Since 1982 a Hamsun festival is taking place in Hamarøy in northern Norway, the place where Knut Hamsun spent 2 important periods of his life and from where he got inspiration to his works. The festival thus celebrated its 20. anniversary this year. For me, who participated for the third time, it was totally impossible to reach the quality level of the days in 2000. I was proven wrong! The Organising committee, the council of Hamarøy and the dozens of hard working volunteers succeded in putting an unsurpassed program together. From august 2. - 11. a firework of events was offered: Nature, culture - art exhibitions, concerts, theatre, readings etc. etc.. During these days the literature seminar arranged by the Hamsun Society also took place. The festival was thoroughly covered by the media - national as well as international.

To report on everything would be totally impossible, but I hope, that the events mentioned here may give just a small impression of the diversity and quality of this festival - and thereby tempt the honorable reader to participate herself/himself in the next Hamsun festival 2004.


Opening ceremony:
The traditional opening of the festival on the square between the town hall and Skogheim, where Hamsun lived 1911-1917, was again a runner, where nearly one third of the population of the county participated together with invited guests (and the press, photographers and TV cameras) to hear Rolf Steffensen, chairman of the organising committee and mayor Maj Valle open the cornucopia. A flourish composed for the occasion by Lars Skogholt was played from the balcony of Skogheim - very modern! Herbjørg Wassmo (one more world famous writer with roots in Hamarøy) held a very witty, ironical and precise adress to Hamsun. The troubadour Terje Nilsen and his companion gave a cosy touch to the arrangement. Leif Hamsun, Knut Hamsuns grandchild stressed in his adress the competence on Hamsun, which Hamarøy has gained through years of hard work and he stressed also the nessecity of building the national Hamsun centre in Hamarøy, which the council and the county of Nordland allready have supported financially - a theme that was taken up also by Per Eiliv Nyrnes, chairman of the Hamsun Society in Lom. Knut Kjøk, also from Lom and one of Norways best folk musicians played norwegian folklore from Skogheims balcony. (My personal thanks to Knut Kjøk for your generosity giving the concert for us "selected" audience in the hotel. It was a warm and moving experience). It was very positive to feel the good relationship between all branches of the Hamsun Society that has been established and which the visitors to this opening ceremony witnessed. A good omen for the Hamsun cause.

Guests of honour of the Hamsun festival Toril and Leif Hamsun.

After the opening ceremony the art exhibitions were opened. Following tradition norwegian artists as well as artist from abroad were invited. The exhibitions took place in Hamsuns farm Skogheim, the farming museum, the vicary cowshed and in the old flour store. It is absolutely fascinating to meet art in such surroundings - modern art and old stables give the frame, a dialog art-reality and continuity. Maybe that is one of the reasons, that the organisers every year succeed in getting recognised artists to Hamarøy. All the red stickers at the art works told of the thriving and well-deserved sales! The arts and handicraft exhibition was held at the central school and the children had their own exhibition in the town hall. The private galleries were off course also open: The Hamsun Gallery with Karl Erik Harrs Hamsun illustrations in Walsøes general shop, where Hamsun worked as a salesman and Tranøy Gallery with Tor Arne Moens Hamsun works and the exqiusite café with the spectacular view over the Vestfjorden towards Lofoten. The phantastic nature photographer Bjørn E.Olsen had his exhibition in the café at Hamsuns childhood home in Hamsund.

