Hamsun, Knut

Hamsun, Knut
© Joh. K. Engvig

Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) grew up on a small farm in the north of Norway, at Hamarøy, above the arctic circle, and the landscape he grew up in plays an important role in much of his work. In fact one could say that he created this landscape as a literary landscape. Hamsun traveled a lot in his youth, made his debut with the novel Sult (Hunger) in 1890, married for the second time (with Marie) and settled in Hamarøy for some years in 1912, and was awarded the nobel prize for Markens grøde (Growth of the Soil) in 1920. For the prize-money he bought a stately mansion in the south of Norway, and for the rest of his life divided his time between writing and farming. The last part of his career was clouded by his fervent nazism, a trauma in Norway to this day. There has been many attempts to deal with his nazism by separating his literature from his politics. His last novel, dark and melancholy, Ringen sluttet (The Ring is Closed), was published in 1936. Then, after the war, and after the authorities had declared him more or less insane, he took everybody by surprise with a subtle memoir, Paa gjengrodde stier (On Overgrown Paths), written when he was nearly ninety years old.

Knut Hamsun is widely regarded as Norways foremost prosewriter through the ages, and he is undoubtedly the most translated. The last translation of The Wayfarers was into hebrew, published in 2009.