Knut Hamsun

THE LAUREATE: Read about him here and here. I’ll write about him later.

WHAT I’M READING: Growth of the Soil, obviously, because that’s what he won for. I initially tried reading Hunger, but it was not to be.

REVIEW: Growth of the Soil reminds me quite a lot of The Peasants. It is, after all, a story about people who work the land and make an honest living of it, despite the influence of modernity. In fact, that is arguably the theme of Growth of the Soil. But there is a huge difference; Wladislaw Reymont reminds me of Homer, in the sense that, at least in The Peasants, he is singing the song of his people; his story is loaded down with ecphrases and sub-stories, but he also maintains a narrative distance, and, frankly, the characters aren’t really likeable in themselves. Knut Hamsun is a much more emotionally invested narrator. He constantly addresses and admires his main character, Isak. Overall, too, Growth of the Soil is almost equivalent to those godawful Horatio Alger novels everyone refers to and nobody reads: there is a clear moral that is meant to apply to the whole world and direct the growth of a country. Plot-wise, it’s simple: the book starts with Isak trudging up into the moorlands and building himself a turf hut; it ends with him the founder of a new district, the richest and best-provisioned farmer around, and still, thirty-odd years later, sowing his seeds and building new buildings from scratch. Knut Hamsun has a humorous, folksy kind of voice (or maybe the translator added that, I can’t tell.). I dunno, I am up past my bedtime.

RECOMMENDED?: Yes. Absolutely. This one’s even still in print!

WHAT’S NEXT: Probably Orhan Pamuk. Coming up in the nearish future, though, are both Greek Week and Read A Bunch of Important Mid-Century Italian Poets Week. Stay tuned!

SIDE NOTE: I’m really bummed after actually reading Hamsun’s bio. Apparently, he really liked Hitler. Even wrote a eulogy for him, calling him a “warrior for mankind.” What?

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