Hamsuns birthday:
The celebration of Hamsuns birthday on august 4th has become tradition. This year we started with an evocative service in the garden in front of Hamsun childhood home celebrated by vicar Rolf Steffensen and kantor Berit Valberg and with same hymns. The director of the open air museum and the childhood home Magnus Hamsund told about the extensive task of restoration of the childhood home. Everything must be done using authentic techniques and tools after approval by the national antiquarian. The council of Hamarøy really posseses a treasure here. Then we met at the Hamsun bust in Hamsund, where Knut Kjøk played a melodious norwegian folksong. Per Eiliv Nyrnes made very clear and sensible speech, where he first mentioned his own experiences with the influence of Hamsuns works on young people and then tried to find some reasons for Hamsuns succes: The artistic ore in Hamsuns family, the general growth of culture following the improvement in the material standards and especially the fertile mixing of cultures with Hamsuns background in the peasant society of the midnorwegian valleys meeting the fishermens life on the coasts of northern Norway, whereby Per Eiliv drew an elegant line to our own times. Per Eiliv finished by laying a wreath of flowers at the bust. We finished in the café at Hamsund, where Herbjørg Waasmo read Wassmo and Knut Hamsun alternating with Knut Kjøk, who played his (and his fathers) fine folk tunes.

Solidox Kids:
My absolute favourite among all the events was the performance in the loft of the vicarage barn of "A handfull Hamsuns Women": 5 women from Hamsuns works were presented so convincing and so in depth, that we were dumbfounded so to say. After this no literature critic will be able to claim, that Hamsuns female characters were simple and cliché! With few properties: 5 dresses, a piano, a tower for the narrator wrapped in silken bands (bridal veil, threads of the norns, shrouds all in one) and primarily a carefull selection of texts every figure told her story. The narrator from his ivory tower (such a convincing young man!) held everything together. Leif Hamsun, who presented flowers to the actors after the performance, expressed well how moved we all were. These 15-17 years old (!) persons are just SO talented.

Dvergmål (Echo):
My second favourite was the original performance of Svein Schultz´s composition Dvergmål. Schultz had found a plateau under Hamarøys landmark the peak Hamarøyskaftet and here he had distributed in the landscape trumpets, tuba, 2 sets of drums, a narrator, electronics and recordings of Knut Hamsuns voice. It was a fabulous experience, how Schultz let the 2 sets of drums have a dialogue, drums in dialogue with brass, music with speech, the contemporary with Hamsuns times and not least nature with culture when the echos rolled down the Hamarøyskaftet. It was incredibly complexe border braking contemporary music - no, more than "just" music: a Gesamtkunstwerk!
Fortunately several hundred people had taken the long hike to hear the 3 concerts. Nature rewarded the first performances with magnificient views towards the sunset over the Vestfjorden and the Lofoten islands. During the last performance the fog rolled back and forth temporarily covering the Hamarøyskaftet or letting us sense the outline of the mountain. One really felt the presence of the trolls.

This years bookbath also took place in the loft of the vicarage barn. Where else could you place 2 debaters and a large audience so that one had the feeling of atmosphere and intimacy. An in-the-mood poet Per Knutsen and a well prepared interviewer Lisbet Kristine Hansen charmed, chatted, quoted, discussed throughout the evening, time just flew. I was so disappointed when the evening ended - I could have listened for hours more and that though I forehand did not like the 2 Per Knutsen books I had read so far. Suddenly a curtain went up and you saw the continuety in Per Knutsens 22 (!) books. Suddenly we had covered big themes like intolerance, myth creation, had the shortest chapter in literary history (3 words) recited, were shown that if one finds something not good enough it is ones own responsability to do it better. You just wanted to read more Per Knutsen - and basically: that is the best any author could wish for.

Hamarøy Teaterlag (theatricals)
had this year chosen to present Mysteries. A terribly difficult piece to stage but owing to the many years of experience all went well and the theatricals were rewarded with 4 full houses. Especially the mimic of Minutten made the character convincing. A scoop was also the music composed for this event by and also performed by Andrej Stepanov and his excellent musicians.

Church concert
with Arve Tellefsen. The church was more than filled when the world famous violinist and his excellent pianist Håvard Gimse played and discoursed on music and composers. Many thanks to the organisers for making it possible for so many to experience the intensity and the great pains that Tellefsen, who is used to the big concert halls of the world, took in such a small and "unimportant" place like Hamarøy. Tellefsen has the gift of being able to chat relaxed on the music and imidiately afterwards to play fully concentrated at world class level. Bravo Tellefsen!

