Jon Fosse accepts Nobel Prize in Stockholm

Laureate brings the hall to laughter in his gracious acceptance speech


Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT / NTB
Nobel Prize winner in literature Jon Fosse accepts the prize, presented by King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony at Stockholm Concert Hall on Dec. 10.

Fredrik Moen Gabrielsen

Dressed in a white bowtie and tails with the St. Olav Medal around his neck, Jon Fosse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in Stockholm on Dec. 10. Just before 5 p.m., Fosse went on stage to receive the prize from Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf.

For the occasion, he had donned his St. Olav Medal, which he received in 2005. On his chest, he also wore the medal he received in 2003 when he was made a Knight in France’s National Order of Merit.

The 64-year-old was clearly moved by the solemnity of the moment, but he smiled when he received the award and bowed deeply to the king, the academy, and the audience.

Afterward, the orchestra played “Anitra’s Dance” from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg in honor of the Norwegian Nobel Prize winner, who is only the fourth Norwegian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Fosse now joins the ranks along with Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Knut Hamsun, and Sigrid Undset. Undset was the previous recipient of the award – 95 years ago.

Went better than feared 

The sometimes media-shy author declined the press conference that is often held in connection with the Nobel events and has also declined interviews. Nevertheless, the Swedish national broadcaster STV was able to get a few words with the 64-year-old after the ceremony.

“I was very skeptical, but it went much better than feared,” said Fosse.

Fosse had stated in advance that he was worried and terribly nervous before the Nobel days in December. On Dec. 7, he gave his Nobel lecture.

“Actually, it has been just fine. It’s been enjoyable and nice in a way, but when I get back to my day-to-day life, whatever that may be, I’m probably not going to walk around feeling like a Nobel laureate – just like the old boy that I was,” said Fosse.

Made the audience laugh

Later in the evening, the tables were set for pomp and splendor in the city’s town hall, where the Nobel Prize winners were honored with the grand Nobel banquet.

Fosse sat next to Princess Christina Mrs. Magnuson, who is the king’s sister, and Sweden’s minister of culture. The menu included Norwegian king crab and many other delicious dishes.

Fosse made the audience laugh when he gave his short acceptance speech in English.

“Many years ago, I saw myself, not in a dream or daydream, but more in a kind of vision, walking on the side of a road into a town. When I saw myself there, sometime in the future, I saw myself as someone who had won the Nobel Prize in Literature,” Fosse said.

“Because of this vision, I felt reassured that one day I would be standing here, to be completely honest with you,” he said to laughter from the audience.

The Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics were also awarded. Recipients included Hungarian Katalin Karikó and American Drew Weissman, who received the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work on the development of COVID-19 vaccines based on mRNA technology.

Worried and nervous

Fosse’s 37-year-old wife and 11-year-old daughter were also present, but they did not sit next to the author. Others present in Stockholm included Minister of Culture Lubna Jaffery (Labor Party), as well as Fosse’s publisher, Håkon Kolmannskog at Samlaget.

Back in Norway, the award ceremony was streamed at Litteraturhuset in Oslo, which lately has had many Fosse events stretching over several days. Strandebarm in Hardanger (Fosse’s home town) also celebrated.

Fosse has been in Stockholm for several days. The author declined many of the events, but he visited the library in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby on Dec. 8. It has been tradition since 1988 that the prize winner in literature visits the library. There, Fosse met children who had read his books, and the author was clearly moved after the children sang to him, according to Verdens Gang.

“I look forward to meeting you. I know you’re very shy, but that’s fine, so are we,” said one of the greetings from a child named Asli.

This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE.

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NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway