Find reports from previous years here

The Hamsun-festival in Hamarøy 2006.

"The sky all open and clean. I stared into that clear sea, and it seemed as if I were lying face to face with the uttermost depth of the world, my heart beating tensely against it, and at home there." (Pan).

Norway has again celebrated summer with festivals all over the country: From the jazz-festival in Molde, the classical Bergen-festival, the Peer Gynt plays, the Øya festival in Oslo to the Riddu Riddu - Europe's most important festival for autochthonous populations. It is probably impossible to tell exactly how many festivals in total one may find, but more than 200 festivals offer music starring international and national celebrities. In addition one finds the festivals with other focus: Literature, children, drama, film and not to forget the local town celebrations....
The internet search engine lists more than 2 million hits on festival Norway!

Some festivals are in a league of their own: My favourite is off-course the Hamsun-Days in Hamarøy! Here people have VISIONS, this town far north of the arctic circle bank on first performances of music or plays written especially for this festival, it stages productions recognised nationwide, some times even internationally. Every time well-known artists perform and journalists from several countries are present together with Norwegian press and radio/television. More remarkable is, that all this is only possible due to an immense voluntary work done by a large number of the town's inhabitants and organizing committees. The Hamsun-Days in Hamarøy take place every second year - first time in 1982 - and present a cornucopia of cultural events based on and around Hamsun's works and presented in this Nordland, this land of the midnight sun, which had such an impact on Hamsun's own poetry throughout his life. But please read my account from this years festival and be inspired to participate yourself next time!

This years Hamsun-festival started July 29th, as usual in beautiful sunshine, with the traditional opening ceremony on the square between the town hall and Hamsun's farm Skogheim. Welcome speeches were given by the chairman of the organiser, the Hamsun-foundation Hamarøy, Asbjørn Hopland; the mayor of Hamarøy Jan-Folke Sandnes; the head of culture in Nordland county, Stig Olsen, and county councillor Geir-Ketil Hansen. Central theme of the speeches was the importance of innovation and the role of young people in rural Norway - a theme also dominant in the programme of the festival with more events especially for young people. Stressed was off-course also the necessity of the last appropriation for the coming Hamsun-centre in Hamarøy, so that construction could start and the centre be ready for the celebrations in 2009 at Hamsun's 150 years jubilee. The centre will no doubt have influence on the development of the whole region in the years to come.

It is a tradition, that the Hamsun family is strongly represented at the festival in Hamarøy, giving an extra flair to the event. Marianne Hamsun, Knut Hamsun's daughter-in-law; Leif and Torgeir Hamsun, Knut Hamsun's grandchildren and Ann Christine and Joacim Hamsun, Torgeir's wife and son were all present this year.

New was festival narrator Stein Elvestad, who read from "Victoria" -the part where Johannes rescues a child from drowning - and on piano Rune Alver, who with sensibility framed the whole ceremony..
Then Marianne Hamsun presented the artists and with well chosen passages on art from "From the unconscious" she opened the art exhibitions.

Jan-Folke Sandnes welcomes.. the festive audience in the sunshine Asbjørn Hopland and the artists

The art exhibitions were this year concentrated at Skogheim, the open air museum and the village hall in Hamsund. Frans Widerberg exhibited his art in Skogheim. No further introduction is necessary, the art of Widerberg is recognised immediately and one is lifted by his clear lines in clear blue, yellow and red colours where persons, reindeer and other animals may be sensed.
Upstairs one is met by the sami artist Asbjørn Unor Forsøget and his strong suggestive paintings with roots in myths and shamanism. Even without knowledge of sami tradition one is captivated by the paintings and one's own thoughts start to wander... A strong experience, which by the way also came up during Mari Boine's concert.
Torgeir Hamsun showed his digital photographic works. Torgeir sees nature as a living organism filled with energies or deities and one recognises in every picture in a stone or a water fountain gods and demons.
Victoria Fuhr called her exhibition "Where tracks and paths cross" and presented graphical art inspired by "On overgrown Paths" in a new and surprising combination of wild flora from the overgrown paths, written texts and sound, reproduced as oscillographs. An extraordinary beautiful and authentic reproduction of memories, affiliation and identity.

