carefully, slowly back and forth a little and then Mother comes out onto the porch and she’s angry and Asle doesn’t know why she’s so angry

Come here! she says

What’s the matter, he says

Get over here, Mother says

Okay, Asle says

and he gets off the swing and goes over to Mother who’s standing on the porch and she’s looking right at him and he walks up the stairs

Yes, he says

There you are, she says

and he doesn’t understand why Mother’s voice is so angry, what’s wrong with her? what has he done now to make her so mad at him? he thinks

Look at this, Mother says

and she opens her hand and Asle sees three one-krone coins lying in the palm of Mother’s hand and she stands there holding out her hand with the three krone coins in it and she doesn’t say anything and Asle thinks how did Mother find the three kroner? and he’d meant to hide them somewhere clever, yes, he’d meant to put them under one of the flagstones outside the front door but then he forgot, it just disappeared from his mind and now Mother is standing here holding the three coins out to him, and how did she find them anyway? Asle thinks, and then he thinks of course she found them in his pocket because he forgot to take them out of his trousers and hide them

Where did you get these? Mother says

and Asle thinks that he can’t say he got them from The Bald Man, that he got them after sitting with him in his car, and he definitely can’t say why he got them, no

Answer me, Mother says

and Asle thinks that he definitely can’t tell her the truth, that he got them from The Bald Man, and that’s because he mustn’t tell anyone that he went for a car ride with The Bald Man, and that The Bald Man put his hand on his leg and then took his hand away, at least twice, that The Bald Man did that, he thinks

Where did you get these coins? Mother says

Well, answer me, she says

Don’t just stand there with your mouth hanging open, she says

and then she grabs his shoulder and she shakes him and she says he needs to answer her when she asks him something and she’s almost shouting

Answer me, Mother says

and he has to say something, anything, Asle thinks

I found them, he says

You found them? Mother says

Where did you find them? she says

Answer me, tell me where you found them, she says

and Asle just stands there and Mother lets go of his shoulder

On the road, he says

On the road you say, Mother says

Yes, on the road, Asle says

Where exactly, she says

Outside The Bakery, he says

You found them outside The Bakery? Mother says

and she says does he expect her to believe that, that he found them, outside The Bakery

You stole them, Mother says

I didn’t steal anything, Asle says

Yes you did, you stole them, she says

I did not, he says

You did, she says


Winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature

Asle is an ageing painter and widower who lives alone on the southwest coast of Norway. His only friends are his neighbour, Åsleik, a traditional fisherman-farmer, and Beyer, a gallerist who lives in the city. There, in Bjørgvin, lives another Asle, also a painter but lonely and consumed by alcohol. Asle and Asle are doppelgängers – two versions of the same person, two versions of the same life, both grappling with existential questions.
      In this second instalment of Jon Fosse’s Septology, ‘a major work of Scandinavian fiction’ (Hari Kunzru), the two Asles meet for the first time in their youth. They look strangely alike, dress identically, and both want to be painters. At art school in Bjørgvin, Asle meets and falls in love with his future wife, Ales. Written in melodious and hypnotic ‘slow prose’, I is Another: Septology III-V is an exquisite metaphysical novel about love, art, God, friendship, and the passage of time.

Review 31 Books of the Year 2020


‘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

‘Jon Fosse is a major European writer.’
—Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle

‘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

‘Beautifully and movingly strange.... 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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘[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

‘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

‘The entire septet seems to take place in a state of limbo.... Though Fosse has largely done away with punctuation altogether, opting instead for sudden line breaks, his dense, sinuous prose is never convoluted, and its effect is mesmerizing.’
—Johanna Elster Hanson, TLS

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

‘Septology feels momentous.’
— Catherine Taylor, Guardian


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.