More church concert:
Midnight concert with the baroque ensemble Arctimus. Well, peoples tastes are different. I must however praise the ensemble for rediscovering forgotten composers (so we did not have to hear the usual stuff AGAIN), for their balance in the program between ensemble and solos and for their courage to play consequently in an ultramodern style (every generation must interpret the old masters new). Also praise to the organizers for their courage to bank on such an unortodox cause.

Bob Dylan in norwegian:
Did it work? Off course! Arve-Gunnar Heløy and his musicians played Tore Hestbråtens translations so that everybody in the smoky pub under the Gjestegården remembered the good old times. Blues and heavy guitars inspired the audience untill the early morning - and that in spite of the fact, that some of the musicians had allready played at the Echo concert earlier that evening. What an energy and enthusiasm.

Not to forget
all the events we would have liked to attend, but could not since one can not be several places at one time:
- Kaizers Orchestra, Norways best new rock band, that filled the Hamarøy Arena to the brim
- literary adven-tours with traditional ships
- Hamsun texts with new music by Tor Magne Braathen
- ballads with Terje Nilsen and friends
- Panzer, more rock
- blues legends
- Silje Nergård, Norways international jazz-and-much-more artist with band
- Marie Takvams poems with new music by and performed by Berit Valberg, Tranøy lighthouse
- lyrics and music, literary café, lapplandish tales..... NO I GIVE UP!

and finally all that belongs to popular entertainment: Amusement park, organised hikes, football, markets, horse fair, irish folk music, balls. It is IMPOSSIBLE to get bored in Hamarøy.

Hamsun Selskapets literary seminar:
Backbone of the Hamsun festival is the literary seminar organised by the Hamsun Society, a place where scientists and Hamsun fans meet to hear high-level lectures on the newest within Hamsun research. New responsible for the seminar is from this year on Even Arntzen, who like his predecessor Nils Magne Knudsen comes from the University of Tromsø. The theme for this years seminar was Hamsuns works during the 1890`ies. I allways look forward to the lectures, what approach has now been found, what interpretations may we hear now. As you will see, it is also one of the more difficult things to report on. There are so many ideas, what must be mentioned and how - no, I warmly recommend to you to buy the book, that the Hamsun Society publishes at the end of the year containing all the lectures. I look forward to it myself, to recapitulate what "slipped" during the lectures and to go more into depth with the subjecs. Many thanks to Even Arntzen for getting such skilled lecturers. Just a small wish: To have a little time for questions to the lecturers also.
The seminar was opened by the chairman of the Hamsun Society Alf-Einar Øien.

Alf-Einar Øien Even Arntzen

Dr.philos Lars Frode Larsen, Oslo lectured on "The political involvements of the young Hamsun". After Larsens 2 mammouth volumes of basic research on Hamsuns childhood and youth (3.volume will be published around october) the thesis should be rejected, that Hamsun was all his life deeply conservative. At the contrary as a young person Hamsun was absolutely radical. It will probably take some time, unfortunately, before this is widely recognised - remember how people still remember the "evil uncle Hans", who can't be that bad since he and his housekeeper also had taken Knuts sister Sophie Marie (born 1864) to live with them from she was small. She was living there too, when Knut lived there. Suggestive that Hamsun never mentions this fact himself! This Lars Frode Larsen had proven with his usual thoroughness in his first book, but how many is aware of it yet?
Psychologist Christian Schlüter and psychiatrist Sigmund Karterud presented their new book, where - no, not Hamsun - but Nagel from Mysteries was analysed using new psychological methods.

Lars F. Larsen C. Schlüter and S. Karterud

Cand.philol. Ane Farsetås, Oslo spoke on "Psychological and esthetical ideals. Hunger and Mysteries in the scope of Hamsuns literary program." This talk contained many fine comparaisons and sentiments.
Professor Erik Østerud, Trondheim presented " From Pedersen to Hamsun " on the myth and function of the family name in the authorship. An very interesting and instructive lecture.