Torgeir Hamsun Asbjørn Unor Forsøget Victoria Fuhr

At the open air museum the focus was on young north-Norwegian artists - in line with the concept of developing the Hamsun-festival by giving space for young art and for experiences for young people.
The village hall in Hamsund has been newly renovated and after a visit to Hamsun's childhood home it was just perfect to visit the fine exhibition with the theme "Love".

New were the exhibitions in Buvåg with patchwork - excellently presented together with nets and other fishing tackle in an old boats house - and the exhibition in Nordbygden's village hall with handicrafts.

The private galleries offered off-course also special exhibitions during the Hamsun-Days: The Hamarøy Gallery in the centre of the town, the Hamsun Gallery in the old shop at Tranøy where Hamsun worked as a young man and Tranøy Gallery with the beautiful architecture and the fantastic view across the sea towards the Lofoten islands - these galleries is a must when visiting Hamarøy, and they are off-course open outside the Hamsun-Days as well!

The Hamsun gallery - the former shop where young Knut Hamsun worked

One of the major events this year was the first performance of "A flute sounded in my blood". The MiNensemble and VocalART had invited 4 composers: Lars Skoglund, Helle Solberg, Bjørn Andor Drage and Helge Sunde to write music to Hamsun's poems and together with the director Ola Beskow and conductor Øystein Jæger we became an incredible exiting experience in the church of Hamarøy, where the entire span of Hamsun's poetry came to light. The performance was adapted especially for Hamarøy church with splendid light design and very demanding! The MiNensemblet and VocalART, however, mastered the task completely and the enthusiastic audience rewarded with long standing ovations. It is just so positive, that contemporary "classical" music is able to inspire to those degrees. This production deserves to be shown nationwide! Many thanks to the Hamsun-Days for daring to commission work like this. It has become tradition apparently: One of my travel companion's best experiences is still the first performance of Svein Schultz' "Dvergmål" on the mountain Hammerøyskaftet during the Hamsun-Days 2002.

"A flute sounded in my blood"

We were offered one more first performance this year. "Under the winter wind" is a multi-disciplinary performance, where Annika Lushin and Lars Skoglund together with the dancer Nick Bryson combine contemporary dance with video, music, sound and recital. The performance is based on Hamsun's "Hunger" and all the extremes of the novel is reproduced using the means of expression of our days. A very intrusive and impressive performance - even with just one dancer on the stage. Also here the audience was enthusiastic despite or perhaps because of the serious theme. Here in northern Norway there is room and fertile soil for demanding and difficult productions!

What to do if there is not enough space in Hamarøy church for 80 musicians, choir, soloists and an audience - but one is determined to show Verdi's "La Traviata"? You let Minda Marie Fiskum, John-Kristian Karlsen, Sigmund Aasjord and Sergej Osadchuk at the piano perform the opera alone! The artists called it a mini-performance, but there was nothing "mini" about this performance: We had all the sentiments and emotions, broken hearts, the voices - and the emotions reached every corner of the filled to the brim Hamarøy church. We did not miss a nuance in this the most classical of all classical dramas of passion. Excellently done by the four artists! And how we enjoyed the grand voices!
- by the way - an almost audible start went through the male half of the audience as Minda Marie entered the scene in her pink dream of a dress!

