Not so much a sequel as an alternate perspective, Jon Fosse’s coda to his brilliant and much-lauded Melancholy picks up the story of tormented landscape painter Lars Hertervig in 1902, shortly after his death. Taking place, like Melancholy, over the course of a single day, it treats us to the thoughts of Hertervig’s sister, carrying on with her life in the absence of her eccentric brother. She recalls their childhood under a domineering father, remembering Hertervig’s difficulties fitting in, and likewise Hertervig the man: poor, always hovering on the brink, fanatical about painting and his own perceived shortcomings as an artist and human being. In the same hypnotic prose for which Fosse is famous, Melancholy II serves as an investigation not only into the “collateral damage” wrought by art and artists, but into a master’s tools and obsessions as well.
“Fosse … has been compared to Ibsen and to Beckett, and it is easy to see his work as Ibsen stripped down to its emotional essentials. But it is much more.” — The New York Times
“His novel presents itself as an exploration of zones that are murky, dangerous, crucial, where craftsmanship and inspiration seek and repulse each other up to the coils of madness.” — Le Monde
“… a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare, sometimes so endlessly desolate, dark, and fearful that Kafka himself would have been frightened.” — Aftenposten
Called “the new Ibsen” in the German press, and heralded throughout Western Europe, Jon Fosse is one of contemporary Norwegian literature’s most important writers. Born in 1959, he has published some thirty books of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction since 1983.
Eric Dickens is a translator and reviewer of Estonian, Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian literature. His translations for Dalkey Archive Press include Mati Unt’s Things in the Night.