cover image Aliss at the Fire

Aliss at the Fire

John Fosse, trans. from the Norwegian by Damion Searls, Dalkey Archive, $12.95 paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-56478-573-2

A drowning is solemnly relived over the generations in Fosse's circuitous, claustrophobic tale. The text begins in 2002, rewinds to late November 1979, then farther back to the initial occurrence on November 17, 1897: a woman stands at a window watching as a storm kicks up, waiting for her husband to return from taking a rowboat out on the fjord. The participants change fluidly and the passage of time is flattened, from the present couple, Signe and Asle, to a mother and child standing at a bonfire on the bay, recognized by Signe and Asle as Asle's great-great-grandmother, Aliss, and her small son, Kristoffer. In a kind of premonition of the later, central tragedy, Kristoffer falls into the water and is rescued by Aliss, though in the next generation, Kristoffer's son, Asle—namesake of Signe's husband—will have a different experience on the water on his seventh birthday. The immense burden of family history weighs heavily on each generation as ghosts, memories, and tragedies collide to effects both confounding and enlightening. (Sept.)