Ibsen and Hamsun festival in Grimstad 2004.

"Mira er en stjene som kommer, lyser litt og blir borte. Det er hele levnetsløpet. Og menneske, her tænker jeg på dig. Av alt levende i verden er du født til næsten ingen ting. Du er hverken god eller ond, du er blit til uden at tænkt mål. Du kommer fra tåken og går tilbake til tåken igjen, så hjertlig ufuldkommen er du.Og menneske, setter du dig op på en sjælden hest så er det ikke noget som gjør den hesten sjelden mere. Støtt så, dag og vei, sakte -" (Paa gjengrodde stier)
(Mira is a star that rises, twinkles a little and disappears. That is it's entire lifecycle. And Man, here I think of you. Of all living creatures in the world you are born to almost nothing. You are neither good nor evil, you were created without a specific goal. You come from the fog and return to the fog again, so utterly imperfect you are. And Man, if you mount a remarkable horse then nothing makes this horse remarkable again. Right so, day and road, slowly - On overgrown paths).

I imagine Knut Hamsun as he in 1888 somewhat overwrought writes his good friend Yngvar Laws: "...Jeg føler Produktionslysten slaa i mit Bryst som en Fugl, der slaar desperat med Vingerne - Jeg føler det i hver Nerve i min Krop at vi nu staar foran en ny Periode i Litteraturen, - Problemdigtningen fra Dukkehjemmets Dage er slut - velsignet være dets minde - og nu tier Ibsen, har tiet i næsten tre Aar, - Zola venter, Strindberg venter - vi staar foran en ny Tidsalder. - En ny Vaar er i Fremvækst nye Kræfter skyder op - en evig fornyelse - en Vaarmorgen i hver Generation! - Nu kommer vort! ikke et tilbageslag bort fra Zola - nei frem igen til det nye, som ingen kjender!"
(...I feel creativity beat in my chest like a bird desperately flapping it's wings - I feel in every nerve of my body that we are just before a new époque in literature - problem writing from A Doll's House is over - rest in peace - and now Ibsen is silent, has been silent for almost three years, - Zola is waiting, Strindberg is waiting - we are before a new era. - A new spring is blooming new powers sprout - an eternal renewal - a spring morning in every generation! - Now is ours! Not one setback away from Zola - no ahead again towards the new that nobody knows yet.)

Ibsen sits looking quietly, everything has it's time and now the two of them are united in a common programme in Grimstad, I guess that they both smile to us from the hereafter and with kind eyes wish us exciting adventures.

"Min Gud, jeg kan ei Deres smak forstå, vet ei hvor de har deres øyne! Hun er ingen skjønnhet, og regnes må så halvveis til de forfløyne." - (Henrik Ibsen)
(My God, I do not understand your taste, know not where you have your eyes! She is no beauty, and is partly considered frivolous - Henrik Ibsen)

With all adventures from Hamarøy fresh in my memory I arrived to Grimstad, ready for new experiences and inspiration from Norway's two foremost poets. Again I stayed in "Sørvika" and enjoyed the hospitality of Marianne Hamsun, who has become a very dear friend.

A stroll around Nørholm and the poet's cottage, all is peaceful and idyllic, the garden is beautiful with it's flowers, trees and bushes, the silence is only broken by the traffic noise from the E 18 and by Victoria Hamsun's dog, which barking and wagging it's tail is following my steps towards the poet's cottage. A wonderfully charming place, where one almost senses Hamsun's voice between the trees.

The poet's cottage

Mother's client was the title of the first event. Though it was around the end of a 4 weeks holiday and though I am normally tough, I apparently had too many things in my head to read the programme properly. Marianne and I were at the library in Arendal: not a living soul around and no programme at hand! A little later thanks to a helpful lady we realised that we should have been in the old town hall now. Confusion was then perfect when I collected my car in the car park and drove and drove to get out of it. I have tried a lot in my life, but never yet experienced a car park, that was a tunnel ending in the opposite end of the town! Well, we made it 5 minutes late and listened to Signe Marie Stray Ryssdal and Anne Lise Sijthoff Stray being interviewed by Stein Gauslaa about their mother Sigrid Stray.
For the first time we could hear the Stray sister tell about the cases that their mother Sigrid Stray conducted for Hamsun and hear about their recollections of him. They met Hamsun several times and remember him as a very kind and pleasant man.
Sigrid Stray was Hamsun's barrister for the last 22 years of his life. It began when Hamsun was in hospital in Arendal and needed a solicitor. He wanted Christian Stray, but as Christian Stray was away on business his wife, also a barrister, took the case. Hamsun dictated a letter and mother said he should not send it, but he did anyway, told the elder sister Signe Marie. A very interesting and vivid talk, where we were taken through the most important cases that Sigrid Stray conducted for Hamsun. Many thanks to the organisers for this unusual initiative. All was beautifully framed by Gunstein Draugedalen and Tim H. Blomberg with songs and music from Hamsun's poems "Wild Choir", that was published exactly 100 years ago.

