Monday, October 23, 2006


1. Ill-temper, sullenness, brooding, anger. [...]
3. a. Sadness, dejection, esp. of a pensive nature; gloominess; pensiveness or introspection; an inclination or tendency to this. Also: perturbation (obs.). [...]
4. Sullenness, anger, or sadness personified. [...]
5. A short literary composition (usually poetical) of a sad or mournful character.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

Melancholy by Jon Fosse
trans. by Grethe Kvernes and Damion Searls

This latest installment from Dalkey Archive Press' Scandinavian Literature series lives up to its name. The novel is nothing if not melancholic. Moody and episodic, Melancholy showcases the author's understanding of human psyche and its flaws. Because of its unique structure--divided into three chapters, each shorter than the last--the novel will be best appreciated if it can be read all in one sitting. While the book's final chapter takes place in the recent past, the majority of the novel is set in the mid-1850s and focuses on Norwegian artist Lars Hertervig. The author's use of the stream-of-consciousness style in this section allows readers an inside look deep within the mind of the neurotic and deeply troubled protagonist. Known primarily as a playwright (and favorably compared to Ibsen), Jon Fosse has produced over thirty literary works in the past twenty years. First published in Norway in 1995, Melancholy is Fosse's first novel to be translated into English.

My review appears in the latest edition of Library Journal.


  1. I've never read Fosse but wanted since I saw his play "Mother and Son" three years ago (I just checked on the site of that theatre but it's not on the repertoire anymore; pity). It was so hard, psychological drama; I can still recall some of the scenes...
    Thanks for reminding me, I'll look in bookstores and library if there's something.
    Have you read Kirsti Blom "Flekker" (in original) which should be "Stains"? She is so like Fosse. Great (melancholic) novella about past and memories.

  2. Hello,

    I have a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

    Can I use some of the information from this blog post above if I provide a backlink back to your site?


  3. Peter, this post went into my spam box which is why I didn't respond sooner. The bulk of the review has been published in Library Journal (see this page) so it would probably be more appropriate to reference the journal.

  4. Hey - I am really glad to find this. great job!