Hamsun festival in Hamarøy 2004.

The sun is shining over and over again,
hour after hour, day and night(Benoni)

Yes, it certainly did during this year's Hamsun festival in Hamarøy! Northern Norway just had Europe's best summer weather during the Hamsun days. If you already have experienced the eternal day of a northern summer, you will know what spell one will be under in Hamsun country during the best Hamsun festival together with other local and visiting Hamsun connoisseurs. It could be difficult to chose between the sunshine 23 hours per day and the innumerable events we were offered during the days from 30. July to 08. August.

The traditional opening ceremony took place as usual in front of Hamsun's farm Skogheim. Asbjørn Hopland from the organizing committee bid welcome to close to 300 people, who filled the area between Skogheim and the town hall. The new mayor of Hamarøy Jan-Folke Sandnes bid welcome with words from the old Norse saga Havamal and spoke optimistically of the challenges of the future seen in the perspective of the long tradition of settlement in Hamarøy and the well functioning cooperation between town and country and he had on the occasion himself composed a welcome poem, which is reprinted in the official programs. There were also greetings from the county and from the Norwegian government brought by fylkeskulturchef Stig Olsen (responsible for culture in the county of Nordland) and by statssekretær Arnfinn Ellingsen (secretary of state), who both stressed the importance the Hamsun festival in Hamarøy has not only locally but also nationwide and the goodwill that Norway gets abroad due to Hamsun. In that context it was especially positive to hear the support expressed for the coming national Hamsun centre in Hamarøy, where the start of construction is approaching.
The ceremony was beautifully musically framed by Hamarøy Blandakor (choir) singing poems by Hamsun with music by Arve Heloy and by the pianist Ljuba Jacobsen who played Rachmaninov and Strauss.
Then this year's artists were introduced. Exhibited were (not only) paintings, sculpture, glass at Skogheim, in the stables of the old vicarage and in the open-air museum and the art exhibitions were opened by the director of the coming Hamsun centre Alf-Einar Øien, who spoke about the artists milieus in Hamsun's works and of Hamsun's poetry creating images in the imagination of the reader.

Asbjørn Hopland Jan-Folke Sandnes Hamarøy Blandakor

This year's programme was, if not dominated, then carried by strong and competent women. The Hamsun Society literary seminar was titled "Hamsun's women", gifted artists like Regine Hamsun (Knut Hamsun's grandchild) and Ingun Dahlin exhibited their art and not least, the concerts had exciting female leading characters.

One of the best concerts was the opening concert "Barokk i sommertid" (baroque in summertime), which also this year took place in the completely filled Hamarøy church. Erica Toths 10 musicians and the superb soprano Catherine Bott performed baroque music, like we seldom hear it: 1.violinist Erica Toth knew exactly what she wanted and gave us music that sounded (according to newer research) like at the time it was written: direct, aggressive, somewhat "coarse". Moreover the musicians had chosen to play composers that we don't hear every day, but who had qualities above the "evergreens" that we always have to hear. The music was elegantly and charmingly spun together by Erica Toth, who between the pieces told facts and anecdotes about the époque, the composers and the music. For those of us, who heard Erica Toth during the last Hamsun days with Arctimus, it brought back good memories. But that was not all - after two concerts a.o. in the cathedral of Trondheim, Nidarosdomen, Arctimus came back as a trio and gave a poetry/music programme "Samtaler med gress i Hamsuns rike" (conversations with grass in Hamsun land), where Eivor Bergum read her poems alternating with music from Edvard Grieg over Sjostakovitj to Arne Nordheim. Also extremely well done! Evocative also because the programme took place in the stable of the old vicarage among Regine Hamsuns very sensual paintings.

