Melancholy I, II

Melancholy I, II

Jon Fosse

Original title: Melancholia I, II
Publisher: Det Norske Samlaget, 1995, 1996
Pages: 276 pages

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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 Düsseldorf, 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.

Melancholy II is set in 1902, on the day of the Norwegian artist Lars Hertervig’s death, and is told from the perspective of Hertervig’s fictitious sister Oline. The book is the sequel to Fosse’s 1995 novel Melancholy, which is about Hertervig’s time as a student.

Foreign rights

Batzer in Denmark
Les Oevres in The Netherlands
Edition Circé in France
Kindler Verlag in Germany
Dalkey Archive (US) in English
Alaúde in Brazil
Fandango in Italy
Emecé/Planeta in Catalan /Spain
Bonniers in Sweden
Kaligram, Hungarian
Dauphin, Czechian

Awards

The book was awarded the Melsom Prize and the Sunnmøre Prize.1 It was followed by a 1996 sequel, Melancholy II, which is set on the day of Hertervig’s death. The first part of Melancholy I was the basis for Georg Friedrich Haas’ 2008 opera Melancholia.2

Jon Fosse

Portrait jon fosse (002)
Photo: Tove Breistein

Jon Fosse is widely considered one of the world’s most important living writers. Born in 1959 in Strandebarm, a small village in the western part of Norway, he lives today in the Grotten, an honorary residence, as well as in Hainburg, Austria, and Frekhaug, Norway.

Fosse has received numerous prizes, both in Norway and internationally, and he is mentioned increasingly often as a likely contender for the Nobel Prize. He is currently finishing a major seven-volume work of what he calls “slow prose”: Septology, to be published in three volumes in 2019, 2021, and 2023.

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Someone Is Going to Come

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Morning and Evening

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Septology

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Plays 1 - 5

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Collected Essays

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2011
Nightsongs

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Boathouse

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1989
Trilogy

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Dream of Autumn

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1999
I Am the Wind

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Little Sister

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2000
Living Rock

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The Fiddler Girl

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2009
The Dog Manuscripts

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2018, (1995, 1996, 1997)
Collected Poems

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2001
Kant

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1990
The Name

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1995
Shorter Prose

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2011