Scenes from a Childhood

Jon Fosse

Translated by Damion Searls

French paperback with flaps, 160 pages
Published 2 May 2018 (UK) | 6 November 2018 (US)

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Winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature

Co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union

Scenes from a Childhood is the latest collection of stories by Jon Fosse, one of Norway’s most celebrated authors and playwrights, famed for the minimalist and unsettling quality of his writing. In the title work, a loosely autobiographical narrative covers infancy to awkward adolescence, unearthing the moments of childhood that linger longest in the imagination. In ‘And Then My Dog Will Come Back To Me’, a haunting and dream-like novella, a dispute between neighbours escalates to an inexorable climax. Taken from various sources, the texts gathered here together for the first time demonstrate that the short story is one of the recurrent modes of Fosse’s imagination, and occasions some of his greatest works.

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

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

‘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 for Literature 

‘Jon Fosse is less well-known in America than some other Norwegian novelists, but revered in Norway – winner of every prize, a leading Nobel contender. I think of the four elder statesmen of Norwegian letters as a bit like the Beatles: Per Petterson is the solid, always dependable Ringo; Dag Solstad is John, the experimentalist, the ideas man; Karl Ove Knausgaard is Paul, the cute one; and Fosse is George, the quiet one, mystical, spiritual, probably the best craftsman of them all … His writing is pure poetry.’
— Paris Review, from an essay by the translator

‘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

‘With its heavy silences and splintered dialogue, his work has reminded some of Beckett, others of Pinter.’
— Guardian

‘Fosse’s prose … builds out of an ambiguity and sparseness and moves with a slow poetic intensity…. The collection has all the hallmarks of Fosse’s signature brooding manner where lyrical precision is used to paint unmoored psyches. An accumulation of moments when our essential emotions come into conflict with experience, Scenes from a Childhood is a welcome – if overdue – introduction to a singular literary voice.’
— Tank

‘Fosse writes about the complexity and danger of the bleak Norwegian countryside as well as he writes about the passage of time through a life. In choosing to mostly focus on pieces about childhood, Searls has been able to show an impressive side to Fosse, because – in my experience at least – writing engaging prose about childhood trips up many otherwise competent writers…. Fosse understands that a child’s mind is not merely the mind of an ignorant adult, it is a different form of consciousness entirely: more curious, more optimistic, less scared…. There are portraits of great happiness, great pleasure and great joy in Scenes From A Childhood.’
— Berfrois

‘Fosse’s vignettes beautifully reclaim the revelations and deceptions of growing up, the punishments both arbitrary and well-earned, the lust for freedom expressed through the smallest transgressions and pettiest rebellions, the incompetence, the cluelessness, the joy and the pain, all of it twice-distilled in its clarity and intensity.’
— Asymptote

‘Fosse’s style – straightforward, unembellished, but ranging from the concisely spelled out to the more rambling stream-of-(troubled-)consciousness – is crisp and beautifully polished’
— Complete Review

‘Undoubtedly one of the world’s most important and versatile literary voices.’
— Irish Examiner

‘He has a surgeon’s ability to use the scalpel and to cut into the most prosaic, everyday happenings, to tear loose fragments from life, to place them under the microscope and examine them minutely, in order to present them afterward…. sometimes so endlessly desolate, dark, and fearful that Kafka himself would have been frightened.’
— Aftenposten

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.