the Hamsun Festival is celebrated every other year in
Hamarøy, northern Norway, the place where Knut Hamsun
spent two important periods of his life and where he
found inspiration for his works. This years it was then
the tenth festival and what a programme! From
4th to 13th of August a palette of events were presented:
Nature, culture - art exhibitions, concerts, theatre,
food, recitals, seminars. In connection with the festival
the Hamsun Societys literature seminar also took place.
The entire festival was intensely covered by the media,
local and national. Especially Nordlandsposten brought good articles and
Knut Hamsuns birthday August 4th was celebrated with
beaty and dignity at the Hamsun memorial in Hamsund close
to the farm, where he was brought up. Knut Hamsuns
grandchild Leif Hamsun, accompanied by his daughter
Cecilie, held a very personal and moving speech and then
layed flowers at the memorial. Many of the participants
took the opportunity of the fine sunshine to visit the
home of Hamsun, the cafe in the old village hall and the
house, where the young Knut (maybe) went to school.
Karl Erik Harr:
The Hamsun Gallery was filled to the limit to pay homage
to Karl Erik Harr: Not only has he celebrated his
birthday, the Hamsun festival takes place for the
10.time, Harr is the most wellknown Hamsun illustrator,
his works fill the Hamsun Gallery, but he was also one of
the promotors of the Hamsun festival. Enough reasons for
laurel and many heartfelt speeches from the city of
Hamarøy, friends and from people, that Harr had helped
to a start on Hamarøy. That he himself took care of the
cultural features by delivering the lyrics to Bremnæs'
music, reciting own poems and sang showed him as the
generous person he is.
Invited artists showed their works of art in all
materials from oil, glass and jewelry to photography at a
high quality level. The exhibitions were skillfully
displayed in Knut Hamsun farm Skogheim, at the village
museum, in Hamarøy church. Small red labels told that
most works had found buyers too. I could not resist
either, so some works found their home with us in
The private galleries were off course also open. When you
visit Hamarøy you MUST visit them and see Karl Erik
Harrs and Tor Arne Moens Hamsun illustrations in the
Hamsun Gallery and Tranøy Gallery respectively, Edvardas
Trøisomhet (Edvardas pastime), Præstegårdsgalleriet
(Gallery in the Vicarage), Tranøy Fyr (Tranøy
Lighthouse). Even if art does not interest you (is that
possible?) then the view and coffee with waffles will be
At the school and at the village museum advanced amateurs
and the Dometic Industy Society showed art and design.
Unfortunately some planned hikes to the Hamarøys
landmarks Kråkmotind and Hamarøyskaftet
"drowned" due to the northern weather, but
philatelists could meet the postman Benoni himself
everywhere in the area with his mailbag full of envelopes
with first day stamps and designs for the festival.
Without mentioning each concert - so many took place -
that it was possible to get so many well known artists so
far north was rewarded with full concert
"halls" like the lighthouse, the flour
warehouse, the swimming pool and other ingenious places.
Unimportant small technical problems were bound to occur
under such conditions. Fog and bad weather did make it a
logistic problem to bring the artists from Oslo, but it
worked. The debate with the author Dag Solstad suffered
in spite of the well prepared interviewer Even Arntzen
and the charming ambience of Tranøy Gallery.
Another highlight was the performance by
Hamarøy Teaterlag of Hamsuns Sværmere (Dreamers) with 4
completely full houses. Enthusiasm clearly showed in the
actors, producer, musicians and even behind the curtain.
An amusing, lighthearted but also loyal translation for
the stage of Hamsun work was presented. A warm and close
experience that one seldom gets in a "real"
The old church Sagfjord has a curious past: The
entire church was moved from its original site to a new
one on the other side of the Kalvåg fjord. The way to
church was then by boat over the fjord and via a path
over the hills. The 225 years jubilee was commemorated by
reviving this chemin, with a service in the style of 1920
celebrated by 3 priests, church music, 3 baptisms with
parents and relatives in folk costumes, with many church
goers in clothes from 1920 and with church coffee.
That recitation must take place at 8 PM in a
hall from a rostrum or from the stage the organisation
committee of the Hamsun festival happily ignores! Half an
hour before midnight we met with torches at the church,
went to the ruins of the old vicarage and heard:"
..and the churchyard was without plantation and allways
without flowers on the graves, but close to the stone
walls the most vigorious raspberries grew, a big juicy
fruit, that took its nourishment from the fat humus of
the dead". Hamsun lovers recognise Ghost (1903).
Have you grown tired of "culture"?
Well the Hamsun festival is also: Fun fair, markets, open
air concerts (unless due to rain the musicians must play
in the swimming bath), free icecream, harbour days,
dancing etc. etc. If you get bored in Hamarøy it's
really your own fault!
Glimma, that no one leaves without being marked for
and the Small Town Monster:
The seminar August and the Small Town Monster
focussed on the conflict repressive/conservating/static
versus the progressive/ameliorating/dynamic highlighted
by Knut Hamsuns August and Tor Johnssons Small Town
Monster. An ever returning theme in Hamsuns works.
