POETS' DAYS In LOM, Norway: 4-7 AUGUST 2005

"I marken har hver årstid sine undere, men altid og uforanderlig den tunge, umåtelige lyd fra himmel og jord, omringelsen til alle kanter; skogmørket, trærnes venlighet. Alt er tungt og bløtt, ingen tanker er umulig der." Knut Hamsun (Markens grøde)

(In the fields every season has it's wonders, but always and eternal the heavy mighty sound from heaven and earth, surrounding from all sides; the darkness of the forest, the kindness of the trees. All is heavy and soft, no thought is impossible there. Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil)

Full of anticipation I started "Nagel" my yellow Polo in Karlsruhe and headed north. Endless kilometres lay ahead of me, but in Lom a programme with exciting experiences in a splendid nature waited. Denmark was approached listening to the radio on political problem in Germany. Within reach of the Danish radio stations it was also political debates and that late in the night.
After a couple of happy days at my sisters' course was set for Frederikshavn and the ferry to Larvik. All went fine, apart from little sleep on the ferry even in the luxurious cabin. The sea was calm, but the ship was alive with all kinds of noise from happy passengers, who were of the opinion that sleep one can do at home. But a good book is always good company. There is no place so beautiful to drive as in Norway, I enjoyed the landscape to the full. There was plenty of time for stops, where I enjoyed the fresh Norwegian air and "Nagel" had a rest, it purred happily away on it's 4 new tyres, new brake linings and new exhaust, it had been more expensively dressed for the trip than I, who had bought only two new blouses. Norway must be the country with the most speed checks, though none blinked at me during my way up the beautiful valley of Gudbrandsdal. I have always the feeling of home every time I come to Norway, as if the entire landscape is something warm and familiar though I come from the flat Denmark where the highest peak is around 170 meters high. In the evening arrival at Garmo close to Lom where the hospitable Torunn Kjøk and I immediately started to discuss the subject Hamsun and to enjoy delicious breads and different kinds of meats.
4th August, Knut Hamsun's 146 years birthday "-du er en juvel midt i prikken på tiden!" (Segelfoss by) (you are a jewel in the point of time, Segelfoss Town ) and the Poets' Days started. Well, first point on the agenda I could not partake in: 5 hours literary hiking in the beautiful nature, really a terrific idea, that is if one has not a damaged ligament. Instead I visited Knut Hamsun's birthplace, a good feeling to be here on such a day. I naturally relieved the kind young guide from having to tell me about Knut Hamsun, I said I knew him fairly well!

Hamsun's birthplace

Then some nice hours were spent in Lom together with legions of tourists, yes Lom is a very popular and lavish town. The mountains are shining all around me and mirrored in the Lom Lake. The weather was still nice, sun a few clouds and 18 - 19°; a warm feeling of anticipation grew within me.

Downtown Lom

Leif Hamsun arrived around 6pm to Torunn's. After a splendid dinner we walked the few hundred meters to Garmostræet, where a small birthday celebration took place. Torunn Kjøk bid welcome, Knut Kjøk played his violin and then Leif Hamsun took us through the historic events around the erection of the menhir, said some beautiful, carefully chosen word on his grandfather and laid a wreath at the menhir, beautiful and solemn hours.

Knut Kjøk Leif Hamsun

Then the participants had the opportunity to a chat. There is a special atmosphere here where Hamsun made his first footsteps, said his first words which were stored in a mind so quivering and sensitive. I sensed an invisible echo as though Hamsun's voice still may be heard in the fells.

"Min frøken, det er dem jeg fortæller for, sa han så alle hørte det. De står som et sølvkors i solen. Det er ikke bare Deres skjønhet som er så stor, men det er Deres ungdom, Deres dejlige ungdom. De beruser mig med den og jeg blir gal etter den. Se nu Deres armer, hvor det er blod under huden på dem." (Erobreren) Kratskog.

(My Lady, it is You to whom I am talking, he said so everybody could hear it. You are standing there like a silver cross in the sunshine. It is not only your beauty which is so grand, but it is your youth, your lovely youth. You intoxicate me with it and I crave for it. Look at your arms, how there is blood under the skin (The Conqueror) Collected poems.)