Erica Toth and Arctimus in Hamarøy church ... and in the stables

Don't stop reading here: I will just briefly mention what happened more. It is really impressive what the Hamsun festival offers during these fantastic 10 days: For lovers of soul and R&B the main event was the concert with soulqueen Noora and band in the Flour Store - really an exciting concert "hall". Gro Siri Ognøy and band played Hamsun poems to own music in the Hamsun gallery and in Hamarøy church (we actually sat in the church, but due to the heat - summer in northern Norway - we felt as though we sat one storey deeper), we heard ballads at the Minuten Café with Tore Hestbraaten, Jack Berntsen and band, Karoline Krüger, rock concert with Panzer, folkrock from Latvia with Ilgi, Lithuania's most popular jazzband Pulauskas, midnight concert at the lighthouse, for kids the show "To be or not tuba", Jam, local rockbands in the swimmingpool, popular arias with operasingers from Opera Nordpå in the pub at the camping site, 12 rusty strings with 2 rusty gentlemen Paus and Fjeld, not to mention Hellbillies, who played in natures finest open-air stage at the tidal stream Ness straumen. Yes, there really was something for everybody with an open ear for music.

Midnight, before the concert ...

The second impressive concert event was, according to my travel companion, the first performance of the commissioned work to the Hamsun festival. The festival has established a tradition for extravagant concert venues: last year we sat on the mountain Hamarøyskaftet, this year in a quarry! Imagine a path, where people from flat Denmark never would have dared to drive in their own car. Here we drove up in a bus at 11pm, had the opportunity to enjoy the view 900 meters down to the sea with the sun setting before we seated ourselves on rocks and boulders in the quarry. The composition itself was based on jazz and fusion but with classical floating passages interrupted by changes in tempi reminding both of Richard Strauss and of folkloristic themes. A grand and inspiring piece of music excellently performed by the composer Jan Gunnar Hoff and his musicians! And as an encore when the concert was over the moon rose and reflected in the water far down until the bus set us off again in the town centre at 2:30am and the sun started glowing in the eastern horizon. Really an unforgettable experience!

From the first performance of the commissioned work in the quarry on Finnøya

The art exhibitions had as usual a very high standard:

Regine Hamsun had chosen to exhibit her paintings in the stables of the old vicarage, a place that contrasted well with her light strokes and with an interesting placing of the paintings, so that one could walk amidst the paintings like in a forest or under water between seaweeds. I was delighted, that she sold so well.

Regine Hamsun

Ingun Dahlin exhibited her warm and strong women in the open-air museum. Her sculptures are really female ideals of today, 2004: Strong, beautiful and independent but at the same time sensitive and many-sided. And that appealed to the visitors! I'm so pleased that precisely this female type is popular - at least in Scandinavia - and not the old-fashioned ´housewife´ type. The future is bright! Ingun really deserved the many visitors and the excellent sales.
I can also tell you, that "The golden Mask" - we have named her Edvarda - had a nice travel with us home to southern Germany, where she will try to propagate Scandinavian views on women.

Ingun Dahlin

It is amazing how well the old whitewashed stables in the open-air museum match modern art. Next to Ingun Dahlin the group BLÅST exhibited their glass in modern Scandinavian design.

Another of our favourites, local Hugo Aasjord, exhibited above in the barn. Especially his sculpture "Sarg" was exiting, here we came several times, had lots of associations leading to much (at least in our own opinion) profundity. But also his pictorial art was exiting and challenging. Here interpretation is called for. I do hope to see his works soon again, luckily he is also known internationally.

Hugo Aasjord

From Norwegian to international artists: The German Hermann Naumann presented his illustrations to Hamsun's novels. At the same time as in Hamarøy Naumann also exhibited in St.Petersburg, but Naumann had said, that the best present for his 70th years birthday was to be able to exhibit in Hamsun's Hamarøy and even in the same building as Hamsun's grandchild Regine Hamsun. In East Germany Naumann's illustrations substantiated Hamsun's popularity and several beautiful books with Naumann's illustrations were published, but after the reunification of Germany there is no money available here for art from the eastern part of Germany. Really a pity what we here miss!
We are greatly indebted to Dr. Schöffel, who represented Naumann in Hamarøy and who explained and showed videos on Naumann, as the artist self does not travel any more. The guards at the exhibition all told, that the spectators had used much time on the Naumann exhibition.

