Hello Gentle Reader
Working nights, I have observed more sunsets, and sunrises; twilights and dusks, gradually blow out the candle of the day, and strike the match of dawn. The moon waxing to its fully illuminated self; and observer its silver light wane, to a sliver of a hangnail in the sky. The morning tweets of morning birds beaks; is more a goodbye, then a herald of a new day. Coffee is brewed, showers pour, beds are abandoned, and the morning rituals commence as normal, a cup of coffee is drunk, ties are tied, pants are secured with belts; shoes are next: it dress or high heel. Garages open, cars are started, and away they go. Some leave sooner than others, to beat the rush hour traffic; others choose in sleep ridden logic to stay in bed longer, and take their chances with the rush hour traffic. Yet, after a period of doing school work, reading a few chapters or a few stories from a collection, I slip into the cover of the womb, which has come to be my bed, and I fall asleep, just as the world is renewed with a bright new sense of vigor, and the mundane world commenced once again. Everything, throughout the day though, is condensed into these two pivotal moments, for the normal the regular life of an individual. The morning and the day, where they go to work, sit behind a computer, in a cubicle or an office; they engage in the everyday office politics, stemming from the water cooler itself or the coffee pot in the lunch room. Their superior, boss, manager, issues another new assignment, before the current one is even complete or near complete; and yet they are told, as they were told two weeks ago, in regards to their current project; that this assignment is very important and needs to be completed immediately, you may need to work longer hours or pull in a few weekends in order to see its completion. Then of course the question is raised: why do I do this; is this, what my life has come down to? The answer is fatalistic but correct: but of course this is what your life has come down to. Only later will it be condensed down to its ethereal ingredients, framed by memory and by ghosts, in which case you then have the ability to reflect on it further. You then have the ability to regret, to make arrangements, to go on with the old times as they were.
Jon Fosse is one of the greatest living playwrights in the world today. Yet one would be forgiven for not knowing either his name, or any of the names of his plays, currently being performed. As “The Guardian,” explains, despite Jon Fosse’s success, being one of Europe’s most performed playwrights, and translated into an forty languages; there is something alienating about his plays when they are adapted to the English stage. Many independent reviewers agree, it’s the best theatrical drama and performance they’ve observed in a long time; but many question and often lament, that they fail to understand the play. Though, the reviews are polite, they are muted, and the English speaking and viewing community, has been all but immune the charms of Fosse’s plays. Despite this though, he has been favorably compared Jon Fosse to both the great playwright Samuel Beckett, as well as Beckett’s successor, Harold Pinter. However, Jon Fosse is different than both of his predecessors. The absurdity of Beckett’s work, strives in and around a lack of communication, which rivals the absurdity of existence; a somewhat existential purgatory, with heavy comical undertones. Harold Pinter however, wrote with greater menace in his plays, where the lack of communication, was not the absence of speech, but rather too much communication, where two individuals communicated with extensive verbose dialogue, failing to see others point of view. This was however, until Harold Pinter became more reactionary and political leaning in his theatrical work. Yet, Jon Fosse remains completely separate and different then both of the other two playwrights. His work is a bit more, dark and brooding, with his plays often set in abstract spaces, but the fishing villages, the sea, the fjords; all make their appearances in his plays. For Jon Fosse though, what makes him far more unique and separate from both Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett; is his passion is not in plays and playwriting, or the theatre itself. For Fosse, his passion has always been (and remains) to be the longer prose form of the novel; and has since retired from writing plays to concentrate on his prose endeavors.
Though, primarily known for his plays, Jon Fosse’s great passion has been novels, and so far only four of Jon Fosse’s novels have been translated and published in English. They are: “Melancholia (I),” “Melancholia (II),” “Aliss at the Fire,” and “Morning & Evening.” However, Fosse’s famed trilogy will be released by Dalkey Archive Press by the end of the year. In “Morning and Evening,” Jon Fosse condenses the life of Johannes a fisherman between the two pivotal moments of his life. The first fifteen pages of the novel, deal with the birth of Johannes, from the perspective of his anxious father Olai. The rest of this short sweet novel is dedicated to Johanne’s and the strange day in which he wakes up, where he does not vomit first thing in the morning, and he feels lighter than normal.
The prose of “Morning and Evening,” is much like “Aliss at the Fire.” The syntax structure is long and winding; weaving in between the physical realities of the characters, and their internal memories. The prose takes acquaintance and adjustment; but after a foot hold has been grasped, the novel moves quickly. The first fifteen pages, discussing the birth of Johannes move haphazardly, and slightly awkward. The birth itself appears painfully slow, as Olai asks questions which waiver between terror and hope, of what will certainly await his new born son. The second part of the novel concerns Johannes more closely, as he awakes one morning, and finds himself lighter, and more capable of moving, as if he were young once again. Johannes begins to his daily routine. He has a cup of coffee, a morning cigarette (one of those rare few simple pleasures in which he indulges in), and has a piece of bread with slice of brown cheese, before setting off to inspect his bicycle, which again he comes to realize as he maneuver through the shed, that he is once again lighter then he recalls being as of late, only to discover that a tire on the bicycle requires his attention and needs to be repaired. In which case, Johannes slips off for a walk to the bay; and thus this miraculous day begins to take more surreal journey, as he ponders his way through his walk about his life with his wife Erna, who died a few years ago, and about his daughter Signe, his favourite child, who lives nearby and often stops by to say hello or phones every day. He recalls Peter his old friend, and how lonely everything seems now with him gone as well.
This new light filled day of Johannes is filled with memories, and they become more apparent to him, when he finds Peter down on the day, and will soon be heading out to collect his crab, and will be sure to deliver the finest of the bunch to young lady, who was a love interest of Johannes before he met and fell in love with Erna. The memories ebb and flow; coming in and departing once again. The ghosts Johannes past appear unexpectedly then evaporate, after a short visit. The day’s peculiarity becomes increasingly more dreadful for Johannes as more and more ghosts appears, and more and more memories evaporate, shortly after coming back into existence. As Peter says to Johannes:
“The sea doesn’t want you, he says
and Peter wipes a tear away
Now all that’s left is earth, Peter Says.”
This novel is filled with numerous biblical references and undertones, but they do not diminish the overall philosophical inquiring nature of the novel, in regards to life and death; however being able to spot them, scrutinize them, and understand while most certainly be a helpful understanding of the text, I am sure – perhaps more than which I grasped. The novel itself though, moved with the style in which Fosse has become famous for, the unpunctuated long stream of consciousness sentences, and the splintered dialogue (be prepared for a lot of ‘yes,’ to be spoken.). Yet, Jon Fosse executed an ethereal story about life and death, with understated precision, showcasing the pivotal moments of one man’s; both his birth and his eventual end, and all the memories, longing, sadness, regrets, and joys which are sewed into the fabric of a life. A short read, but its subject matter, betraying the deceptive page length the novel presents, where the ghosts and memories of Johannes haunt long after its been read, and shelved.
Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
And As Always
Stay Well Read