"Under the winter wind" "La Traviata"

Totally sold out was off-course also the concert with Mari Boine and band. Mari Boine is well-known abroad, also in Germany where we live, but it was first time we were to hear her and we were exited. The weather was clear and freezing cold (being in northern Norway) and yet from the first tune she had enchanted the audience. Even we, who do not understand the sami language, understood. Mari Boine's music may have it's roots in sami culture and tradition, but what she does is world music in it's best version. Songs like Holy Mountain and Eagle Brother were real highlights. This small great person has an incredible aura. Also Svein Schultz and the rest of the band were at their best and fully up to it.
The concert took place in Hamarøy's most unique hall, the State Flour Store in Tranøy. This old wooden building has a unique atmosphere for this type of concert. Imagine then, that after the concert when you walk out on the quay at midnight, it is still light and at anchor the coastal steamer Lofoten with all lights burning. Like a fairy tale!

Mari Boine and band

Then there were all the concerts with excellent artists in the different and unusual venues in Hamarøy, that we would like to have attended, but where we simply had no time:
- bluesrock and trashgrass at the ski lodge with grilling and a spectacular view towards the Lofoten islands
- Maria Solheim's 2 concerts
- Ola Bremnes and Sundqvist at Tranøy lighthouse
- Ska Patrol: "Life is a party and everybody is invited..."
- jazz concert with JUPITER in the garages of Stokland Bus Company
- Jack Berntsen, Cato Hultman, Sverre Harald Eriksen and Tore Hestbråten at Hamarøy Fishcamping
Sorry! to everybody that I have not mentioned. The offers were just overwhelming.

As usual the thespians Hamarøy Revy og Amatørteaterlag performed a Hamsun play. This year we saw "August and Pauline" and peeped into life in Polden. Professional theatre is off-course the best, but every year it is a special pleasure to see the ardour and sparkling joy these amateurs posses in their performance. This year the casting was exceptionally good: August, Pauline and especially Edevart WERE these Hamsun characters. Well done! The play was difficult this year, with a lot of text, but the entire crew offered us a splendid performance and was rewarded with sold-out houses. Excellent work was also done behind the stage and by the script-writers Terje Øien and Tore Hestbråten. The thespians is a MUST at every Hamsun-Days, we look forward to them every time. I'm curious to know what they will offer us at the next Hamsun-Days in two years.

What is August doing now? The Polden Bank is established!

New this year was the festival-narrator Svein Elvestad, whom we met at the opening ceremony. He appeared several times during the week: At the traditional "adven-tour" in the garden of the old vicarage Svein recited - no, Svein WAS - "An Apparition". Incredibly moving to stand here with torches at midnight hearing Hamsun's short story at the place where Hamsun had lived himself and with a view towards the cemetery, where torches had been lit on Hamsun's parent's grave.
Completely a contrast was the light-hearted and sunny adven-tour to Buvåg, where we sat on the warm cliffs at the water line with a view towards the Lofoten and heard Svein together with Rune Alver on piano reading the scene from "Vagabonds", where 2 musicians came to the village and young Edevart experiences his first encounter with the world outside. Reading? No, Svein and Rune were themselves the 2 musicians opening our eyes to Hamsun's world!
Our last adven-tour went to the stream Glimma. Here we sat in the warm sand, behind us "...the stream Glimma, a broad and rocky stream from which a roar sounded night and day, night and day." And Svein told the story of Alexander, who could not have his Leonarda and therefore lets the boat drift onto a rock: "....he saw Leonarda roll over several times, she was lifted into the air and fell head down. Then she was pulled under with the water." And Svein's wife emphasizes the gloomy atmosphere with wild and melancholic tunes from her double-bass. Only slowly we returned to reality and could again see Glimma as a gay and friendly stream and yet still later we were able to see how Hamsun had mesmerized us again.
Svein, his wife and Rune were not only excellent artists but also incredibly warm and sympatric persons. It felt so right to hear Hamsun recited in his childhood dialect from Nordland as only a Norwegian born here is able to. We do hope, that the festival-narrator will become a tradition during the next Hamsun-Days.