Hermann Naumann

Also the other artists were well worth visiting: Borgny F. Svalastog, Marianne Lien, Hanne Borchgrevink, Tore Hansen, Christine Istad and Aino Hivand, who exhibited in the open-air museum and in Hamsun's farm Skogheim. Especially interesting were also the photographers Hege Larsen, Lene Imbsen and Beatrice Tufvesson who exhibited in the Minutten café. A fresh, beautiful and unusual series of nobly framed photographs demonstrating the good education, profound technical knowledge and fresh seeing eyes. We wish the group all the best in their new studio in Sagene in Oslo, where they take on commercial assignments as well as develop their ambitions in art. Also thanks for the cosy vernissage. You may contact the group by email at: beatricetufvesson@hotmail.com or hegetouch@hotmail.com .

Hege Larsen, Lene Imbsen and Beatrice Tufvesson

Also the private art galleries had prepared themselves for the Hamsun days: The Hamsun gallery - in the old shop where Hamsun had worked - unfortunately doesn't have Karl Erik Harr's Hamsun illustrations any more, but has luckily found other exiting artists that fit into the historic building. The owner, Stein Thorbergsen, has been awarded the St. Olav Rose for his fine renovation of the building. It is well deserved - congratulations!
Tranøy gallery, where Tor Arne Moen's Hamsun illustrations are displayed, has also found room for Eva Harr and her exiting over-realistic prints, which sold extremely well, and for modern glasswork. Here one must enjoy coffee and homemade cake, talk with the owner Kirsti Kalstad and enjoy the view towards the Lofoten. It is just so beautiful here.
The post office in Hamarøy has been closed like in so many places - fewer employees and large profit to the shareholders is mandatory, not the service to the public - but since such a building should not be left unused, local initiative took over and opened an art gallery, the Hamarøy gallery. It is really an experience to look at art in a bank vault!

New at the Hamsun festival are the films. In collaboration with the Norwegian Film Institute the festival showed films based on Hamsun's novels as well as documentaries on Hamsun. Curiosities of film historical interest only as well as high quality works. Jan Erik Holst from the film institute told about the making of the films, their disapperance and recovery, accidents and tedious archive research. And he told about the difficulties in "translating" Hamsun's books to film (same applies apparently to the staging of Hamsun's plays). Holst also announced the showing of "Growth of the Soil" in Oslo in March 2005 with the original film music recently discovered in the archives of the national library. Many people visited this fine series of films in the barn of the old vicarage and expressed their hope, that the Hamsun festival will repeat this initiative in two years during the next Hamsun days in Hamarøy.

What else? Well, Hamarøy Theatregroup arranged adven-tours with literary elements, the path from Hamsund and Hamsuns childhood home to the church was re-opened with guiding and recitals, there were market days in several places in Hamarøy, there were travels in Hamsun's literary footpaths, holy service in the garden at Hamsuns home, hikes and guided mountaineering to summits in Hamarøy, story-teller café, a seminar on tourism, marketing and promotion of labels for business people and politicians, dance on the piers in several harbours in Hamarøy, popular entertainment, regatta, animation workshop for kids, presentation of a model of the old Hamarøy church, sing-along evenings and - not to forget: The traditional exhibition by amateur artists in the school. It is such a pleasure to see how much creativity people posses, when they spend time with favourite occupations.
Food was not forgotten: Many places sold local (and for us visitors rather "interesting") dishes like heringmealsoup, møsbrømlefser (impossible to translate variety of crêpes), Baccalao, haddock tongues.... As especially agreeable my travel companion found the old postoffice on the pier in Buvåg. Buvåg is his favourite place in Hamarøy, a real "insider tip".
Jokes aside: In fact we dined extremely well in Hamarøy. It is such an experience to sit at restaurant Fiskecamping and eat grilled salmon or reindeer steaks and enjoy the view over the tidal stream Glimma while the sun just refuses to set or to sit at Gjestegården or at Minutten Café or or ....