Back at Torunn's place again, where the mayor Simen Bjørken and a dear Hamsun fiend Ole Bjerke had joined us, we chatted away over red wine and local foods. There is so much to discuss, when one meets at Hamsun events!
5th August. Start of the literary seminar at 9 o`clock, a large and interesting programme.
Professor Tore Pryser: 1905, nationwide and locally. A current and very interesting theme.
The author Sigrun Slapgard: Sigrid Undset and the Second World War. In two years Sigrun Slapgard's biography on Sigrid Undset will be published, I am looking forward to read this, she was, if any, a very controversial character with sharp and pointed opinions.

Livet har vist budt mig gaver
som jeg ikke tok imot -.
Jeg blev bedt, og jeg blev lovet
-det var jeg, som ei forstod.
Var det slik, jeg kom til målet,
gik forbi og ikke så det?

Jeg har gåt for langt og længe,
og nu kan jeg ikke nå det.
Er det mørkt, fordi jeg ikke
flammen på min lampe nærte -?
Fryser jeg, fordi jeg bærer
kulden i mit eget hjerte -?

Sigrid Undset

The author Olaug Nilssen: The literary heritage of the new Norwegian language - an obstruction or a trampoline for high jumps?
Professor Håvard Teigen: The Lom-society in 1945 and Mogning i mørket (Dung in the dark) by Tor Jonsson.
At 6pm "Jest and seriousness" was on the programme in Lom bygdehus. A completely full hall saw Jon Eikemo in words and music, an interesting programme with a.o. poetry by Tor Jonsson, Per Sivle and Jakob Sande. Edvard Hoem then held an interesting lecture on: "1905 - worth remembering?". Hoem concluded his excellent speech by urging people, national and international politicians to look further ahead than just to secure business but to work for a global community to promote the best in all nations.
Then there was recitation from the writing contest for young people. Two short stories and two poems were presented, all incredible sensitive and well written.
The evening was concluded with a "Poets dinner" at Fossheim hotel with a fit Ingar Kolloen as Kjøgemeister, as a compère is called in Norwegian. The author Olaug Nilssen: Småretter (Tapas), no it was not food but poetry. Music: Aslak Opsahl Brimi. It is incredible how many excellent folk musicians who live in Lom.
We had an excellent røya as first course. This initiated a long discussion with my neighbour Leif Fiske, what a røye is called in Danish. I thought norsk fjeldørred and according to literature this is the right danish name whereas an ørred in Denmark is called bækørred. In total an excellent evening with treats for eyes, ears and senses. One continues to get wiser, not only regarding literature.
"Vi er allesammen på reise til et land som vi kommer tidsnok til". Paa Gjengrodde stier. (We are all on journey to a country, to where we will soon enough arrive. On overgrown Paths).
6th August. Lawyer Cato Schiøtz: Gjensyn med landsviksakene mot Knut Hamsun (The treason trials against Hamsun revisited), an exciting explanation of the famous trial.
After Ingar's book the publishing house Gyldendal had launched an investigation of the case and had published the outcome as their Christmas present, a good idea. The conclusion of the investigation was, that Hamsun had not benefited from the doubt about his membership of NS, which was the cause of the claim for damages trial; but had a criminal case been raised instead, the outcome would probably have been the same: A high fine.
I do not know why, but time flies every time I listen to sensible ideas on Hamsun.
Then it was Ingar Sletten Kolloen's turn and he told in his usual fluent style about Hamsun - the war and the peace. It was indeed a fruitful morning.
Lecturer and author Nazneen Kahn: To be a muslim in Norway. Again a topic of current interest. The weather was dry but cool. Yes, I managed to sit outside drinking coffee and having sandwiches with the tough Vikings, but I was freezing cold.
After having walked around in the city among tourists and rain showers, we met in the afternoon at the Tor Jonsson house, where I after having seen the small rooms tried to imagine how this particular man had lived and then went outside in the fine rain to listen to Håvard Teigen, who held this year's Tor Jonsson lecture.
Many of the poems I know now, for example these fine and wise words:

"Nærast er du når du er borte
Noko blir borte når du er nær.
Dette kallar eg kjærleik.
Eg veit ikkje kva det er."