The festival-narrator at Buvåg... Glimma the vicarage garden

The guided walks on "...the long, long path into the woods" was such a sweet initiative. The path is a project executed by the children from the day care at Hamarøy Central School, after having read "Growth of the Soil". The children have build a peat hut, figures and info boards in the area where Knut Hamsun himself lived in a peat hut whilst writing. In the school was an exhibition with photos and corresponding texts by Hamsun also done by the pupils in the project. It was really amazing what these 7-10 years old children were capable of and how they understood Hamsun. It is really worth-while, when teachers show such a commitment as here at the Central School! The walks were also supported by the hotel Hamarøy Gjestegård, as the manager Martin Pedersen also have build a peat hut in the area.

The long, long path into the woods.

Now I have to apologise again as there is no space to mention all the exiting events offered during the week:
- popular entertainment in the local areas of Skutvik, Tranøy and Oppeid with food, music, competitions, sailing excursions in the archipelago....
- circus
- writers course for young people
- popular lectures
- course in genealogy
- information meetings on the ongoing renovations at the old vicarage gardens and the coming Hamsun-centre arranged by Salten Museum
- literary jam
- cycle of legends
- courses in climbing and guided mountaineering excursions to the peaks in the Hamarøy district....there is much, much more, but I give up!

My travel companion was really sorry, that he did not have time to attend this years August-seminar, a 1-day seminar on development in rural areas with lecturers from economics, managers, tourist life to advertisement. An extremely important topic today, as centralisation continues all over the world. Not only major cities have problems due to the migration, but smaller areas get increasing difficulties in maintaining a modern service level at the same time as the population decreases.
Hamarøy has instigated an "August" prize, which is awarded in connection with the August-seminar at the Hamsun-festival. The prize goes to a "pioneer", this year to the founder of the War Memorial Museum. Congratulations on the brilliant initiative!

And now finally to one of the cornerstones of the Hamsun-festival, the Hamsun-Society literary seminar:

The Hamsun-Society Literary Seminar.
"They provided Nourishment for their Hearts. Also they had Visions when they looked into the Land of Fanatsies"
(Segelfoss Town)

”Ways to Hamsun” was the title of this years seminar, just the title set my imagination wandering, I see Hamsun hiking, not on macadam, but on a path or track trod by animals and human beings, carrying his small scraps of paper in his pockets ready to let us share the walk with August, Nagel, Edvarda, Dagny, Johannes, Victoria and the entire gallery of characters, who have given new impulses to our lives. To participate is to me always a highlight, always incredible interesting to see the programme and see well-known as well as new names appear, which novelties will we experience, which aspects and ways open up to Hamsun. I know nobody who like Hamsun is so extremely vulnerable and at the same time so extremely self-conscious. This field of tension is the part, in which we have the most difficulties in understanding him and what makes it ever so interesting to listen to the possible ways to approach his poetry.

I will as usual only give a few key words to the subjects in the excellent lectures, later this year all the lectures will be collected in a book published by the Hamsun-Society. Hereby warmly recommended. (If you are a member of the Hamsun-Society you will get the book sent to you as a present).

I would have liked to show photos of all the lecturers, but as usual: I'm not a master photographer, a new camera did not help - it is still I who pressed the button - so some of the results I will spare you.

A warm sensation filled me as I entered the Hamarøy Hall, yes Wenche and Jorun were there as usual.

Registration with Wenche and Jorun

The mayor of Hamarøy Jan-Folke Sandnes bid us welcome to Hamarøy and emphasized the literary seminar as a cornerstone in the Hamsun-Days. He quoted the well-known words from Hamsun's "Vagabonds" and to hear the words in their original dialect of Nordland was an extra treat: "They talked and talked in their amazing Nordland language, there were many peculiar words. It was terrible wrong, but they made their opinions clear."

Jan-Folke Sandnes bids welcome

"If one asks what is love, then it is nothing but the wind soughing in the roses and then dying away. But often it is also like an unbreakable seal lasting life-long, lasting until death. God has created it of many sorts and seen it last or perish." Victoria.

Here we are all gathered to explore different ways to Hamsun, but what could be better than starting with Hamsun himself. Festival-narrator Stein Elvestad read from the novel "Victoria", and then showed a film lasting 5 minutes where he and a fly were the principal characters! Then we remembered the short story The Fly and then the feeling was there...