Another beautiful experience is - my travel companion tells me, while I listen to serious lectures at the literary seminar - a trip with the old sailing ship Goxsheim out under the Tilthornet and out on the Vestfjorden and there enjoy the silence on the sea and the view towards the Lofoten or towards Norway's most famous mountain Stetind, looking out for porpoise, enjoying homemade waffles just chatting with Siv and the incredible pleasant and congenial owners of Goxsheim Charles and Natasha and cuddle with Lenin (the ship's cat - he is also red!). Wouldn't you just like to go fishing, whale watching, sailing with them or do you just want to enjoy the extremely well renovated and well furnished (sauna incl.!) ship, that Charles has had rebuild almost from the hull, then start by visiting them at: Aurora Borealis .

Ship's tomcat Lenin in the shade Enjoying life onboard s/s Goxsheim

And then the most important day approached: 4. August, Knut Hamsun's birthday.

Again it is hot. More and more activities are starting. In collaboration with the lulesami centre in Arran a conference on reconciliation was held conducted by Rolf Steffensen and the author John Gustavsen. President of the Sameting (sami counsil) Sven-Roald Nystø and manager of Riddu Riddu festivalen (important ethnic cultural festival) Lene Hansen showed, based both on Hamsun's novels and on the existing political situation, the relations between the sami and the "south" Norwegian population in northern Norway. Civil rights leader Dr. Mike Adams from South Africa shared with us his experiences in the struggle for truth and reconciliation in South Africa. This conference is a superb initiative and of sadly current interest: All around the world the chasm between human beings and ethnic or social groups has grow larger due to uninhibited economical interests.
Reconciliation is therefore not a question whether Hamsun spoke derogatorily about sami people (which he did some places - other places he spoke positively about the sami, like he spoke positive and negative about "south" Norwegians - to Hamsun life is never black or white), reconciliation is practical work everywhere in the world where barriers have grown between people due to wars or exploitation.

Rolf Steffensen Sven-Roald Nystø

From reconciliation to the annual general assembly in the Hamsun Society. Here the executive committee was elected, Even Arntzen was re-elected chairman and I was put in the election committee. The executive committee will constitute itself, and as soon as this has happened it will be reported here.

And then to the traditional garland of Hamsun's bust at his childhood home. Even Arntzen held a grand and personal speech and laid down a laurel wreath, in the most beautiful summer weather and with lots of people standing and sitting all around it became an emotional experience. You can find the speech here: birthday speech (Norwegian language only).
Action there was in the following monologue "Kostumer" in Hamsund café, played by Brigitta Eidissen, originating from Lilian Selvik's play: "En håndfull Hamsuns kvinner" (A handful of Hamsun's women). There was much laughter during the peep in the tailors workshop. Since everybody knew, that Eidissen really had made the dresses for the original play, it was not less amusing.

Knut Hamsun, Even Arntzen and Hamsun's women

"Livet skal behandles som en kvinde. Skal man ikke være galant mot livet og la hende vinde på sig? Man skal gi sig og gi sig og la alle skatter ligge." (Rosa)
(Life must be treated like a woman. Should one not be courteous towards life and let her win over you? One must surrender and leave all treasures. Rosa)

