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Seven Steps to Heaven

The voice: on Jon Fosse’s Septology

In the August issue of Harper’s Magazine, Wyatt Mason makes the startling claim that the Norwegian writer Jon Fosse’s Septology, a challenging and experimental work about the chaos of interiority and the fragmented nature of the self, begins a fresh chapter in the development of the novel: “With Septology, Fosse has found a new approach to writing fiction, different from what he has written before and—it is strange to say, as the novel enters its fifth century—different from what has been written before. Septology feels new.”

In this episode of the podcast, Mason and Harper’s web editor Violet Lucca unpack what exactly makes Fosse’s work so innovative. They situate Septology within the larger trajectory of literary history, comparing its peculiar narrative structure to the strategies that writers like Woolf and Nabokov developed for representing interiority. Their discussion ranges from Buddhism to Darwin’s little-known contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace as they explore Fosse’s unique approach to concretizing the spiritual aspect of human existence; the mystery of personal identity; and the place of emotions in the reader’s experience of literature.

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August 2021

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