Author and playwright Jon Fosse has been offered Norway’s honorary home for artists in Oslo, and has accepted. He’ll move into the historic house on the grounds of the Royal Palace later this year.
The announcement was made by the government minister in charge of cultural affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labour Party, on Monday, the day before Norway’s annual Constitution Day celebrations on the 17th of May.
Huitfeldt, in handing over the keys to Fosse, noted that Norwegian literary hero Henrik Wergeland was the first to move into the house called Grotten on May 17, 1841. The state bought the house in 1922 and Huitfeldt said she was glad that Fosse accepted the government’s invitation to move in 170 years after Wergeland.
“Since the government has decided that we will continue the tradition of offering Grotten has a home and workplace for one of our leading artists, it’s because we recognize the value of art’s meaning in Norwegian society,” Huitfeldt said. “Gotten can only be offered to an artist. No other force binds us together stronger than our culture.”
The house was due to become vacant following the death of its last occupant, composer Arne Nordheim, last year. His widow moved out this spring and had wanted another artist to move in. Huitfeldt noted that Fosse’s residence will continue a consistent trend of alternating between poets, authors and composers.
Fosse, age 51, is considered to be the most widely performed contemporary playwright and author in Europe. His plays have been produced around the world and his works have been translated into 40 languages.
Fosse currently lives in Bergen. He debuted in 1983 with the novel Raudt, svart (Red, black). He has since written novels, poetry, children’s books, essays and plays. The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph has included him on its list of the world’s “Top 100 living genuises,” and he has won a long list of awards and honors over the years, including Norway’s Brage Prize in 2005, the Swedish Academy’s Nordiska Pris in 2007 and, just last year, the International Ibsen Award.
There had been a movement underway to end the tradition of allowing an artist to live in the historic Grotten and instead open it up as a museum to Wergeland or other literary figures. That plan did not receive the approval of the government, which instead evaluated a long list of candidates for the home including actress Liv Ullmann, singer Mari Boine and poet Jan Erik Vold. Artist Vebjørn Sand also launched the idea of offering the home to Odd Nerdrum, arguably Norway’s most successful contemporary painter. The government clearly rejected that idea as well, and Nerdrum is now involved in a conflict with tax authorities in Norway.