THE HAMSUN SOCIETY LITERARY SEMINAR: "Hamsuns kvinner" (Hamsun's women) was the title of this years seminar, to participate here is for me every time the absolute highlight.
I will just mention the themes of the many lectures, later this year all lectures will be published by the Hamsun Society. The book is highly recommended (if you are a member of the society, it will be sent to you as a present).
Ingar Sletten Kolloen took us on a hike to - no, not to the female characters in the novels, but to Hamsun's real women, where Kolloen's hypothesis is, that because the mother from time to time was ill and rejected young Knut, it gave scars in his views on women for the rest of his life. An excellent lecture that initiated many reflections!!
But first the unusual event of the publishing of a new edition of Knut Hamsun's first work "Den Gaadefulde" (Enigma), which was introduced and a copy presented to Leif Hamsun, who in return thanked warmly and heartfelt for the publishing of the book, that was never included in the collected works of Hamsun, so not many will know this small book - though certainly not one of the most important in Hamsun's production. Tor Valle read from the book and the spirits were high and Hamsunian!!
Henny Moan read from Hamsun's poems - "...og natten er livet og kvindens dens hersker..." (...and the night is the life and the woman its sovereign...)
Again we had the opportunity to hear the monologue from the tailor's workshop, we enjoyed life with wine, snacks and, most important of all, extensive discussions before some of us ended the evening at restaurant Fiskecamping saving ourselves from starving and relaxed until 2am.

Even Arntzen Ingar Sletten Kolloen

Another fine day started at 9.15am with Ellen Mortensen from Bergen, the weather is incredibly hot, but we were fit and keen to listen to "Edvardas lunefulde begær" (Edvardas capricious desires) fine and put to the point - yes, Hamsun's female characters are extremely interesting.
"Godaften, Edvarda! sier jeg endnu en gang, utslitt av lykke. Hvor du er glad i mig, hvisker hun. Hvor jeg kan være taknemmelig! svarer jeg. Du er min og mit hjerte ligger hele dagen stille i mig og tænker på dig. Du er den skjønneste pike på denne jord og jeg har kysset dig. Ofte blir jeg rød av glæde når jeg bare husker på at jeg har kysset dig." (Pan)
(Good evening, Edvarda! I say again worn out by happiness. You really do love me, she whispers. How grateful I must be! I reply. You are mine and my heart lies the whole day quiet within me and thinks about you. You are the most adorable girl on this earth and I have kissed you. Often I blush from joy when I remember that I have kissed you. Pan.)
A charming Frenchman, the author and litterateur, Pierre Grouix enchanted me by his lecture on "Edvarda, Dagny og hendes andre Hamsunske søstre" (Edvarda, Dagny and her other Hamsunian sisters) seen with French eyes, Pierre speaks Norwegian, but held his lecture in English.
The last before the lunch break was energetic Ane Rørtveit Jessen, who held a most interesting talk on "Ane-Marie-skikkelsen i August-trilogien" (The Ane Marie character in the August trilogy). Former understanding of Ane Marie had been based on stereotype opinions on Hamsun's female characters. Possible because Ane Marie is a female subordinate character nobody has looked at the qualities, that Hamsun has laid into her and nobody has noticed the 2 voices in the text. Everybody has accepted the impotent husband and the public opinion's prejudices, superficial and wrong judgement on Ane Marie. Nobody seems to have detected how this verdict again and again is questioned and refuted by the actual narrator in the text. A very interesting and inspiring approach, that caused a lot of reflections.
In the breaks there is a buzzing of life and conversation on Hamsun, I just love to partake in this.
The author Ragnar Hovland told "Om mit eget forfatterskab og mit forhold til Knut Hamsun" (about my own authorship and my relationship with Knut Hamsun). He revealed, that he had not read everything by Hamsun, among others he had not read "Growth of the Soil" and he certainly never would read it - well, that is a point of view is it not! Apart from that he had a fine and unbiased view on Hamsun's works: There is a lot of fresh air in Hamsun's books, Hamsun is an author that sometimes says more than he can prove and such author are always interesting to read. Hamsun does not fit in anywhere, he is his own tradition and as such an authority and he is so loud, that he gets the space he claims. A most interesting and good lecture, that inspired me to read Ragnar Hovland.
During the concert afterwards in the church with "Det vilde kor" (wild choir) it was so hot that we were sticking to the pew!! A beautiful experience, but we were certainly not "wild" afterwards. We had the impression of having listened to Hamsun's beautiful poems in the sauna.

