Hamsun festival 2000.

Since 1982 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 photos.

Knut Hamsuns birthday:
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 southern Germany
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 unforgettable.
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" theatre.

Early morning churchgoing:
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).

Public rejoicing:
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!

"..the Glimma, that no one leaves without being marked for life."

August 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 one does".
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).

The 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 Town).
"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 beautifull.
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 translations.
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 his works.

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.
The participants 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.

Summing 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 overwhelming.
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 exciting days.

Next Hamsun festival:
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!

Next highlight for Hamsun lovers will be the third Hamsun seminar in Grimstad in southern Norway in September 2001.

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen www.hamsun.at