(You are closest to me when you are away / something disappears when you are close / this I call love / I do not know what it is.)

We now had several offers: Marlo Gredahus, Theatre group of U.L.Fram: Brurekrona (The bridal wreath) by Tore Ørjasæter.
In Jan Magnus Bruheim and Tore Ørjasæter's country. Guided by Bård Hanem, starting from Marlo Grendahus.
Sota Sæter: Rømmegraut og spekemat (Traditional Norwegian food). Folk music and poetry recitals. Aslak Opsahl Brimi, Linda Gytri and Yngve Aukrust. The music I would have loved, but the food and my fastidiousness were incompatible!
Lom Stavkyrkje. Narrator Tone Bolstad Fløde - A story in words and music with excerpts from Stavkjerringa by Vera Henriksen, who was present in the church.
Yes, many tempting offers, but my choice was Fossberg Hotel: Literary night-bath, hosted by journalist Ingolf Håkon Teigene. Three central Norwegian authors telling about the books they were publishing this autumn including Olaug Nilssen and Levi Henriksen.
And as usual I had good and long talks about Hamsun.
It was not only raining, it was raining cats and dogs.
Now the day came, that I had anticipated and feared at the same time: The days where I had to give my lecture. Had I been an early riser I could at 9am have heard Professor Asbjørn Aarnes at Nordgard Aukrust telling about Olav Aukrust's poetry with musical features by Synnøve Rognlien, but at that time I was still having my morning tea at Torunn's looking out at threatening rain clouds with occasional showers, for the moment it was not easy to understand why Lom is called Norway's Sahara.
Instead I treated myself to some of Olav Aukrust's beautiful verses from his collection of poems:

Staa paa det ytste stup,
stire n'i vanvit-sinnet,
kjenne det sugande djup
ottast at draken skal vinne -
kjenne den glyfsane eld fraa eit gloande
kjenne det dragande sog fraa eit sjodande

Himalaja ris over hav
kløyvande skoddi og vinden.
Og Golgatha ris over grav.
Og elsken nærer sitt liv under sorger
so tunge som Hav,
og himmelhøg kjærleiken ris over
vanvit og rædsle og grav.

An unusual and beautiful experience now awaited us, the open-air service on the grounds, where the old Garmo stave-church stood before it was moved to Maihaugen.
A soft rain and an equally soft light brought out a very special atmosphere.

Leif Hamsun and Torunn Kjøk

Under the cover of our umbrellas we listened to vicar Rolf Steffensen from Hamarøy, who spoke from Luke 18.9-14, his warm and personal words went straight to our hearts. It was an incredible warm feeling to be exactly here, where Knut Hamsun was baptised, as though the years faded and we were there in our minds.

Rolf Steffensen and Knut Kjøk

Then it was my turn. The weather was certainly not for an open-air event, so instead of the garden on the farm above Garmotræet where Knut Hamsun was born, the living rooms were cleared and we all swarmed into the warm and cosy rooms and were treated to coffee and cake.

Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen, Knut Kjøk and Dag Gården

Torunn Kjøk bid us welcome and Knut Kjøk og Dag Gården created a warm atmosphere with their beautiful music and Torunn Kjøk's fine words. Then I sprinkled my Danish words and my fascination about Hamsun over the audience. You may read the lecture in extenso here (Danish version only): My lecture.
The Poets' Days had now come to an end. Many many thanks to Torunn Kjøk and the Hamsun Society in Lom as well as to the Tor Jonsson Society for the excellent programme, yes I will certainly be in Lom next time in two years.



