Hamsun festival in Grimstad, Norway 2001.

You are invited to the third Hamsun festival in Grimstad, said the invitation.Happy and full of anticipation I then drove the beautiful coastal road, the sun bidding welcome, trees and bushes had not yet changed to their autumn colours but a few early ones who had dressed up in yellow. Nørholm beautifull and well kept tempted to a small break. I sneaked past the well known garden lattice up to the poets cottage laying all alone covered in history.

After having put the car in the hotel car park I looked anxiously down the street: Was the famous letter box still in its right place, rumours were that it must be removed? But no, the postal service had kept their word, the box was still there.

Who has not with bated breath followed Hamsun on his illegal excursion from Grimstad Hospital, down the Kirkebakken, hastily over the Storgaten, putting the letter into the letter box, is discovered by the law, who happens to be a sensible person that refrains from making a report. What a relief, but I still looked guilty as I put my own postcards into the letter box.

Refreshed I went around in the beautifull city, spent a couple of joyfull hours with Marianne Hamsun, who is an extremely nice and exciting acquintance and was then ready for the programme.

Knut Hamsuns "Gangspilsvise" was performed by students from the music department of the Dahlske videregående Skole, Tor Livar Grude had composed the music. It was a treat to us all to hear how Hamsuns words and the music united in this joyfull and contagious performance, that remained in our minds and bodies a long time after. A beautifull experience. I remember, what Hamsun wrote in a letter to Hans Aanrud May 20th 1904: "... Og Gangspilvisen tror ikke jeg paa. Det er for meget Litteratur." (...and I do not believe in the Gangspilvise. It is too much litterature) -- Unbelieveable.

Amanuensis in nordic litterature at HIA, Oddbjørn Johannessen told us lively and excitingly about "The theatre hater Knut Hamsun as playwright" Yes, I do know that the common opinion is that he did not write that good plays. He even says so himself, but is that the truth? He is a master of leading us astray. What happened in Hamsuns life that made him hate theatre so? His plays were well recieved in Germany and Russia. Was Hamsun disappointed about the failing succes in Scandinavia? Maybe, or should the cause rather be sought inside Hamsuns self? If one reads the collection of Hamsuns letters from the years, where he published his plays, one never finds any difference in his mentioning of his works whether novels, poems or plays. Allways same wishes that the works may be well recieved. One of Hamsuns friends Carl Birger Mørner, swedish writer, diplomat and folklorist wrote a play " Salig Baronessen " (The late Baroness), which Hamsun wrote preface to Bolette Pavel Larsen translated, and had published in 1893. The play was performed at Christiania Theatre the year after. To my opinion Hamsun loved plays for many years but then! A lecture like this can start a long discussion.

After this suggestive lecture we were again surrounded by Hamsuns words in the shape of songs by Rolf Magne Asser, who had set music to four poems by Hamsun. As he also brought forward his saxophone and with Tor Livar Grude at the piano the enthusiasm was perfect. A treat to all senses.

"Hamsun,the Radical" was the title of the next lecture by Lars Frode Larsen, where he gave an appetizer on his new book that was to be published shortly with among others exerpts from Hunger containing some rather blasphemic passages. The young and radical Hamsun was very proud of those passages, but they are contained only in the first edition. Hamsun himself deleted the harsh words in the later editions. Larsen gave several examples on the radical Hamsun and also pointed out, how important it is to view Hamsuns life not in black-and-white only. Politically, religiously and litterarily Hamsun was in his younger years radical, which is often overlooked. A very exciting lecture and an extremely complete, interesting and exciting book to read. After the lecture Larsen was given work: To sign all my Lars Frode Larsen books and there are fortunately quite a few!

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Harald S. Næss. Six volumes of Hamsuns leters have been published. Now comes the supplement! If somebody knows Hamsun it must be Harald Næss. What can not be known about Hamsun through those letters. Næss is a gifted lecturer, well prepared he took us on a discovery tour through Hamsuns letter world, that contains all from everyday worries to fundamental issues of life. "I thank you dear Victoria, that you have never made accusations that the others have gotten more than you, you have not said a word, not a syllable. God bless you for that! Now you will recieve just compensation like your brothers", Hamsun writes in a letter of consolation. In a letter to his friend Christian Gierløff Hamsun writes: "She has been my evil spirit allways. I want the divorce." As we know they were never divorced. Yes, the collection of letters is a jewel for all Hamsun lovers.

Rolf Steffensen. "Hamsuns religious concerns".
Steffensen had chosen 3 books, one from each fase of Hamsuns life youth, mid age and old age: Hunger, Growth of the Soil and On overgrown Paths. Based on these books Steffensen held an inspiring lecture on the religiosity and christian faith present. Again a suggestive lecture.

Not without my lunch! Harald Næss, Leif Hamsun and Bjørn Hemmer in conversation with journalist Unn Conradi Andersen from Dagbladet, who by the way writes excellent reviews and articles on Hamsun.

Leif Mevik. "Knut Hamsun and the Nobel Price". Mevik, who is chairman of the local branch of the Hamsun Society in Oslo took us for a stroll through his favourite novel Growth of the Soil - that had followed him through his entire life - through numerous quotations we lived in the novels universe. The Nobel Price and the party after, here Mevik told us about Maries troubles with her designer dress which according to Knut Hamsun was too low cut and the story about the rescuing tulle. Mostly I love the story about Hamsun waking up after a very "moist" celebration still wearing (almost) full dress saying: "My godness, have I been laying all night without a tie."

Marianne Hamsun, Alf-Einar Øyen and Helga Wiik are looking forward to the next lecture by Ingar Sletten Kolloen.

Ingar Sletten Kolloen. "To write a Hamsun biography". Kolloen initiated us into the big puzzle of writing a biography, which resembles building an oil platform, where each small rivet helps holding it all in place. As co-workers he has amongst others Lars Frode Larsen, Harald Næss, Leif Hamsun and the psychiatrist Sigmund Karterud. After this intense and very personal lecture we were all convinced that nobody could write this biography better than Kolloen.

This evening we had a lovely excursion to Lillesand and Hotel Norge, where Hamsun often withdrew to find peace and quietness to write. Again Harald Næss told lively and interesting about the novels that Hamsuns pen produced here - for example Mysteries. After a delicious fish soup, dessert and coffee some of us just had to visit the famous Hamsun room, which is now an elegant suite.

The Hamsun festival ended with a service in the full Landvig Church celebrated by the vicars Tom Martin Berntsen and Rolf Steffensen. Steffensen held an excellent sermon, where he beautifully included Knut Hamsun. The church then offered coffee at the nearby research farm, where former workers on Nørholm told about their memories of Hamsun. I could not participate, but was told that it was a fine and dignified end of some excellent days.

Who is to be thanked for such an excellent programme - mainly the pioneer of the work in Grimstad Ola Veigaard and his co-workers in the committee. Thank you so much, I am looking forward to your next event.

Completely filled with Hamsun experiences my small yellow Polo and I took the long way home to Karlsruhe and Gert, I could barely wait to tell him about all, that I had experienced. Even after several hours of narrative, he still looked interested, but maybe he dreamt of....


© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen www.hamsun.at