TWO VOICES: Translator Damion Searls in Conversation with Scott Esposito on Norwegian Author Jon Fosse

Posted on February 17, 2011 by Scott Esposito

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Compared to Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard, Jon Fosse is one of Europe's most important living writers. Here, the translator of two of his novels, Damion Searls, talks with the Center's Scott Esposito about this intriguing writer.

They discuss the author's short, intense novel Aliss at the Fire. It is an elemental work that uses dramatic shifts in time and perspective to tell a timeless story about marriage set against the harsh Norwegian landscape. As the Independent put it:

In this slim novella, the story is stripped down to its emotional core, making for an intense reading experience. Fosse paints a harsh, unforgiving landscape and conveys with delicate precision Signe's pain and bereavement that the long, lonely years have done little to dispel.

In discussing the translation of this interesting work, Searls talks about his very personal reaction to Fosse's writing and his correspondence with the author. He also discusses how he discovered Fosse and learned Norwegian in the process of translating his novels. Searls also reads from Aliss and talks about the unique challenge of translating the book's title.

Fosse's 2000 novel, Melancholy, won the Melsom Prize, and he was awarded a lifetime stipend from the Norwegian government for his future literary efforts. He is the author of numerous plays and novels, and he has been named one of Europe's geniuses.

Searls has translated from German, Norwegian, French, and Dutch, and he is an author in English. He has translated many of Europe's greatest writers, including Proust, Rilke, Robert Walser, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, Kurt Schwitters, Peter Handke, Jon Fosse, and Nescio, and edited a new abridged edition of Thoreau's Journal. His translation of Hans Keilson's novel Comedy in a Minor Key is a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critic Circle's Award for Fiction.