Time had come to say good bye to Torunn and Garmo, in mixed weather, sunshine and threatening rain clouds, I set out for southern Norway, for Grimstad, where Ibsen and Hamsun again will be united to the pleasure of all of us.
Yes, the mood is set for the upcoming Ibsen and Hamsun days.
11th August was the opening night with Ibsen's "En folkefiende". Dramatised recital with Bjarte Hjelmeland, Per Chr. Ellefsen, Kjersti Elvik and Jan Martin Johnsen. Thereafter a debate on "Freedom of Speech". Yes, it sounded very very interesting, but I also had an invitation to the vernissage of Bengt Petter Hanssen's exhibition, inspired by Knut Hamsun's "Det vilde kor" in Riemannsgården and this was so tempting, that I immediately knew what to chose. Do I have to chose between Hamsun and Ibsen, then - sorry Ibsen - I knew what I chose.
With plenty of time to go on "Nagel" and I started from Marianne's place towards Grimstad. Now, I have mastered Marianne's private uneven gravel/stone path many times and I had completely new tyres, but after close encounter with a sharp stone the right front tyre was flat! There I stood with Gert's words in my ears: What are you going to do if you get a flat tyre? Well, what did I do? Right, called good friends, who fetched me, the car we could take care of later.

Reidar Marmøy

We reached the vernissage in due time, where Reidar Marmøy said many wise and personal words to Bengt. And the paintings? Yes, they were excellent, it was as though the female figures broke out of their frames and into the poems:

O væk mig i morgen, du blanke Sol
for Lina er tidlig på Fode

Hun går med sin rive på Engen ud,
en Særk og et Skørt er den Piges Skrud,

men Øiet er blaat som den blå Viol
og kruset og bart hendes hode.

De Fodspor i Duggen gir god Besked
jeg følger dem lige til Grinden.
God Morgen min Pige, idag som igaar!

Da lyder en Kalden, hun ryger adsted,
men kysser mig gerne forinden.

Jeg takker dig Lina. for alt jeg fik,
hver Morgen med Sol i Østen.

Vel kaldes du bort når den Kalden lød,
for Lina, det var jo din kærest du snød.
Men mig gav du Lov med dit første Nikk -
med ham staar du brud til Høsten.

Having filled eyes and senses, hunger was also taken care of. Over cheese, biscuits, wine and water we had long chats, all Norwegians laugh about the Danish word for chat "snak". Then Reidar and I drove out to "Nagel", who patiently waited for a new tyre and exactly at this moment it started raining! However, it did not bother Reidar, we changed the wheel and even looked happy and satisfied! Back to his place for a cup of coffee before I returned to Marianne on one funny thin spare wheel, that must be changed. Next day's programme: A visit to a garage.
After a good night's sleep I was ready for new experiences. "Nagel" was parked in a garage and I went on foot to the city centre, where the Hamsun friends had begun to arrive. I had planned to participate in the "literary café" and an exciting programme with professor Bjørn Hemmer in debate with Steinar Berthelsen, Åmund Feidje and Per Chr. Ellefsen on radio theatre. But instead I dropped in at another kind of café discussion with Hamsun friends, it is such a nice warm feeling every time we meet, which must originate from our mutual love for and interest in Hamsun.
At 1pm an exciting excursion was scheduled, "In Knut Hamsun's footsteps over Mølleheia towards the letter box", with Bjørn Kristian Pedersen as guide.
I went with the large group to the starting point at the old infirmary, where I met Torunn, who had arrived from Garmo and Uwe from Marburg. I looked enviously after them as they started the ascent, but my ankle refused to participate after the damaged ligament two months ago. I have done the hike many times before, so it was ok. Instead I was invited by Mons Fuhr to visit his wine cellar with Hamsun wine and books with Hamsun's inscriptions. A nice small experience. Then I had time to pick up Nagel from the garage against the nominal fee of 1000 Nkr. before I joined the others. By the time there was now so many well known faces. And the weather was nice; in splendid sunshine we sat outside to enjoy a small lunch, but that idea many others also had, so it was chaotic at the bar the orders were taken.
Then the next larger event was due. Together with incredible many others we lined up on the lawn before Riemannsgården to listen to Kjell Stormoen reciting from "On overgrown Paths". Marianne Hamsun had joined us and listened to the well-known story, which sounds equally fresh and young every time:

"Men en dag har jeg ingen cigar mere, hvad så? Da slutter jeg å røke, slutter. Det har jeg gjort tre ganger før, et år om gangen, fra dato til dato. Jeg vil være såpass herre over meg selv at jeg slutter. Godt. Men jeg begynder jo igjen, hvad er da det hele til? Jeg vil være såpas herre over meg selv at jeg også begynder igjen." Paa gjengrodde stier.