"Our acquaintance started, as she came flying in my window one day....."

Even Arntzen bids welcome

The chairman of the Hamsun-Society, Even Arntzen, then bid welcome to a programme which, as he said, would include many different ways to and opinions on Hamsun.

As one sits here and listen to Even's warm welcome, revealing the joy he has in organizing this Hamsun-seminar, then I remembered some wise words - not by Hamsun this time - but by Barbara Tuchmann: "Books are carriers of civilisation. Without books history is mute, literature without means, science mutilated, thoughts and ideas immobile."

Nils Magne Knutsen and his new book

Then we had come to this evening's lecture, an experience most of us had looked forward to. Nobody can as Nils Magne Knutsen lead us into the north Norwegian and Hamsunian world. The title of his lecture was "The long way home: Hamsun and Hamarøy" and a new book "Knut Hamsun and Nordland. The long way home" lay in huge piles waiting for us impatient buyers. Here a short quotation from the lecture and the book: "...Knut Hamsun's childhood home, the starting point for one of the great international adventures of our time. That's where we are going, but which way to choose? As well known: Many ways lead to Hamsun, most of them thoroughly macadamised by works in numerous volumes and heavy theory - we have Karl Marx avenue, we have Dr. Freud's boulevard, and last but not least we have the broad and popular heavily trafficked Biography Street...." The book is warmly recommended.

The evening ended with champagne! and many Hamsun discussions, some of us continued the talks at Hamarøy Fishcamping and it's extremely warm and hospitable managers Rita and Hans Petter Christensen.

Lecture by Karl Erik Harr

A new day and again beautiful weather! The first lecture of the day was held by the fascinating painter Karl Erik Harr: "On illustrating Hamsun". Together with pictures to some of the 7 Hamsun novels, that he has illustrated, Harr sprinkled beautiful verses and words over us, apart from being a famous painter Harr is also an excellent writer. He told that Hamsun had been with him all his life. We got an interesting view into the process of creating a piece of art and sensed Harr's joy and solidarity with Hamsun.

The director Henning Carlsen, yes one immediately remembers the "Hunger" film and that was also Henning Carlsen's subject: "On directing Hamsun". Sitting in a chair without manuscript he took us back to 1966, when the film "Hunger" was shot. A warm and beautiful experience. Yes, he did mention, that he also had made the film "Pan" but time flies, so Pan had to wait backstage. If you would like to hear Henning Carlsen tell about film, you should buy the DVD with the film "Hunger", then as an extra you will get 34 minutes of Henning telling about making the film.

Henning Carlsen narrates

The author Frank A. Jensen, Svolværd/Tysfjord: "On my own works and my relation with Knut Hamsun". Frank told lively and fascinating how he started writing and about his childhood and youth in Kjøpsvik. How one becomes a writer? Well, first one has to have something to tell. We wandered far, mentioned the importance of factual correctness for example how the current runs in the Vestfjorden and hoe he as a young man loved Rolling Stones and quoted Hamsun, as being part of the pop-culture.

"There are many now a days writing on the Norwegian language and on the Committee on Orthography, the Objectivity and the Whipper-Snapper, Løvland and Anathon Aall, Members of Parliament and Professors, Editors and Actors. Practically all agree that we must destroy Language..." That is how Hamsun commences in 1918 in his article "Language endangered".

After lunch we were ready for a new and exiting theme. Cand. philol. Jorun Nordmo, Tromsø: "Language endangered - Knut Hamsun's views on language and language politics". Here we found Jorun in a different role, instead of registration and management with Wencke, we got an excellent lecture on the polemic Hamsun. Jorun brought several examples on how Hamsun criticised not content but language in books and articles.

Discussions on the exciting lectures of the day continued at the banks of Glimma at Hamarøy Fiskecamping as we enjoyed an excellent fish soup and listen to good music played by Ronald Altinius and friends. A splendid conclusion on an intense day.

