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!
The staging was a collaboration between
Pickled Image, TinkerTing and Figurteatret i Nordland. Everybody were enthusiastic. An excellent start.

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.
I see for me a picture of Ibsen and Hamsun on bicycles! I wonder if they ever tried cycling?

Sigrunn Veigaard and Leif Hamsun
Knut Faldbakken in conversation with Jon Selås

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 Henning Howlid Wærp

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.

Jan Hårstad and Aage Kvalbein Leif Hamsun and Astrid Sæther

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 Hårstad:
"Mine Damer og Herrer!
What am I to do in the presence of such gracious, such overwhelming generosity? I no longer have my feet planted on the ground, I am walking on air, my head is spinning. It is not easy to be myself right now. I have had honours and riches heaped on me this day. I myself am what I am, but I have been swept off my feet by the tribute that has been paid to my country, by the strains of her national anthem which resounded in this hall a minute ago."

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.

Sigrid Combüchen and Britt Andersen Per Olav Reinton

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.
And again the evening ended with good food and talk in the hotel.

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.
"For me it is emotional and grand, it is an honour to unveil this plaque", Leif Hamsun said, and told some memories from his days at Nørholm. Many people had shown up to participate. Also the happy cyclists, who had planned to pass the cave on their tour on Ibsen's and Hamsun's tracks, made the moment.

"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.

Ola and Sigrunn Veigaard, conversing Knut Møretrø and Leif Hamsun

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