On Jon Fosse

Jon Fosse (1959-) is translated from his native Norwegian (he writes in nynorsk), to more than 40 languages. He is widely acclaimed as a pivotal voice in contemporary fiction. Since his debut with the novel Raudt, svart [Red, Black] in 1983, Fosse has published many novels, poetry, essays, children’s stories, and plays. It is perhaps as dramatist he is most widely known internationally.

His plays include Og aldri skal vi skiljast [And we’ll never part] (1993), Nokon kjem til å komme [Someone will arrive] (1996), and more than 30 other texts. Fosse became internationally recognised as dramatist with French director Claude Régy’s staging of Someone Will Arrive in Nanterre in 1999. The following year the Berlin theatre Schaubühne with their director Thomas Ostermeier performed Namnet [The Name] at the Salzburg Theatre Festival, ensuring Fosse’s reputation as one our age’s most important playwrights.

Fosse holds a Master of Arts (cand.philol.) in Comparative Literature from the University of Bergen, Norway, an institution which has since awarded him an Honourary Doctorate. He has won a long series of awards, such as the International Ibsen Award (2010), Pope Benedict XVI’s honourary medal (2009), and the Swedish Academy’s Nordic Award (2007). He is a Commandor in the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, and was made a Knight in France’s National Order of Merit in 2007. In 2015 he won the prestigious Nordic Council’s Literary Award for the trilogy Andvake [Insomnia], Olavs draumar [Olav’s Dreams], and Kveldsvævd [Evening Web].

In 2011, as Norway’s Poet Laureate, Jon Fosse moved in to the official Honourary Residence for artists, after it’s previous occupier, the cherished and innovative composer Arne Nordheim had passed away. This dwelling is situated on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Oslo, and was first owned by the poet Henrik Wergeland in the early 19th Century. In recognition of this honour Fosse crafted a series of poems that take Wergeland’s lyrical treasure as their starting point; “Two angels” and “It is cramped under the arch of heaven” are from this collection (2016).

Fosse is married, and has five children. Today he lives in Oslo, Bergen, and Hainburg, Austria.

See also:

Translations from Jon Fosse, Poesiar [Lyrics] (2016):

two angels met us in the door

blind austerity
and blind satisfaction

but now they fly back to
heaven
to collect dreams
for our sleep

*

it is cramped under the arch of heaven

so I must stoop under the clouds —
I had to escape
but no further
than to beneath a woman’s hair
since there it was, the wind
that blended it all together

Mackie, the subject of philosophy

Another graduate from the Lit Hum programme at Oxford, J.L. Mackie turned celebrity philosopher on his claim that there can be no objective foundation to moral values:

Meticulous, courteous, industrious, with a degree of devotion to duty striking in one who held that moral values lack any objective foundation, [J.L. Mackie] was universally admired as an outstandingly capable and committed philosopher’s philosopher. An undoubtedly apocryphal anecdote captures his character: while Alasdair Maclntyre, P. F. Strawson, and Mackie were Fellows together at University College, the authorities circulated a memorandum asking all dons to keep a record for a week of the proportions of their working hours spent on research, teaching, and administration. Maclntyre sent back a blistering missive instructing them not to waste his time. Strawson looked at the form, wrote ‘One third, one third, one third’, and went back to what he was doing. J. L. Mackie went out and bought a stop watch.

From Graham Oppy and N. N. Trakakis (eds), A Companion to Philosophy in Australia & New Zealand.

Kissinger, 95, on AI: wisdom is overwhelmed

Our new world order is one in which “information threatens to overwhelm wisdom”: Henry Kissinger has certainly made his mark on our contemporary world, having advised Nixon and masterminded the end of the Cold War. Now Kissinger’s concern is Artificial Intelligence. In an article in The Atlantic Kissinger makes some remarks about a potential divergence between hyperactivity in the social media and art:

Inundated via social media with the opinions of multitudes, users are diverted from introspection; in truth many technophiles use the internet to avoid the solitude they dread. All of these pressures weaken the fortitude required to develop and sustain convictions that can be implemented only by traveling a lonely road, which is the essence of creativity.

In the end, as a man of Kissinger’s wit and intelligence would, he cannot accept a simple adoption of the term Artificial Intelligence. It could be a misnomer, he says, because while

these machines can solve complex, seemingly abstract problems that had previously yielded only to human cognition[,] what they do uniquely is not thinking as heretofore conceived and experienced. Rather, it is unprecedented memorization and computation. Because of its inherent superiority in these fields, AI is likely to win any game assigned to it. But for our purposes as humans, the games are not only about winning; they are about thinking. By treating a mathematical process as if it were a thought process, and either trying to mimic that process ourselves or merely accepting the results, we are in danger of losing the capacity that has been the essence of human cognition.

A statesman, a scientist, a thinker: Henry Kissinger.