Socializing after the literary seminar

A new day and new experiences. Cand.philol. Knut Michelsen, Oslo: "Lonely, suffering and a genius- a view on how Hamsun is described in several biographies". An exiting reading of biographies and the myths repeating themselves through the biographies. The lecturer often referred to Lars Frode Larsen as an example of thorough search for facts. On the contrary Hamsun himself was one of the worst in disguising and putting out false scents. Knut Michelsen also showed pictures from Hamsun life.

Henning Carlsen, Kamma Haugan, Jørgen Haugan, Erik Østerrud and Else (from left)

Hereafter it was Jørgen Haugan's turn with a lecture I had been looking forward to: "On writing The Fall of the Sun-god - agonies, choices and drops", and I was not disappointed. Jørgen based his lecture on the question, where did Hamsun find his inspiration and power to write and gave examples on how Hamsun transposed lost feelings into, not action, but words.

"Indian summer, Indian summer. The paths lay like bands through the yellow turning forest, a new star appeared every day, the moon was like a shadow, a shadow of gold immersed in silver..." Pan.

The last speaker was professor Erik Østerud, Trondheim on: "Glahn in Arcadia - reading Pan through myths". Here we got many examples of the psychology in Pan, yes, so many ways and paths lead to increasing understanding of Hamsun and his unique poetry.

Visit at Kråkmo farm Kirsten Hedvig and Per Kråkmo

After lunch we were offered an excursion, this time to Kråkmo. We swarmed into the bus and all looked forward to enjoy the beautiful landscape during the ride. In Innhavet Inger Kråkmo entered the bus, Per Kråkmo's sister. On the trip to the farm she told about the times before the road was constructed and how to reach the farm from Hamarøy. Today it is difficult to imagine travelling in Hamsun's days. First one went by boat to Tømmernesset, then one had to hire rowing boats across 3 lakes and walk or rent horse between the lakes before the peak of Kråkmotinden appeared and the farm lying sheltered under the mighty mountain. It must have been incredibly inspiring for Hamsun to live there in 1916, whilst writing "Growth of the Soil".

Inger Kråkmo shows photos of Martine and Per Kråkmo, Hamsun's hosts

Inger and Per Kråkmo invited us inside their house and showed photographs, here the photo of Martine and Per Kråkmo, who were Hamsun's hosts and Inger and Per told small episodes from Hamsun's stay at the farm. In the most terrific summer weather we visited this historic place, I almost sensed Isak and Geisler coming out of the forest. Yes, imagination is ever present in Hamsun's tracks.

Inger and Per Kråkmo

"The potato, it was like some sort of new fruit, there was nothing mystic about it, nothing religious, women and children could join in the planting, these earth-apples that came from a distant land like the coffee, plentiful and good food, but of the family of the wild turnip" Growth of the Soil.

Thanks ever so much to everybody, who again succeeded in letting us return home full of abundance and ideas, with appetite on once again to find the well-known books, read them and try to understand just a little bit more of the great and genial authorship and the human being behind it, Knut Hamsun.

And Knut Hamsun's birthday August 4th. was off-course duly celebrated, with dignity. As usual we all met at the statue in Hamsund, where Tove Karoline Knutsen spoke about Hamsun's ways and ways to Hamsun and recited "Let play the Spring on Earth" and the last verse of "Island off the Coast" while Pan himself enchanted us with his magic flute.

"I walk softly into the field and listen to a strange and trembling Spring play"

On top of this immense programme we had time to enjoy the fantastic nature in Hamarøy, we saw ospreys hunting, visited Hamsun's childhood home, enjoyed coffee and local specialities, we enjoyed wine and newly landed fish, but first of all we enjoyed the enormous hospitality and friendship - the essence of northern Norwegian personality - that we were met with by everybody up here, we met new friends and we met again the friends with whom we have shared years of Hamsun-Days with and that was surely the most important of all!

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen