"Melancholy" takes us deep inside a painter's fragile consciousness, vulnerable to everything but therefore uniquely able to see its beauty and its light.
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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 is a writer in English and translator from German, French, Dutch, and Norwegian. Searls has translated writers including Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Christa Wolf; his translation of Hans Keilson's "Comedy in a Minor Key"was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010 and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in Fiction.
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. 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.)
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