Asle is an ageing painter and widower who lives alone on the southwest coast of Norway. His only friends are his neighbour, Åsleik, a traditional fisherman-farmer, and Beyer, a gallerist who lives in the city. There, in Bjørgvin, lives another Asle, also a painter but lonely and consumed by alcohol. Asle and Asle are doppelgängers – two versions of the same person, two versions of the same life, both grappling with existential questions. In this final instalment of Jon Fosse’s Septology, the major prose work by ‘the Beckett of the twenty-first century’ (Le Monde), Christmas is approaching. Tradition has it that Åsleik and Asle eat lutefisk together, but this year Asle has agreed for the first time to celebrate Christmas with Åsleik and his sister, Guro. On Christmas Eve, Åsleik, Asle, and the dog Bragi take Åsleik’s boat out on the Sygnefjord. Meanwhile, we follow the lives of the two Asles as younger adults in flashbacks: the narrator meets his lifelong love, Ales; joins the Catholic Church; starts exhibiting with Beyer; and can make a living by trying to paint away all the pictures stuck in his mind. After a while, Asle and Ales leave the city and move to the house in Dylgja. The other Asle gets married too, but his wedding ends with a sobbing bride and is followed soon after by a painful breakup. Written in melodious and hypnotic ‘slow prose’, A New Name: Septology VI-VII is a transcendent exploration of the human condition by Jon Fosse, and a radically other reading experience – incantatory, hypnotic, and utterly unique.
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