From the hike over Mølleheia towards...

In Knut Hamsun's footsteps: First item on next days programme offered some challenges, a hike over the fells Mølleheia from the old hospital where Hamsun was interned in 1945 towards the famous letter box at Grefstad's in the town centre. Responsible for culture in Grimstad Bjørn Kr. Pedersen gave us a lively account of the history, the weather was beautiful with sunshine and warmth. It became an exiting hike where young and elderly climbed and walked over the fells, at times rather steep. I had to swallow again as the church tower showed itself and my thought went to Hamsun's description of it in "On overgrown Paths"

...the church tower.

"Jeg var kommet paa den andre Siden av Heia og vedblev at gaa til jeg saa Kirketaarnet. Naturligvis var jeg nu paa forbudt Omraade, men listet jeg mig langt nok - og enda bitte litt til - kunde jeg kontrolere min Klokke med Taarnuret. Forresten var jeg egentlig her for at se mig om efter en Brevkasse."
(I had come down on the other side of the fells and kept on walking until I saw the church tower. Off course I was on forbidden grounds now, but I tiptoed on - and even further - until I could check my clock with the church clock. As a matter of fact I was actually here to look for a letter box.)

Linda Nesby in front of the famous letter box at Grefstad Jernvare.

It was a group of hot people that, after having visited the famous letter box, now entered the overheated and overcrowded library, where the notorious trail took place that we were looking forward to hear about.
"Rettssaken mot Hamsun" (The trial against Hamsun) was the title of Reidar Marmøy's lecture. Room for everybody? No, that was impossible, but after only 5 minutes we were seated in the cinema on the other side of the street and listened to the excellent account of the trial against Hamsun. Though most of the facts were already well known, it was an experience to listen to Reidar Marmøy. It felt as though the entire audience held it's breath. A beautiful experience. Dr.Marmøy was so kind to put his manuscript at our disposal. You may read it (in Norwegian) here:

Reidar Marmøy

Sound to Ibsen: On the work of putting sound and music to Ibsen's plays. Director at the theatre of the Norwegian Television and Radio Steinar Berthelsen and composer Åsmund Feidje explained and illustrated with examples.

På scenekanten: Next on the programme was the singer Hilde Hefte and Egil Kapstad at the piano creating the mood for the evening and thereafter Lise Fjeldstad and Nils Ole Oftebro were interviewed by Mona Levin on their life on the stage with Ibsen. A firework of lines and sentences flew over the table and several of Ibsen's characters appeared. I am so fortunate that here in Karlsruhe, where I live, two of Ibsen's plays are being played right now: Peer Gynt and A Doll's House.

På scenekanten

On overgrown Paths: Kjell Stormoen reads selected chapters from Knut Hamsun's last novel. It was a moving experience, not only to listen to the well known words but one could almost imagine, that it was Hamsun himself reading. Really an intense experience.

Kjell Stormoen

I`m sorry, Ibseniana, normally I do like Henrik Ibsen very much and gladly participate also when it is not about Hamsun, but due to lack of time I did not get the last two days of great Ibsen experiences. But according to what friends told me, Terje Vigen was as usual a success and even with fine weather.
This year Nils Ole Oftebro read the classic: TERJE VIGEN.

Der boede en underlig græsprængt en
på den yderste nøgne ø; -
han gjorde visst intet menneske men
hverken på land eller sjø;
dog stundom gnistred hans øjne stygt, -
helst mod uroligt vejr, -
og da mente folk, at han var forrykt,
og da var der få, som uden frygt
kom Terje Vigen nær.

(A strange greybeard lived
on the naked island outermost
he surely never harmed anyone
neither at land nor at sea
but sometimes his eyes would glow violently
often against heavy weather
and then people said, he was mad
and few were those, that without fear
would meet Terje Vigen.)

But before Gustav Sætre had given a lecture on Terje Vigen and the trip to Denmark.

I Dovregubbens hall (At the hall of the Dovre troll) was last event in the exciting programme. A scene from the ballet "Peer Gynt" with Askepott-teatret's 60 small and big trolls showing a lively and imaginative performance.

We are all looking forward to next years programme, many thanks to all, who gave us these unforgettable experiences.

"....I feel creativity beat in my chest like a bird.."

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen www.hamsun.at