to translate jon fosse
To translate the work of Jon Fosse (bio) is to translate rhythm, philosophy, space and silence.

“What I am writing about is the relationship between people, the spaces between them, and in a way what I write are the empty spaces. And more than writing about place I feel I am writing what is in a place and doesn’t belong to that place in any visible or concrete sense.” – Jon Fosse

“When I began translating Fosse’s work in 2003, I became very taken with the idea that I was translating contemporary Norwegian theater into the American idiom.
I realized I was wrong. It’s not about taking the language into modern-day America and making it colloquial. It’s about making Fosse’s unique voice come through in the American-English language. His is a voice like we’ve never heard in Norwegian either. And I want that part to work for an American audience.”
- Sarah Cameron Sunde

Oslo Elsewhere aims to create a body of Jon Fosse’s work that exists in American-English translation, both in production form so that American audiences can experience his plays live, and in published form, so that more American theater practitioners can delve deep into the text. It is necessary to find his voice in American English. British translations do exist, but subtleties are crucial. Why would we go through another culture in order to reach him when we can translate him ourselves?
“Personal philosophy is embedded in every word that Jon Fosse writes. He has a deep sense of what it is to live and be present in any given moment. Whenever I correspond with him, I am reminded that life exists beyond the hustle-and-bustle of my New York lifestyle. Instead, it exists in specific moments of interaction between people and with nature—in a glance from a lover or a stranger on the street, in watching the sea for hours on end, or in the breath between actors and audience in a theatre. Fosse does not preach philosophy with his plays, but his work is so full of space for reflection that the resultcan seem spiritual or meditative, both for the artists working on the project and for the audience experiencing it. I connected to Fosse’s sensibility immediately: his was the voice I was looking for in the theatre. I know many people feel the same way I do, but others will not. His voice is distinct and comes from a completely different perspective than Americans are used to, and both the space it creates and the philosophy it presents can be challenging.”

READ THE ENTIRE ESSAY: “Silence and Space: The New Drama of Jon Fosse” by Sarah Cameron Sunde, published in PAJ (Performing Arts Journal), edition 87, fall 2007.

See excerpts of Fosse’s text in translation:
Night Sings Its Songs
deathvariations
Sa ka la

Every choice in these translations has been made in order to serve the action of the play, with the knowledge that actors will speak these words on the stage. To request full copies of the translated scripts, email sarah@osloelsewhere.org