(But one day I have no cigar any more, what then? Then I stop smoking, stop. I have done this three times before, one year at a time, from date to date. I want to be so much my own master that I stop. Well. But I do start again, was it all in vain? I want to be so much my own master that I start again. On overgrown Paths.)

It was as though Knut Hamsun spoke directly to us through Stormoen's voice. An incredible moving experience.

Kjell Stormoen

After a musical intermezzo Reidar Marmøy made a warm address first to Kjell Stormoen and then to Bengt Petter, nobody can as Reidar say exactly the right and warm words. The exhibition was thus officially opened and people swarmed in, yes they had to be let in by numbers so many were there and people were willing to buy. Soon small red stickers beamed next to most of the paintings.
The rest of the evening was spent in the company of all the Hamsun friends, where some also went to the last event at 10.30pm at Kirkeheia, where Chr. Ellefsen read "Fairytales at night". The sky was black and warm and the atmosphere fanciful but I stayed away as it was fairytales by H.C.Andersen that were being recited and I am allergic to this poet named Andersen!
I must admit it was a little late before I drove out to Marianne to sleep, sending prayers to "Nagel's" new tyres and the stone on the road. We arrived safely.
Still beautiful weather and the new day offers many events, first at the town hall.

Cato Schiøtz

The packed hall was ready for new experiences. First the verdict of the supreme court against Knut Hamsun, by Cato Schiøtz, an experiences, that I just had in Lom, but still interesting and the conclusion given with all due proviso:

"at alle spørgsmål om tvivl ikke kom Hamsun til gode, og vi mener at Hamsun ikke var medlem af NS. Som vi ser det skulle han have nydt godt om det faktum at der var tvivl om det", sagde Schiøtz. "Men hvis der var blevet straffesag? Han havde næppe havnet i fængsel. Men kanske han havde fået 325.000 kr i bøde, og på den baggrund var dommen i erstatningssagen ikke urimelig."

(that all questions of doubt were not considered and that we consider Hamsun not having been member of NS. As we see it, he should have benefited from the fact that doubt remained, said Schiøtz. But if a criminal case had been raised? He would probably not have been sentenced to jail. But he had possibly been fined 325.000NKr and seen in that perspective the actual verdict in the claim for damage case was not unreasonable:)

"Jeg holder det almindelige omdømme nokså høyt. Jeg holder vårt norske rettsvesen enda høyere, men jeg holder det ikke så høyt som jeg holder min egen bevissthet om hva som er godt og ondt, hva som er rett og galt. Jeg er gammel nok til å ha en rettesnor for mig selv, og dette er min." Paa gjengrodde stier.

(I respect the common sense. I respect our Norwegian judicial system even higher, but I do not respect it so much as I respect my own sense of what is good and bad, what is right and wrong. I am old enough to have a moral standard for myself, and this is mine. On overgrown Paths.)

"Hang the child murderess!" was the title of the next exciting lecture. Karinna Bjellås Gilje shared with us her knowledge on Knut Hamsun as a polemic and newspaper debater based on her dissertation on Hamsun's writings in 1915. A very exciting theme, which has been mentioned rarely in previous seminars. Nobody could like Hamsun use strong words when he once got started. And give in in a debate - never! One has to read his novels like "Growth of the Soil" from 1917 to get the detailed, understanding and caring Hamsun.

Karinna Bjellås Gilje and Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen (Photo: Karin Engh, Grimstad Adressetidende)

Four Hamsun biographers! Robert Ferguson, Lars Frode Larsen, Ingar Sletten Kolloen and Jørgen Haugan in a debate hosted by Rolf Steffensen.
What an excellent idea to get the four together and brought forward their differences and different opinions on Hamsun, carefully guided by Rolf Steffensen. Yes, one got to know the different opinions on Hamsun, but even more one got to know the biographers' own personalities. Quite interesting!