A. Farsetås E. Østerud

The author Jonny Halberg, Moss told about the actual staging of Mysteries at the National Theater. A topic of current interest these days, where Hamsuns relations towards theatre is debated so intensely (was he a theatre hater or not?). Very brave of Hallberg to twist and turn Nagel and then write his own version. It will be interesting to see the play at the premiere at Nationalteatret.
Literature reviewer Øystein Rottem, Copenhagen presented his newest book and spoke "On Editor Lynge, Shallow Soil and Hamsuns literary program." A lecture that I had looked forward to, since I think Shallow Soil and Editor Lynge is not properly recognised and I was not disappointed: Rottem gave as always a lively and interesting speech. I do appreciate Shallow Soil especially and have read it several times.

J. Hallberg Ø. Rottem

Cand.philol. Ronald Nilsen Altinius, Bodø held a rather controversial lecture on Hamsun and the Far East and Hamsuns relation to Buddhism. But it was exiting and well told.
Dr.Maija Burima, Latvia on "Man and Nature in Hamsuns Pan". I sensed a poetry and beauty in this lecture, though I must admit, that I had difficulty in understanding some of the text. I look especially forward to read this lecture again in the book.

R. N. Altinius M. Burima

Cand.philol.Ragnhild Hagen Ystad, Bergen on "Siesta, a literary after-dinner nap. Knut Hamsuns collection of short stories from 1897". No, we certainly did not long for a nap during this lecture. I devoured this well told speech.
1.amanuensis Even Arntzen, Tromsø had beside his job as chairman of the seminar also taken time to give a talk on "Potboiler? Some remarks on the Kareno trilogy". Even Arntzen himself did definetely not deliver inferior work, he gave a most instructive lecture on one of my favourite subjects: Hamsuns plays. A fine conclusion on an interesting seminar. Well done Even Arntzen, I allready look forward to the next seminar and I'm curious which topics will be treated then.

R. H. Ystad

Traditionaly the seminar also comprises an excursion. This year it went to Hansbakken, where Jan Egil Hafstad told about Hamsuns relations to the place, about the young Knut who roamed here from his childhood days on. It was one of the most amusing excursion that I had participated in: Imagine over 100 people walking "on overgrown paths" together with a herd of cows, searching in vain for remains of the peat cabin, where Hamsun in the year 1900 was writing. The view was fabulous, understandable that Hamsun lived here with "the monk Vendt". The story of the famous wedding at Hansbakken, that could have ended in desaster, had it not been for mother Karen. Istead it became a memorable occurence though a little out of the common. It is really an amusing story, that can be read in "Årbok for Hamarøy 1997" edited by Jan Egil Hafstad.

As it can be seen, the Hamsun festival in Hamarøy is an ambitious event, that the Organising Committee, the counsil of Hamarøy and mainly the dozens (hundreds?) of volunteers, who spent all their leisure time making everything work, can not be praized enough for. That the Hamsun festival now will be changed into a Hamsun Academy will hopefully make the competance, which Hamarøy has earned through years of hard work, even more visible and crystalise Hamarøy as the natural Hamsun cornerstone.
How the Organising Committee succeded in securing the best summer in more than 100 years, I do not know, but they did it!
The most important aspect of such events is off course contacts to friends and acquintances - both the reunion with old friends and making of new friends. It is sheer impossible to mention all the sympatic, giving, openminded and warm people, that made the stay in Hamarøy so unforgettable. I do hope, that you all feel the warm thoughts, that is sent to you and I hope that we will meet again at the latest in 2 years at the next Hamsun festival.

The literary seminar party at the Glimma.

Next Hamsun festival:
The next Hamsun festival in Hamarøy takes place in 2004. I deeply recommend to plan a vacation in northern Norway with centre in the Hamsun festival in Hamarøy. A combination of culture and the nature of northern Norway and the meeting with incredibly openminded people, which gives energy to the rest of the years work!

Next highlight for Hamsun enthusiasts though is allready in 2003. Scheduled are 3 Hamsun events: In Lom and Grimstad in august and Tromsø in september.

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen