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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Shining

Jon Fosse

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To purchase A Shining

Title: A Shining
Author: Jon Fosse
Genre: Novel
Written: 2023 (Eng. 2023)
Length: 74 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: A Shining - US
A Shining - UK
A Shining - Canada
Ein Leuchten - Deutschland
Blancura - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Norwegian title: Kvitleik
  • Translated by Damion Searls

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Our Assessment:

B+ : shines bright and quite impressively

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times A 12/10/2023 Matthew Janney
The Guardian A 18/11/2023 Lauren Groff
The Telegraph A 12/10/2023 Cal Revely-Calder
TLS . 22-29/12/2023 Catherine Taylor
World Lit. Today . 1-2/2024 Felix Haas

  From the Reviews:
  • "The world is rendered just as it is. This is perhaps why A Shining feels so momentous, even at fewer than 50 pages. You never quite know where you’re going. But it doesn’t matter: you want to follow, to move in step with the rhythm of these words." - Matthew Janney, Financial Times

  • "A Shining can be read in many ways: as a realistic monologue; as a fable; as a Christian-inflected allegory; as a nightmare painstakingly recounted the next morning, the horror of the experience still pulsing under the words, though somewhat mitigated by the small daily miracle of daylight. I think the great splendour of Fosse’s fiction is that it so deeply rejects any singular interpretation; as one reads, the story does not sound a clear singular note, but rather becomes a chord with all the many possible interpretations ringing out at once." - Lauren Groff, The Guardian

  • "Jon Fosse’s new novella is as simple as a Biblical tale. (...) The prose in A Shining is radiant, as if Fosse were sculpting it in light. (...) A Shining is transcendental and offers us what contemporary culture rarely does: a glimpse, however slim, of the world that lies beyond." - Cal Revely-Calder, The Telegraph

  • "The physical and otherworldly hinterland of A Shining through which Jon Fosse is the guide is at once terrifying and deeply reassuring." - Catherine Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

  • "A Shining explores this haze as its protagonist’s mind makes a slow, Dantean descent into the void. The atheist reader might forgive the author’s thinly veiled Christian image of “the presence shining in its shimmering whiteness,” as they are rewarded by simple, quickly paced prose that merges their mind with that of the slowly dying." - Felix Haas, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Jon Fosse's long Septology (in)famously consists of a single sentence; meanwhile, much of A Shining -- not even one-tenth as long -- stutters along with the shortest of sentences from the get-go:

I was taking a drive. It was nice. It felt good to be moving. I didn't know where I was going, I was just driving.
       The story is simple: the narrator explains how he aimlessly set off in his car, drove down a road in the forest, got stuck there, and then wandered into the forest -- eventually coming across: "the outline of something that looks like a person. A shining outline, getting clearer and clearer". It is -- and remains -- unclear what this 'shining' might be, but -- ghostly, mystical, illusory ? -- it is a shifting presence the narrator engages with, after a fashion. With a vision then also of his parents, slowly coming into focus, among other things (or beings ...), the narrator reflects on his strange situation, trying to make sense of these sensations and experiences.
       The real -- the boredom that led him to set out; his car and the foolishness of driving it so far down this track that it gets stuck; the cold; his tiredness; and his attempts to deal with the situation normally, hoping to find a house and some people he can ask for help -- vie with what seems almost hallucinatory yet becomes as palpable.
       He finds himself in a world -- or state of mind -- where he sees:
But anything's possible. Everything. All together. Anything can happen.
       Incomprehension of a sort is intentional, the reader sharing the narrator's:
No, I don't understand this. It's not something that can be understood either, it's something else, maybe it's something that's only experienced, that's not actually happening.
       Like the reading of a text .....
       With its incantatory quality and feel, A Shining carries the reader on this strange trip -- mind-, physical, and mystical -- along with the narrator. There's power to it, too, -- even suspense -- as the story builds (or rather: as the narrator shapes and reshapes his experience in trying to convey it).
       Very short, A Shining is vivid and evocative, a kind of 'ghost'-story that has both an ethereal feel yet also suggests much weightiness to it (but without Fosse forcing any particular interpretation). Small but bright, it is successful in what it sets out to do -- not everyone's kind of fiction, but very well done for this kind of thing.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 December 2023

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A Shining: Reviews: Jon Fosse: Other books by Jon Fosse under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jon Fosse was born in 1959. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2023.

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© 2023 the complete review

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