Since 1983, Jon Fosse has published, by my count, twenty-seven plays, twenty novels and eight collections of poetry. In Norway, he is so celebrated that the king has granted him permanent use of the Grotten, an honorary residence reserved for writers and artists in the grounds of Oslo’s royal palace. Yet so far, his work has not made a great impact on the English-speaking world.
His newest work is a series of seven brief novellas about a painter called Asle. Widowed, he lives alone in the countryside and no longer drinks. In the nearest city lives another man called Asle, also a painter, and a divorced alcoholic. In the first two novellas, published in English as The Other Name: Septology I–II, the first Asle drives around and thinks about his paintings before finding his namesake passed out in the snow half-dead and taking him to a local clinic.
Slowly, it becomes clear that between these men there exists a strange fellowship of fate. They are not the same person but, as it happens, they have been friends for years. Asle is gripped by visions of his drunken double shaking and moaning on the sofa of his city apartment. He seems to have