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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Olav's Dreams
(Trilogy - 2)

Jon Fosse

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Olav's Dreams

Title: Olav's Dreams
Author: Jon Fosse
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 55 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: in: Trilogy - US
in: Trilogy - UK
in: Trilogy - Canada
Les rêves d'Olav - France
in: Trilogie - Deutschland
  • Norwegian title: Olavs Draumar
  • Translated by May-Brit Akerholt
  • Part two of Trilogy, which consists of:
    1. Wakefulness (2007)
    2. Olav's Dreams (2012)
    3. Weariness (2014)

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Our Assessment:

(-) : fine middle volume of a larger work

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Morgenbladet . 2/2/2012 Ane Farsethås
NRK . 3/2/2012 Knut Hoem

  From the Reviews:
  • "Det er rett og slett for lite stoff i motsetningen mellom Asles ulykke og samfunnets uforstand til å danne noen reelt interessant klangbunn for erfarte utenforskap, uansett hvor poetisk og symbolsk man måtte klare å lese dette. (...) Hvis Andvake lar kristenhetens viktigste fødsel kaste lys over den enkleste krybbe, er Olavs Draumar en dødsfortelling som setter den fattigste forbryters henrettelse i et hellig lys." - Ane Farsethås, Morgenbladet

  • "Litterært sett er Jon Fosse i toppklasse her. Bokåret 2012 har fått sitt første lysende høydepunkt, og jeg følger gjerne Fosse et stykke videre på denne vandringen gjennom det førmoderne Norge. Samtidig håper jeg prosaisten Fosse ikke er tapt for vår egen tid." - Knut Hoem, NRK

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:

       Olav's Dreams is the second short volume in Jon Fosse's Trilogy -- definitely a sequel and continuation of the story from Wakefulness, yet intentionally unmoored from its predecessor. So, for example, the young couple from Wakefulness have changed their names:

for now he is Olav, not Asle, and now Alida is not Alida, but Åsta, now they are Åsta and Olav Vik
       For a while they lived in the house where their son Sigvald was born, in Bjørgvin, but then Alse/Olav realized it was prudent (or imperative) they abandon it: "I think someone's out to get us", he finally admitted to Alida, and they fled Bjørgvin. Already earlier he had suggested:
perhaps it's best if from then on they say his name is Olav and not Asle, he says, and Alida asks why and he just says he thinks it would be best, safest, if someone wanted to find them for some reason or other, he says, and she asks why anyone would want to find them and he says he doesn't know, but he believes that it's probably best if they change names and then she yes if that's what he thinks, yes that's how it must be, she says
       Of course Asle does have good reason to believe someone might be looking for them, and Olav's Dreams is the story of his past catching up with them. Here most of the action revolves around him returning to Bjørgvin on an errand, and finding himself getting caught up in too much else.
       Asle has sold his beloved fiddle -- though one reason for doing so is to get some money which he can put towards buying two rings:
and then, when he is back home again, they will put the rings on their fingers and then, even if they are not married, at least it will look like they are
       On his way, he encounters two men. One is a visitor who proudly displays a beautiful bracelet, "of the yellowest gold and the bluest of blue pearls", which he has gotten for his fiancée back home. Asle is very taken by the bracelet, and wants to get Alida one just like it; eventually he goes with the other young man back to the stall and its stunning display and finds that there is another bracelet, just as beautiful, to be had.
       The other man whom Asle encounters is someone who looks familiar, and indeed who also recognizes him, from back home, the Old Man. And while Asle claims to be Olav from Vik, the Old Man knows better: "His name's Asle and he's from Dylgja", he insists to Asle's new found friend. And the Old Man remembers all too well:
     Dylgja, yes, the Old Man says
     And a man was killed there, isn't that so, he then says
     You don't say, Olav says
     No I didn't know that, he says
     Who was it, he says
     I think it was a fisherman who lived in a boathouse, the Old Man says
     And then, he says
     Yes and then a woman was found dead as well, and after that her daughter disappeared, he says
     and he looks at Olav
     There was someone called Asle who lived there in the boathouse before the man who was killed came there, the Old Man says
     It was you who lived there, before the fisherman came there, he says
       And the Old Man also reminds Asle of the local midwife who disappeared so mysteriously more recently .....
       Asle can not escape the Old Man -- though apparently trying to buy him off with a drink or two might have helped -- or his past. He also encounters the temptress he and Alida came across in Wakefulness, the Girl, but yet again he won't succumb to her (and so she curses him as: "the worst guy in the whole of Bjørgvin"). And then it all comes crashing down: the Law is called, Asle arrested, and justice meted out.
       In his final delirium, separated from Alida, he reclaims his name and identity -- "I am Asle, he calls" -- and:
and Asle tries to be what he knows he is, a soaring, and the soaring is called Alida, and he just wants to glide, he thinks
       The bracelet also figures here in the final, terrible scene -- on the wrist of the wrong girl, the Girl, who had earlier stolen it from him -- and it will reappear in the final chapter of the trilogy, Weariness, as well.
       Again, tone and language dominate over story here, the simple story, of Asle deciding to go to Bjørgvin and meeting his fate there, presented in this incantatory and almost droning prose, without any punctuation other than commas. Evasive Asle -- running from Dylgja, from Bjørgvin, from his identity, even from his fiddle -- finally comes and turns to all he really has, Alida and their son, but only when it is too late, and all is lost.
       Focused on Asle, Olav's Dreams is a dark nightmare, a haze from which he can not escape. As reality tightens its horrible grip on him, fittingly he loses himself in a hallucinatory last gasp of last possible self-preservation open to him, imagining, in the story's closing words, that: "he stands there and holds Alida's hand".
       It's an effective, dark story -- but also clearly works better as part of the larger (trilogic) whole.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 August 2018

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Olav's Dreams: Reviews: 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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© 2018-2023 the complete review

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