Ibsen and Hamsun days in Grimstad 13. - 16. August.
"In comparison with Bjørnson's is for example Ibsen's poetry pure mechanical office work. Ibsen's verses are based on rhyme hitting rhyme with a crack; most of his plays are dramatised pulp." Mysteries.
Still with an echo of Hamarøy in my ears, I set course for Grimstad. A peek into the garden at Nørholm, where the Hamsun-bust like greets me, raised expectations, yes it is a good tradition, that the two giants of Norwegian poetry are united here in an exiting festival and I guess that the two of them sitting on their cloud agree: "Yes, there is room for both of us"! Once again Ibseniana and the Hamsun-Society in Grimstad invite to an abundant and exiting programme, this year with focus on Hamsun on occasion of the 150. jubilee of his birth. The Hamsun family was strongly represented by Leif Hamsun, his two sisters Ingeborg Hamsun and Anne Marie Thurmann-Moe and her husband Jan.
Having taken room at Grimstad hotel, I went for a stroll to sense the atmosphere. The weather is both sun and a bit of rain. Several good Hamsun-friends had arrived. This is one of the highlights of participating in the festival: to meet friends and share the enthusiasm for Hamsun, well and for Ibsen too.
Theatre manager Ingrid Forthun from
Agder theatre opened the Ibsen and Hamsun-days in the
cultural centre and then we and I for the second time
experienced "Hunger" as in the Hamsun-centre.
An absolutely black, spooky, sinister and morbidly
fascinating puppet theatre, where the two puppeteers are
clearly present on the stage, but where you still only
see the puppets. I never expected to see Hunger as
theatre, but the light design, sound and above all the
choreography and the extremely precise movements by the
puppeteers brought over hunger/Hunger in an almost
physical way. Excellent!
Then some of us got together for a chat over food and drink at the hotel, an excellent way of exchanging views and opinions.
I could not partake in everything in
the programme. I will just mention a walk on Hamsun's
hiking trail, guided tour of the Ibsen-museum, sailing in
the archipelago onboard "Solrik", on two wheels
with Ibsen and Hamsun - a bicycle ride, an excellent way
of seeing Grimstad.
Every time I attend an event in pharmacy garden, I am impressed by the yellow light present no matter what the weather is like. Really an excellent place for the Literary Café. We followed an exiting conversation between Knut Faldbakken and Jon Selås. Only when he had read Hamsun he understood what literature was, Knut Faldbakken told, Hamsun is like a spectre over everybody writing in Norway because he is so damn good, we were told. During the talk Faldbakken also mentioned the negative reaction he received in 1985 after publishing his book "Glahn", a modern version of Hamsun's Pan. All in all a very entertaining and interesting hour and a fine start of the day.
Astrid Sæther from Centre for Ibsen Studies, talked lively and interestingly about Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset. Two Nobel-price winners and antagonists. Undset's "Den trofaste hustru" and Hamsun's "Ringen sluttet" were both published in 1936. Both novels bear considerable criticism of society. As great realists both describe a society marked by crisis. Both authors supplied the same diagnosis: People are busy and without roots. I had never before thought about similarities between the two but one gets a little bit wiser after each talk.
Henning Howlid Wærp talked about wanderer-motives in "On overgrown Paths". Whilst listening my mind wandered on the well-known paths around Grimstad: Nørholm, Grimstad hospital and Landvik old people's home. It is always a pleasure to listen to Henning's wise words.
Can one spend a break in a better way than walking up and say hello to Knut Hamsun on Knut Hamsun's square? Sigrid Combüchen, Leif Hamsun and I agreed completely on that.
And now to something completely different, namely the opening of Victoria Fuhr's exhibition in Sorenskrivergården. She called her exhibition "Where paths and tracks cross" and one sees immediately, that her inspiration comes from botany. While we enjoyed a glass of Fuhr-wine and looked at the pictures young musicians entertained us with texts from "Wild Choir". An inspiring and lovely hour.
The first experience of the evening was the play "Kjærlighetens slaver" in the town hall. The actor Jan Hårstad and Aage Kvalbein on cello presented some of Hamsun's short stories "Kjærlighetens slaver", "Erobreren" and "Flue". A beautiful combination of the magician of words Hamsun, the skilled intermediary Hårstad and the melodious cellist Kvalbein.
The evening ended with the concert "Fever" in Grimstad church. The actor Bjørn Skagestad and composer and musician Arild Andersen had put together a beautiful programme from the collection of poems "Wild Choir", a grand and intense experience. Some of us ended up with a drink and a talk in the hotel. Outside it was raining, a bad omen for tomorrow's Terje Vigen and the concert on the island of Kvaløya.
The next day started with a speech in
Grimstad town hall, not an ordinary speech but Hamsun's
speech from the Nobel-dinner in Stockholm read by Jan
Outside rain was pouring, Terje Vigen and the concert were highly endangered but we still hoped for the best and seated ourselves in the town hall to follow the literary seminar titled: "Hamsun from my point of view".
Britt Andersen from NTNU took us on a hike in Hamsun's works and disclosed, that she soon would finalise a book on this subject. I am really looking forward to this book. Britt's views on Hamsun are very exiting.
The Swedish author and journalist Sigrid Combüchen, who has written a splendid biography on Hamsun "Livsklättraren", told lively and excitingly about Hamsun.
Per Olav Reinton, journalist at Norwegian Radio and Television NRK, entered on the exciting and difficult subject of how to handle the literary and the political Hamsun. An immensely wise and good lecture.
Now finally the time had come, for many
the highlight of the year, namely the trip to Kvaløya to
attend a concert and to listen to Swedish Samuel Fröler
reciting Terje Vigen, but it rained, it not only rained
but it rained cats and dogs, so the organisers were busy
rearranging all. Lillebjørn Nielsen and Terje Venaas
would not let their instruments get wet, what was
understandable, so everything was moved to the pharmacy
garden on the yellow covered terrace. -We have a thing
called weather in this country, Lillebjørn Nielsen
exclaimed before he and Terje Venaas on bass entertained
us with known and lesser-known songs. Though the pharmacy
garden was completely filled, only a fraction of the
audience which would normally have been on Kvaløya,
could find place here. Ola Veigaard thanked all for the
speedy reshuffle and sent some thoughts to the ladies on
Kvaløya, who were now stuck with 80 litres of dough for
waffles! Really a mischief, but we are not masters of the
weather. Accompanied by the drumming of rain on the roof
we had a terrific concert and then the Swedish actor
Samuel Fröler recited Terje Vigen with such passion,
that we forgot that we were sitting in a garden and not
at the sea.
Knut Møretrø had in 2006 discovered a
cave like the one Hamsun describes in "On overgrown
Paths". At the initiative of Landvik historie the
cave was inaugurated by Leif Hamsun. Signs with
"Knut Hamsuns sti" have been put up showing the
way to the cave.
"There were trees and stones which I recognised, and I sensed a friendly whisper around me, though I was deaf and did not hear it anymore." On overgrown Paths.
I now had to set course for the ferry and the drive home. Many heartfelt thanks to everybody for a fantastic programme, it is always such a pleasure to participate. Ola Veigaard and his team as well as Ibseniana deserve all the praise possible for their - this year again - extraordinary exiting programme!
|© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen||www.hamsun.at|