Ellen Mortensen Pierre Grouix

The weather has now changed a little, clouds are approaching but it is still hot.
Again an exiting day with "Hamsun's women". Britt Andersen from Trondheim has excellent views on this part of Hamsun. Her lecture was titled "Hamsun og den nye kvinnen" (Hamsun and the new woman). She considers Hamsun the greatest writer, he is modern and catches every detail. Hamsun is fearing the feminisation of the man, Hamsun was fascinated by the modern woman but he writes against her. That Britt is such a gifted lecturer, made her talk even more enjoyable.
Robert Ferguson, this Englishman who has taught himself Norwegian to read Hamsun and to write about him in the original language (he has now lived 20 years in Norway), I like very much his biography on Hamsun, spoke on "Kvinneskikkelserne i Hamsuns noveller" (Female characters in Hamsun's short stories): "Man går ikke til kvinden for at blive vis" (one does not seek the woman to get wise).
Gil de Carvalho from Portugal spoke in English on "Hamsun and Hamsun's female figures from a Portuguese perspective". I wished, we could all have understood Portuguese and thereby could have enjoyed the poetic nerve, that I sensed was behind the talk.

Britt Andersen Robert Ferguson Gil de Carvalho

What happened then? Well, I have not quite comprehended it yet: I was awarded the Hamsun Society bursary of 30.000 Nkr. for my work and my readiness to help. What a feeling. I have never dreamed something like this happening to me.

Even Arntzen is awarding me the Hamsun Society bursary

Outside it was raining cats and dogs. It was thundering on the roof.
During the lunch break Alf Einar Øien told about the plans for the new Knut Hamsun National Adventuremuseum and exiting visions opened to us!!!

Guests of honour at the Hamsun festival: Toril and Leif Hamsun and Regine Hamsun ....and the faithful audience

A bus was now waiting to take us to Tranøy for a guided tour, however I was still so overwhelmed from having received the stipend, that I went to Tranøy with my travel companion. The rain had stopped and a friendly sun was looked down at us. Coffee, chocolate cake and relaxing at Kirsti Kalstad's in Tranøy gallery was exactly what we needed, then a walk at the harbour and the view towards the mountains of the Lofoten, that helped and slowly I came back to myself and my surroundings. The literary seminar ended with an invitation to a meeting between 5 Italian and 2 Norwegian authors and the audience. The topics were Female identity and Nature as a source of inspiration in arts. The meeting was arranged in a co-operation between the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the Italian Casa delle Letterature, also taking place in Tranøy, a fine and splendid idea. I must admit we did not participate: We were to tired after the intense experiences.

It was so sad to have to return home after all these wonderful experiences and especially the fellowship with all the open and dedicated people. The next 2 years will seem long before the next Hamsun festival is due!
It was such a grand programme you had put together in Hamarøy and we do hope that you will have the optimism and energy to do it again in 2 years. It is fascinating with all the different events - not everybody is interested in the same things, young and older people does not necessarily go to the same concerts - should some events overlap, one just have to chose. It is the diversity and number of events that makes this festival unique.
We are not able to thank enough Hamarøy for hospitality and kindness: The organizing committees (Knut Erik Høiby, Asbjørn Hopland), the staff at the secretariat in the town hall (Bodil Standal), chairman of the Hamsun Society and chairman of the literary seminar Even Arntzen for the excellent seminar, and most of all thanks to all the (300!) volunteers from Hamarøy and elsewhere, who sacrificed their spare time and work to make everything happen.
It is so little just to say thank you, but I do hope that all of you in Hamarøy understand, how much you did for us visitors!

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen www.hamsun.at