The researcher Ingar Sletten Kolloen, the media
expert Knut Folkestad, the artist Tove Karoline Knutsen,
the civil servant Per Eidsvik and the businees woman
Bente Orfjord made it clear that the Small Town Monster
is still alive, documented its negative influence on
human beings, showed that one does not see it in one's
own environment but tend to see it even more clearly in
one's neighbours, refuted the thesis that it only lives
in the country and not in cities, yes even in the most
progressive circles you find unwritten rules "what
The conclusion was, that it is not only a must to fight
the Small Town Monster but also that it is possible -
documented in local examples. Northern Norway is maybe
historically and traditionally (main occupation: fishery)
more free from the pest than other places (Personal
comment: This is indeed what you experience as guest in
Hamarøy. That the Hamsun festival takes place here since
so many years is another proof).
Hamsun Society literature seminar:
The literature seminar: For Hamsun entusiasts the
highlight of the Hamsun festival.
What will you be surpriced by this year? The programme
for the 2 1/2 days is thoroughly studied. This year 3 new
books were presented. Nils Magne Knutsen had collected
Hamsun quotations to fill a whole book, from which he
gave us samples the first evening. Flipping the pages of
this book is flipping Hamsuns universe.
" His fantasy did not usually led him astray, he
followed the ground even when he flew" (Segelfoss
"It started to become no night, the sun barely
dipped its disc in the sea and came up, red renewed, as
though it had been down to drink" (Pan) My favourite
quotation? It is impossible to say, they are all so
Harald S. Næss
presented his sixth and final volume of Hamsuns letters,
a mine of information with lots of surprices like his
thoughts of divorce. I was looking very much forward to
hear Harald Næss, who I have heard was an excellent
speaker, and I was not disappointed, it was very amusing
to hear quotations from the difficult years 1934 - 50. We
may look forward to the supplement - maybe next year -
since so many new letters have been discovered.
I Æventyrland - Experienced and dreamt in Caucasia:
Hamsun 1899. 100 years later Bjørn Rudborg and Ole
Petter Førland travelled the same route to discover some
of the Arabian Nights adventures that Hamsun described.
This was summerized in an interesting description
published together with Hamsuns work. Through a slide
show we got a good impression of their experiences.
Imagine, they even found a plaque to commemorate Hamsuns
stay in a hotel in Tbilisi.
Britt Andersen from Trondheim examined Pan. She had an
exciting new approach to this famous novel. She did not
find the Satyr, the forrest God in this novel but Hamsuns
intoxicating language: Pan is the indian term for the
intoxicating compound in the betel leaves - and this was
well known to Hamsun. Quite a novel approach!
Lubisa Rajic from University of Belgrade told about the
problems of translating Hamsun. He has amongst others
also translated Pan. He found many translations insipid
as they were often translated twice - not from the
original norwegian but from german or russian resulting
in an ironed language like clothes: Flat.
Snezjana Djenkova from Bulgaria is a professor in
norwegian in Sofia. She told about the increasing
popularity of the norwegian studies. The interest in
Hamsun fluctuates but for the moment she found it
increasing. She could also tell stories about bad
Ivar Roger Hansen spoke about the music and musicians in
Hamsuns novels. I must admit I did not know that there
were so many.
The psychiatrist Bjørn Raster is a student of Gabriel
Langfeldt. He questioned the current picture of Langfeldt
as cold and cynical, haressing the weak old Hamsun. Their
relation should be judged more justified.
Hans H. Skei from the University of Oslo held an
extremely fine lecture on Hamsuns poetry. He recited so
that one almost felt Hamsuns presence.
Before we all went on an excursion to Korsnes, the
historian Bjørg Evjen told about the place and about the
legend that Hamsun should have saved a 2 years old child
from drowning. The truth? Maybe, in the novel Victoria
Hamsun describes such an incident.
A highlight was the lecture by vicar Rolf Steffensen on
"The unused key" about the overlooked
psychological defenses Hamsun uses not to feel the
parents disregards and the influence of this disregard on
Everything was nicely spun
together with texts by Hamsun read by the actrice Bente
Børsum by the ever well prepared chairmen Nils Magne
Knutsen and Even Arntsen, who deserve much praise for the
extravagant and interesting seminar.
will all recieve the lectures in bookform, but all
interested can buy the book, which will appear in the
Hamsun Society book series, by contacting the Society.
up, organisation, program, meeting new and old friends:
What can one say when arriving in Hamarøy as a
guest getting this firework of events? It was
Who to thank for such adventures: First of all the
organisation committee with its chairman Rolf Steffensen
for their creativity and hard work to manage such a large
event. The city of Hamarøy with its mayor Maj Valle to
support a large festival of national interest. The Hamsun
Society with their highlight the literature seminar. All
private initiatives which brought this wide span of
events. Sponsors. When you saw the amount of work
initiated and the number of people acting I'm sure that
all 2000 souls of the community was at work..
As this was not my first Hamsun festival, it ment off
course that a highlight was meeting old friends again.
The openness of the people of Hamarøy made it easy to
make new acquintances who leave a warm memory of 10
The next Hamsun festival in Hamarøy will be in
2002. It is highly recommended to plan summer vacation in
northern Norway and participate in the Hamsun festival. A
combination of culture and the nature of northern Norway
that gives you energy for the daily struggle!
highlight for Hamsun lovers will be the third Hamsun
seminar in Grimstad in southern Norway in September 2001.