Robert Ferguson, Lars Frode Larsen, Ingar Sletten Kolloen and Jørgen Haugan (from left)

Time for a lunch break and a chat in the fine weather before we all caught the bus and boat to Kvaløya, where marine biologist Per Bie Wikander discoursed on "On two feet Water". What a pleasure to sit here with coffee and waffles and the most adoring view of the idyllic small houses spread over the archipelago and the boats swaying in the moorings with flapping flags. A perfect idyll, and off course I had forgotten my camera!
We sat on stones in the waterline and up the fells, it probably looked like birds on a fell.
We now listened, many with tears in their eyes, to Monica Hjelle reciting the famous "Terje Vigen". It is moving every time we hear it!
I though how it must have been hearing Knut Hamsun recite Terje Vigen!! Yes, he has really done it! We must thank Johan Filseth for recording this episode.
During the First World War and before Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Price, Filseth wrote about Hamsun in Toten. In the newspaper Aftenposten 5th February 1916 we find:

"During Christmas 1881 I had decided to visit my old mother in Frøisland, and I asked Hamsun if he would join me. He accepted and in the most beautiful weather we had an excellent sleigh ride.
At Frøisland everybody liked Hamsun, and especially my mother adored him. In a party where many guest were invited , I asked him to recite something for us.
"Where should I stand?" he asked.
"Step up on this stool," I said and so he did.
Then he recited "Terje Vigen", so tears came to the eyes of many of the women."

Here are the last verses of "Terje Vigen":

Lorden kom, og mylady med,
og mange, mange med dem;
de rysted hans hånd til farvel og Guds fred,
der de stod i hans ringe hjem.
De takked for frelsen da stormen peb,
for frelsen fra sjøgang og skær;
men Terje strøg over barnets slæb:
"nej, den som frelste, da værst det kneb, det var nok den lille der?" - -

Da yachten drejed for Hesnæs-sund,
den reiste det norske flag.
Lidt længere vest er en skumklædt grund, -
der gav den det glatte lag.
Da tindred en tåre i Terjes blik;
han stirred fra hejen ud:
"stort har jeg mistet, men stort jeg fik.
Bedst var det,kanhænde, det gik som det gik,-
og så får du ha'e tak da, Gud!"

Yes, Hamsun knew Ibsen's works and liked him, otherwise he would hardly have chosen exactly Terje Vigen!! Hamsun was and remains an enigma, and luckily so.
Then some of us were invited for a cruise onboard S/S Solvik, where our hunger and thirst were satisfied by fish, sandwiches, ham, water and wine.
After an unforgettable afternoon we landed again in Grimstad and went to Apotekergården to se "Ibsen's collected works in 68 minutes" a humorous thoroughfare with Monica Hjelle, Bjarte Hjelmeland and Jan Martin Johnsen. Music by Stian Carstensen. An incredibly funny and intelligent performance.
Last day and last point on the agenda: "While we are waiting". And what a finale, Reidar Marmøy took us on a literary hike and told about the philosophy behind the pictures and the artist's interpretation of some of Knut Hamsun's poems from "Det vilde kor". A very intense and giving experience.
Time had come to say good-bye to Marianne Hamsun. Saturated with experiences "Nagel" and I set course for the ferry Kristiansand - Hirtshals and ended at my sisters'.
After loading home-grown potatoes, carrots, onions and good wishes I said good-bye to all two- and four-legs and continued southwards..
After the well known journey on the motorway I landed safely home in Karlsruhe.

Ola Veigaard

Again there were so many and unforgettable experiences, many many thanks to Ola Veigaard and the Hamsun Society in Grimstad as well as to the Ibsen Society for an incredibly exciting programme, which enriched our minds and made us a little bit wiser. We are looking so much forward to return for the next Hamsun event.
Hedvig Rasmussen.

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen www.hamsun.at