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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Melancholy II

Jon Fosse

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To purchase Melancholy II

Title: Melancholy II
Author: Jon Fosse
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 112 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: in Melancholy I-II - US
in Melancholy I-II - UK
in Melancholy I-II - Canada
Melancholia II - France
in Melancholie - Deutschland
  • Norwegian title: Melancholia II
  • Translated by Eric Dickens
  • See also our review of Fosse's Melancholy

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effective coda to Fosse's Hertervig-variations

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 20/3/2001 Thomas Irmer
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 29/3/2001 Aldo Keel
Die Zeit . 22/3/2001 Rolf Michaelis

  From the Reviews:
  • "Dazwischen gibt es, wie bei Lars zuvor, Erinnerungen an die frühste Kindheit, die erkennen lassen, daß die Lebensproblematik der Hertervigs eine zutiefst religiöse Angelegenheit ist. Der auf Unabhängigkeit bedachte Vater widersetzte sich dem Protestantismus, ließ keines seiner Kinder taufen und hing den Quäkern an." - Thomas Irmer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Jetzt wird das Kompositions-Gesetz von Wiederholung und Echo auf andere Art legitimiert: Eine alte Frau käut ihre Erinnerungen an die Jugendzeit wieder. (...) Ein Trauer-Roman, ein Vernichtungs-Buch ? Nein. Ganz verborgen, die Geschichte einer großen, also unglücklichen Liebe." - Rolf Michaelis, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

Note: This review was based on the German translation of the text; the English translation only became available in 2013.

       In Melancholy Jon Fosse offered an approach to the Norwegian painter Lars Hertervig, a novel considering (among other things) the difficulties of being an artist. Little of Hertervig-as-artist was presented in the book; for the most part it was about Hertervig as frustrated artist, a painter who can't paint (prevented from doing so by others as much as by himself). Melancholy II does continue the story, offering yet another perspective as a coda (though the possibility of many more Melancholias is one of the tantalizing aspects of Fosse's indirect approach).
       Melancholy II is set in 1902, shortly after the painter's death. The perspective is that of Oline a (fictional) sister of Hertervig. It again covers a single day, Oline engaged in mundane (and repetitive) tasks, culminating also in a quiet end.
       Oline doesn't just think about her would-be painter-brother, but he is on her mind, a kindred spirit now lost to her. She recalls their childhood in the full household, and already then the frustrations of the child who didn't quite fit in -- especially not with a strong-willed father. Oline also offers some glimpses of Hertervig later life -- generally in frustrated poverty. Among the strongest scenes is that of Hertervig chopping wood, taking his frustrations out with an axe, still complaining about the untalented painters, still driven to paint himself and still unable to call himself a 'painter' (and certainly unable to make a living at it).
       Melancholy II is a continuation of Fosse's Hertervig-obsession, another variation on the theme, adding more to the picture. It's a fitting coda (though there's room for more variations), but feels more like an appendix to Melancholy than a stand-alone work; certainly, it is best enjoyed if read together with the earlier volume (and it's odd that Dalkey Archive Press didn't include it in their translation of Melancholy (as for example the one-volume German edition has it)). [Updated: It took a few years, but Dalkey Archive have now (2013) published an English translation of Melancholy II -- albeit as a separate volume.]

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Melancholy II: Reviews: Lars Hertervig: Jon Fosse: Other books by Jon Fosse under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jon Fosse was born in 1959. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2023.

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