There is a particular kind of confidence possessed by the writer who refuses to take his work completely seriously. As with Beckett or Bernhard, Fosse undercuts his metaphysics with slapstick comedy. Are Asle and Asle really the same person, or is it simply the case that sometimes “people look like other people”? Risk is also central to the novel’s treatment of faith. Fosse wrestles with the contradictions of what can be called a kind of negative theology in the vein of the medieval mystic Meister Eckhardt, whom Asle cites in his prayers. He admits that “Gott ist nichts, was man in Worte fassen kann” (God cannot be grasped in language), yet he offers sprawling disquisitions on theology and metaphysics, as if he might, by chance, find the formula of words to define the divine. And as for faith, so too with art. Asle constantly reminds us that painting, not writing, “shows something that can’t be said”. So what are we, as readers, to make of this document?
The reader’s understanding of the relationship between the two Asles flexes and changes. With some of the story lines and scenes feeling slightly redundant – an argument about a band, a subplot about anxiety in the classroom – what the precise nature of the relationship actually is becomes the pressing question of the book. It remains unanswered when the fifth instalment ends, like its four predecessors, with Asle praying and counting the beads of his rosary, as Christmas draws closer. The novel’s epigraph, ‘Je est un autre’, is taken from Rimbaud; like the title, it suggests something irreducible about the link between these men’s lives. But something more than the inconclusive unease of I is Another is now demanded of the series’ end. It has been a strange, difficult and sometimes beautiful journey so far. In the final instalments, Fosse has promises to keep.