“Dreamt In Stone”

Jon Fosse, Trans. Damion Searls

October 29, 2018 
The following is from Jon Fosse's collection, Scenes From A Childhood. The collection is the latest work from one of Norway's most celebrated authors. Taken from various sources, the texts gathered together in the collection demonstrate that the short story is often the mode of Fosse's greatest works. Jon Fosse has written prose, poetry, essays, short stories, children's books, and over forty plays, with more than a thousand productions performed and and translations into fifty languages.

No one saw the avalanche because it all fell apart so slowly, not day by day, not even hour by hour, not minute by minute, but it fell apart, it was falling apart the whole time and you could see, if you wanted to see it, if you didn’t refuse to see it, you could see it falling apart because it was an avalanche, it had to be an avalanche because what else could it be? But did it slide like mud? No, it didn’t slide like mud, it was more in a sudden imperceptible jolt that it happened. But someone must have seen it? No, no one saw it, or maybe someone did but they didn’t want to see it, maybe, or maybe no one saw it because the jolts were too quick, but they came, jolt after jolt. But in that case you can’t very well call it an avalanche, you say. Yes it was, it was an avalanche, I say that it was an avalanche, it was an avalanche, and you say that if it was like I say it was then it wasn’t an avalanche, it was something else. And I say, you’re right. And inside the avalanche, what happened there? Was it something whole that went to pieces or was it something broken that only seemed unbroken, in the avalanche. Was there a flaw in the middle somewhere? But why are you asking that? Just because you’re thinking it? you say. I think the avalanche happened because there was a flaw somewhere, and this flaw was what finally made it fall apart. Yes, it must have been like that, you say. But in the middle, yes, no, yes, it might have been like that, maybe, I say, but I think it wasn’t a big crack, only a lot of smaller cracks, lots of almost visible cracks. Yes, it could have been like that too, you say. I say nothing. But these small, almost invisible cracks somehow combined into a big crack, a chasm almost, you say, and something almost like joy can be heard in your voice. A chasm, I say. Yes, yes, like a chasm, you say.

I can’t stop thinking about how it fell apart so slowly, so imperceptibly slowly, I say. Yes, you’ve already said that, you say. Yes, I say. But the avalanche itself, it really came so suddenly. Yes, I say. Yes, you say. And you’re saying there were several avalanches and then it just lay there. I just lay there, I say. You just lay there, you say, yes I just lay there on the front steps to my house. And then, you say. And then there was someone who said something to me and I tried to get up but I couldn’t, and then there was someone who helped me get up. And then I stood there. And then I opened a door. And then I went in the door and shut it behind me. And then, you say. And I say that I don’t remember anything, and then I remember that I woke up and I was lying inside on the floor. I got up. I was standing. I walked. And then? you say. I thought I had to go lie down. And then no one says anything. Yes, you say. Yes and then I woke up again, but then I was lying next to the kitchen table. And then I thought that I had to go lie down. I got up. I was standing. I found the sofa and lay down.

“And inside the avalanche, what happened there? Was it something whole that went to pieces or was it something broken that only seemed unbroken, in the avalanche. Was there a flaw in the middle somewhere?”

Three times it fell apart. Everything was black and a kind of fog in my sleep but with a kind of quivering somewhere inside, like bits of stone, like little stones, like little moving stones, like little stones in a slow avalanche, an avalanche so slow that it can’t be called an avalanche. Yes you’ve said that, you say. Yes, I say. And then? you say. No one saw the avalanche, I say. You were alone, you say. Yes I was, yes, I say, yes. That’s probably why it wasn’t an avalanche, you say. No, maybe not, I say. But something like that, you say. Yes, I say. And then we’re quiet for a while. And now, you say. Now, I say. What do you think? you say. About the avalanche, you say. Where did the stones go? They just sat there but then they fell apart again, I say. Yes, you say.

Bits of stone, these stones too, little stones, sat there and shone in their grey fog, shone weakly but they shone, and then I gathered up the light and I saw I was lying on a sofa. I stood up. I went out a door. I shut the door behind me. I walked. I stood waiting for a bus. And it was hard to stand up. And then it fell apart again. And I was lying on the pavement. I suddenly knew I was lying on the pavement. Someone came running over. He helped me get up. I was standing. I tried to get on a bus but another man came running over and said that I couldn’t go by bus, this bus wasn’t for someone like me, the man said, I asked if I couldn’t just sit down on the bus, no, no, this bus wasn’t for someone like me, the man said. I asked the driver, it was a woman, and she smiled and shook her head. She didn’t say anything or maybe she said no. And then, I think it happened like this if I’m not misremembering, the man who’d helped me onto my feet came and took me to a car, it was a taxi. He put me in the taxi and I sat down and the driver and I drove off. The taxi driver said that he often thought about nothing, how nothingness is in everything. Nothingness is in everything, the driver said. Yes, you say. I didn’t tell him anything about the stones. No of course not, you say, nothing about the avalanche, I say, no of course you didn’t, you say. And then we sat there and neither of us said anything. We sat like that for a long time. I don’t like you talking about the stone and the avalanche, you say, it’s fake in a way, like you’re lying. Yes, I say. It is almost like that, I say. But why are you doing it then? you say. I don’t really know, I say. No it’s probably not so easy to know, you say.

