Home » Newpages Blog » Book Review :: A Shining by Jon Fosse

Book Review :: A Shining by Jon Fosse

Guest Post by Colm McKenna

Compared to Septology, the doorstop that is John Fosse’s multi-volume, A Shining is a relative pamphlet. At 75 pages, the story can be summarized as follows: in the midst of a dérive, a man drives aimlessly (much like Fosse himself did while calming his nerves before the announcement of his being awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature), turning left and right without a thought, before he finds himself deep in the forest, his car stuck in the mud. He gets out to look for help, but all he finds is a shining, otherworldly presence. As the strangeness ramps up, he gets distracted from thoughts about his car.

There is some dialogue, though more often than not the slim cast of characters are unheard or ignored. The man’s words usually form a monologue, tracking his attempts to posit onto the world of A Shining a logic that is perpetually evading him. A dreamlike quality persists throughout; despite all the questioning, attempts to unwind the supernatural events are lackadaisical, and the phantasmal world is accepted without much fightback. At times, the glacial pacing of Fosse’s novella feels like an episode of sleep paralysis.

Comparisons to Beckett are hardly original, though A Shining does illuminate them. Here, as in Beckett’s famous trilogy, the world is shrunk down to the parameters of the story, characters are often nameless, seemingly insignificant objects become totems, and besides events that make up the blurb, nothing really happens.

A Shining by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls. Transit Books, October 2023.

Reviewer bio: Colm McKenna is a second-hand bookseller based in Berlin. He has published and self-published an array of short stories and articles, hoping to eventually release a collection of stories. He is mainly interested in the works of John Cowper Powys, Claude Houghton, and a range of Latin American writers.

Spread the word!