Melancholy takes us deep inside a painter's fragile consciousness, vulnerable to everything but therefore uniquely able to see its beauty and its light.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Melancholy takes us deep inside a painter's fragile consciousness, vulnerable to everything but therefore uniquely able to see its beauty and its light.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

Bergens Tidende
What he writes is so simple and so deep at the same time. He has a restlessness, a tension in his narrative style, and he writes about situations everyone feels involved in, no matter where in the world they are.
Le Monde
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. . . . It is the restrained patience and anxiety that shape, beleaguer and design this radiant nucleus that justifies writing-or painting.
He has a surgeon's ability to use the scalpel and to cut into the most prosaic, everyday happenings, to tear loose fragments from life, to place them under the microscope and examine them minutely, in order to present them afterwards as a precipitous, West-Norway-colored, feverish dream of a Hieronymous Bosch nightmare, sometimes so endlessly desolate, dark, and fearful that Kafka himself would have been frightened.
Publishers Weekly
Nineteenth-century Norwegian artist Lars Hertervig painted luminous landscapes, suffered mental illness and died poor in 1902. In this wild stream-of-consciousness narrative, Fosse delves into Hertervig's mind as the events of one day precipitate his mental breakdown. A student of Hans Gude at the Academy of Art in D sseldorf, Germany, Hertervig is paralyzed by anxieties about his talent and is overcome with love for Helene Winckelmann, his landlady's 15-year-old daughter. Marked by inspiring lyrical flights of passion ("I walked into her light") and enraged sexual delusions, Hertervig's fixation on Helene persuades her family that he must leave. Oppressed by hallucinations and with nowhere to go, Hertervig shuttles between a cafe, where he endures the mockery of his more sophisticated classmates, and the Winckelmann's apartment, which he desperately tries to re-enter. The novel's second section finds Hertervig lost in madness and planning an escape from Gausted Asylum in Norway; a brief and less satisfying coda reveals the life-transforming consequences of Hertervig's art for a late-20th-century writer named Vidme. Fosse's prose, which often affects a childlike quality, might put off some readers, but many gorgeous passages and Fosse's pursuit of the "glimmer of the divine" in art make this a powerful book. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Known primarily as a playwright (and favorably compared to Ibsen), Norwegian Fosse has produced more than 30 literary works in the past 20 years. This book, originally published in 1995 and his first to be translated into English, certainly lives up to its name. Moody and episodic, it showcases the author's understanding of the human psyche and its flaws. Because of its distinctive structure it's divided into three chapters, each shorter than the last the novel will be best appreciated in one sitting. While the final chapter takes place in the recent past, most of the novel is set in the mid-1850s and focuses on Norwegian artist Lars Hertervig. The stream-of-consciousness style used here gives readers an inside look deep into the mind of the neurotic and deeply troubled protagonist. Recommended for academic libraries and public libraries with large fiction collections. Karen Walton Morse, Univ. at Buffalo Libs., NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Art-school angst in the 1850s inspires modern writer. Lars Hertervig, a young Quaker from a small Norwegian island, has been sent by a patron to study landscape painting in Dsseldorf. Lars lies on his bed in a rented room, on the day his prominent teacher, Hans Gude, plans to critique his work. Lars avoids the studio, fearing that Gude will tell him he can't paint and must return home. Mentally, Lars relives the time his landlady's 15-year-old daughter, Helene, let her hair down for him. He fancies they're in love. But Helene has just told him her uncle wants to evict him. Helene seems indifferent and Lars alternately berates her and tries to get her to run away with him. In an artist's tavern, Malkasten, Lars accuses a classmate, Alfred, one of many colleagues who in Lars's opinion can't paint, of stealing his pipe. He's menaced by delusions of black and white clothes that surround him and almost smother him. By now, the reader wishes they would. Wandering the streets with his suitcases, Lars encounters Gude, who compliments his talent. But Lars's paranoia admits no praise. Alfred lures Lars back to Malkasten, claiming Helene is awaiting him there. He's greeted instead by a jeering section of bad painters. The next segment details a day at Gaustad asylum, where Lars has been forbidden to paint. In his doctor's view, art, masturbation and maligning the virtue of the world's women are the three pillars of Lars's insanity. Lars contemplates escape. He's no more popular in the madhouse than in art school, and we last see him being pelted with snowballs by fellow inmates as he skulks off. The third section concerns a reclusive writer, Vidme, who in 1991 is inspired to write a novel aboutHertervig. Or maybe not. The stream-of-consciousness narration, a minute-by-minute reportage of obsessive, repetitive thoughts, is a numbing rendition of the banality of anxiety. This author's own madness lies in tedium.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564784513
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Series: Scandinavian Literature Series
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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. In 2000, his novel Melancholy won the Melsom Prize, and Fosse was awarded a lifetime stipend from the Norwegian government for his future literary efforts.

Damion Searls writes in English and has translated many of Europe's greatest writers: Rilke, Proust, Ingeborg Bachmann, Peter Handke, Nescio, Jon Fosse, Robert Walser, Kurt Schwitters, and others. He has received a Fulbright Fellowship, an NEA, and a PEN Translation Fund award; his most recent books are an abridged edition of Thoreau's Journal and a new selection and translation of Rilke's poetry and prose, called The Inner Sky: Poems, Notes, Dreams. His travelogue Everything You Say Is True appeared in 2004.

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