Aliss at the Fire
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From the publisher
Winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature
Translated by Damion Searls
Shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize | Winner of the 2021 Brage Prize | Winner of the 2021 Norwegian Critic’s Prize | Longlisted for the 2022 Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize
In her old house by the fjord, Signe lies on a bench and sees a vision of herself as she was more than twenty years earlier: standing by the window waiting for her husband Asle, on that terrible late November day when he took his rowboat out onto the water and never returned. Her memories widen out to include their whole life together, and beyond: the bonds of family and the battles with implacable nature stretching back over five generations, to Asle’s great-great-grandmother Aliss. In Jon Fosse’s vivid, hallucinatory prose, all these moments in time inhabit the same space, and the ghosts of the past collide with those who still live on. Aliss at the Fire, is a visionary masterpiece, a haunting exploration of love and loss that ranks among the greatest meditations on marriage and human fate.
‘Jon Fosse is a major European writer.’
— Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle
‘The Beckett of the twenty-first century.’
— Le Monde
‘Jon Fosse has managed, like few others, to carve out a literary form of his own.’
— Nordic Council Literary Prize
‘It is some measure of Fosse’s talents that he manages to weave such a compelling narrative from a largely static setting ... Nothing really happens and yet there is something quietly dramatic about Fosse's meandering and rhythmic prose, aided by Damion Searls's limber translation, which has a strangely mesmerising effect. ... [A]n intense reading experience.’
— Lucy Popescu, Independent
‘A drowning is solemnly relived over the generations in Fosse's circuitous, claustrophobic tale. ... The immense burden of family history weighs heavily on each generation as ghosts, memories, and tragedies collide to effects both confounding and enlightening.’
— Publishers Weekly
‘Prose doesn’t have hooks, and Fosse’s incantations are as unexcerptable as Philip Glass symphonies or Béla Tarr tracking shots.... On it goes, building layer upon layer of past and present, ancestors and loved ones, until you are immersed in that world and the prose conjures luminous glory flashing past like Blakean angels. Maybe it is convincing to say that Fosse is the only writer whose book has made me weep with emotion as I translated it.’
— Damion Searls, Paris Review
‘Like Faulkner’s best works, Aliss at the Fire is about the inescapability of the past and how history reverberates mysteriously across generations. Through voices and narratives that are constantly interrupting and interfering with one another, Fosse captures the grief—and love—that can never be put into words.’
— Alex Shepherd, The Atlantic
‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to find any Norwegian author who can equal Jon Fosse.’
— Tom Egil Hverven, NRK