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The Nobel Prize in Literature 2023 was awarded to Norwegian author and playwriter Jon Fosse (1959), „for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable“. Fosse is the fourth Norwegian writer to get the Nobel. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson got it in 1903, Knut Hamsun was awarded it in 1920 and Sigrid Undset in 1928.

Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach Jon Fosse

The author was announced as the winner in a ceremony held at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on 6 October. He delivered his Nobel Prize lecture in literature called A Silent Language on 7 December 2023 at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. He was introduced by Mats Malm, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.

 ”When I was in junior high school, it happened without warning. The teacher asked me to read aloud. And out of nowhere, I was overcome by a sudden fear that overpowered me. It was like I disappeared into the fear and it was all I was. I stood up and ran out of the classroom. I noticed the big eyes of the students as well as the teacher following me out of the classroom. Afterwards, I tried to explain my strange behaviour by saying I had to go to the toilet. I could see on the faces of those listening that they didn’t believe me. And they probably thought I’d gone mad, yes, was on my way to becoming crazy. This fear of reading aloud followed me. As time went by, I found the courage to ask the teachers to be excused from reading out loud, as I was so afraid of it, some believed me and stopped asking me, and some thought that in one way or another, I was pulling their leg. I learnt something important about people from this experience. I learnt many other things. Yes, very likely something that enables me to stand here and read aloud to an audience today. And now almost without any fear. What did I learn? In a way it was as if the fear took my language from me, and that I had to take it back, so to speak. And if I were to do that, it couldn’t be on other people’s terms, but on my own. I started to write my texts, short poems, and short stories. And I discovered that doing so gave me a sense of safety, gave me the opposite of fear. In a way, I found a place inside myself that was just mine, and from that place, I could write what was just mine. Now, about fifty years later, I still sit and write – and I still write from this secret place inside me, a place I quite honestly don’t know much more about other than that it exists,” said Fosse.

More at: A Silent Language

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.

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