Jon Fosse: Melancholia I (Melancholy)

The latest addition to my website is Jon Fosse‘s Melancholia I (Melancholy). This book is about a real person, the Norwegian painter Lars Hertervig, though there is no indication in the English translation that he was real. Hertervig came from a poor background but was discovered and sponsored by a local businessman and was sent to study in Düsseldorf. There he had a mental breakdown and we follow a day in his life, when this breakdown is taking place. Fosse shows us his thinking – irrational, obsessed, insecure, rambling – as he is thrown out of his rented rooms for an improper relationship with the daughter of his landlady and mocked by his fellow art students. We later see him back in Norway, in a mental institution, still struggling with his demons. Fosse gives us a good portrait of his insanity and even shows us a contemporary writer (1991) struggling with writing about him.

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