Jon Fosse



Excerpt from The Other Name. Septology I-II

And I see myself standing and looking at the picture with the two lines that cross in the middle, one purple line, one brown line, it’s a painting wider than it is high and I see that I’ve painted the lines slowly, the paint is thick, two long wide lines, and they’ve dripped, where the brown line and purple line cross the colours blend beautifully and drip and I’m thinking this isn’t a picture but suddenly the picture is the way it’s supposed to be, it’s done, there’s nothing more to do on it, I think, it’s time to put it away, I don’t want to stand here at the easel any more, I don’t want to look at it any more, I think, and I think today’s Monday and I think I have to put this picture away with the other ones I’m working on but am not done with, the canvases on stretchers leaning against the wall between the bedroom door and the hall door under the hook with the brown leather shoulderbag on it, the bag where I keep my sketch-pad and pencil, and then I look at the two stacks of finished paintings propped against the wall next to the kitchen door, I already have ten or so big paintings finished plus four or five small ones, something like that, fourteen paintings in all in two stacks next to each other by the kitchen door, since I’m about to have a show, most of the paintings are approximately square, as they put it, I think, but sometimes I also paint long narrow ones and the one with the two lines crossing is noticeably oblong, as they put it, but I don’t want to put this one into the show because I don’t like it much, maybe all things considered it’s not really a painting, just two lines, or maybe I want to keep it for myself and not sell it? I like to keep my best pictures, not sell them, and maybe this is one of them, even though I don’t like it? yes, maybe I do want to hold onto it even if you might say it’s a failed painting? I don’t know why I’d want to keep it, with the bunch of other pictures I have up in the attic, in a storage room, instead of getting rid of it, or maybe, anyway, maybe Åsleik wants the picture? yes, to give Sister as a Christmas present? because every year during Advent I give him a painting that he gives to Sister as a Christmas present and I get meat and fish and firewood and other things from him, yes, and I mustn’t forget, as Åsleik always says, that he shovels the snow from my driveway in the winter too, yes, he says things like that too, and when I say what a painting like that can sell for in Bjørgvin Åsleik says he can’t believe people would pay so much for a painting, anyway whoever does pay that much money must have a lot of it, he says, and I say I know what you mean about it being a lot of money, I think so too, and Åsleik says well in that case he’s getting a really good deal, in that case it’s a very expensive Christmas present he’s giving Sister every year, he says, and I say yes, yes, and then we both fall silent, and then I say that I do give him a little money for the salt-cured lamb ribs for Christmas, dry-cured mutton, salt cod, firewood, and for shovelling the snow, maybe a bag with some groceries that I bought in Bjørgvin when I’ve gone there to run an errand, I say, and he says, a little embarassed, yes I do do that, fair’s fair, he says, and I think I shouldn’t have said that, Åsleik doesn’t want to accept money or anything else from me, but when I think about how I have enough money to get by and he has almost none, yes, well, I slip him a few more bills, quickly, furtively, as if neither of us knows it’s happening, and when I go run errands in Bjørgvin I always  buy something for Åsleik, I think, because I may not make much money but he makes almost nothing compared to me, I think, and I look at the stack of finished paintings with the homemade stretchers they’re on facing out and every painting has a title painted in thick black oil paint on the top board of the stretcher, and the painting I’m looking at the back of, at the front of the stack, is called And the Waves Beat Their Message, titles are very important to me, they’re part of the picture itself, and I always paint the title in black on the top of the stretcher, I make my stretchers myself, I always have and I always will as long as I paint pictures, I think, and I think that there may actually be too many paintings here for a show but I’ll take them all to The Beyer Gallery anyway, Beyer can put some of them in the side room of the gallery, in The Bank, as he calls the room where he stores pictures that aren’t in the show, I think, and then I take another look at the picture with the two lines crossing, both in impasto as they put it, and the paint has run a little and where the lines cross the colours have turned such a strange colour, a beautiful colour, with no name, they usually don’t have names because obviously there can’t be names for all the countless colours in the world, I think and I step a few feet back from the picture and stop and look at it and then turn off the light and stand there looking at the picture in the dark, because it’s dark outside, at this time of year it’s dark, or almost dark, all day long, I think and I look at the picture and my eyes get used to the darkness and I see the lines, see them cross, and I see that there’s a soft light in the painting, yes, a soft invisible light, well then yes so it probably is a good painting, maybe, I think, and I don’t want to look at the picture any more, I think, but still I’m standing and looking at it, I have to stop looking at it now, I think, and then I look at the round table over by the window, there are two chairs next to it and one of them, the one on the left, that’s where I sat and sit, and the right-hand one was where Ales always sat, when she was still alive, but then she died, too young, and I don’t want to think about that, and my sister Alida, she died too young too, and I don’t want to think about that either, I think, and I see myself sitting there in my chair looking out at the fixed point in the waters of the Sygne Sea that I always look at, my landmark, with the tops of the pines that grow below my house in the middle of the centre pane in the bisected window, in the right-hand part, because the window is divided in two and both parts can be opened and each side is divided into three rows and the tops of the pines will be in the middle row of the right side and I can make out the pines and I’ve found the mark, right at the midline I can see waves out there in the darkness and I see myself sitting there looking at the waves and I see myself walking over to my car where it’s parked in front of The Beyer Gallery, I’m there in my long black coat with my brown leather bag over my shoulder,

Excerpt from The Other Name. Septology I-II by Jon Fosse,
translated by Damion Searls,
Fitzcarraldo Editions 2022.
Copyright © Jon Fosse, 2019.
Translation copyright © Damion Searls, 2019.
Reproduced by permission of Fitzcarraldo Editions.
Original title: Det andre namnet : roman. Septologien I–II

To cite this section
MLA style: Jon Fosse – Prose. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2024. Mon. 24 Jun 2024. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Nobel Prizes and laureates

Eleven laureates were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2023, for achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Their work and discoveries range from effective mRNA vaccines and attosecond physics to fighting against the oppression of women.

See them all presented here.

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.