The stones sing and they don’t sing. Even when the fog is gone the bits of stone sit there, sit and lean against each other, they sit there so nicely that it’s as though they’d been put together well by a skilful stonemason, they sit there like that after the avalanche too. Falling apart, you say, yes yes, I say. And then we laugh, yes we laugh. After the avalanche too. So then you were sitting in a car, you say. And the driver said that there was some nothingness in everything, and then what, you say. It was in a taxi, I say, and we were talking about nothing and about what’s behind and in everything that is, it was where it came from, it’s there, the man said, the taxi driver, you said, yes him, yes, he said that there’s nothing that’s God before the beginning, and then it begins with the Word, he said, yes him the man driving the car, he said that, I say. That was well said, you say. It was as if nothing was falling apart, I say. But everything was so grey, like in a fog. Like grey stone, granite, you say. Yes I say. But it was a little lighter there in the car. In that taxi, you say. Yes, I say. And then? Yes, then I got out of the taxi and walked into the airport. And then it fell apart again. I was lying on the floor and when I looked up there were lots of people around me and one of them was taking my pulse and he said he’s weak and then a man with a wheelchair came over and put me in the chair and pushed me to a room and I sat there and he said that I might be able to board the plane, they would evaluate me he said, and he gave me water and then he pushed me to the plane in the wheelchair, ahead of all the other passengers, and when we reached the airplane door someone came to meet me, who? you ask, a flight attendant, I say, and she said he can board, and then they pushed me into the airplane and sat me in a first row seat and someone else, another flight attendant, you say, asked if I wanted anything and I said maybe I’d like a little water. And then I was given a little water. Stone and water, I say. Stone, stone and water. And I was an avalanche, bits of stone, and all the stones were as if in a grey fog that nevertheless seemed to shine a little from the crushed stones, and they were wonderfully sitting leaning against each other as if they’d arranged themselves properly into a kind of wall, a wonderful wall, yes you said that already, you say, and I think that this talk about the stone and the avalanche is nothing but a lie and a concealing but still there might be something to it nevertheless, I think. A fine new wall, I say. And then? you say. And then I was pushed out of the plane in a wheelchair. I said I could walk but I wasn’t allowed to walk because I could still fall down again maybe, that was why it was best if I sat in a wheelchair and then I was taken, yes you remember that don’t you, no it wasn’t me who took you, you say, no, no it wasn’t you, it was somebody else who took me, and he put me into his car and drove me home, and he took me inside, and I lay down, I lay there and I was an avalanche, I was stone that had become many stones, an avalanche, an avalanche that kept going and I just lay there, and then the avalanche started to move and turn in on itself, I shook, I shook and shook and then shook a little less and I shook and everything is grey stones in the fog and everything is a slow avalanche, slow, and the grey has some white in it, it’s not visible as white but is it white is it? Is it white as snow? No it isn’t like snow, and it isn’t white, but it’s like white, it is snow, it’s not snow, no it’s not white, it’s not snow, it’s grey, just grey, it’s greyer, just its normal grey if it weren’t for the stones still there in their avalanche, which had arranged themselves so wonderfully properly, they sat there so handsome so quiet even though I shook and shook and someone made dinner for me but I couldn’t eat, someone bought me a bottle of something to drink and I shook a little less and was calm and then I slept a good sleep there, on, or in, those grey shining stones, I slept, I don’t remember much more, I remember less and less and then they come in with a stretcher and say that I have to get dressed and then you say he can’t do that, it doesn’t look like he can, you say and I shook and shook and I said I could put my bathrobe on, and that was easy, and then they put me on the stretcher. And I shook and shook. I saw that the avalanche was gone. I was an avalanche. But the stones sat there, in a wall, even if they were falling apart, you say. I think so, I say. Because it felt like the stones in the avalanche were me.

“Falling apart, you say, yes yes, I say. And then we laugh, yes we laugh. After the avalanche too. So then you were sitting in a car, you say. And the driver said that there was some nothingness in everything, and then what, you say.”

You were a chasm that cracked and turned into stones, and then the stones sat there, wonderfully placed together in a wall, you say. Yes. Yes that’s how it seems to be, it seems like that now, I say. Yes, you say. And the chasm is gone? you say. The chasm doesn’t exist any more, I say. And the stones shine in their own new pattern, you say. Yes, I say. What used to be in a chasm is now between the stones, I say. The stones laid together make an open room? you ask. Yes, I say. Is there something in the room? you say. I think so, I say. I can see something there, I say. And then we sit in silence. The man who was saying that nothingness is in everything, you say. Yes, I say. What about him, I say. No, nothing, you say.

These slow fallings apart, and then these sudden ones, incredibly quick, like sudden gusts of wind. Then quiet. The big crack with its big light, then the slow imperceptible avalanche, and then these sudden fallings apart. And then the stones, grey like the fog, but still with a faint light in them instead of nothing, a little of nothing’s light, so weak, so almost like ashes, so almost like glowing ashes on stone. And then stone on stone. I am in the room behind the wall the stones are laid in, my stones, other people’s stones, and there’s light in there, the strong invisible light that comes across from the sky and around the stones. The light of nothingness. The light of nothingness in the stone. The light of love in the stone.

And I go in, in behind the stones, and I sit down. I sit and look at the stones. I see that the stones are me but not the real me, the me that’s inside me. I go out between the stones and take my place and stand there with outstretched hands, like a cross. And I look at a cross. I look down. I look up. I go sit down. I look at the stones, so wonderfully placed stone on stone in a wall. I get up again. I stand.

And then you hold my hand. And the stones say that love exists, love is. Weren’t you scared, you ask. No, never, I say. But you almost died, you say. I wasn’t afraid to die, I say. No, you say. I’m not afraid to die either, you say. No, I say.


From Scenes From A Childhood. Used with permission of Fitzcarraldo Editions. Copyright © 2018 by Jon Fosse. English translation copyright © 2018 by Damion Searls.

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