See also the reports from previous years here.

Hamsun-festival in Hamarøy 4.-10. August 2008.

This way to Hamsun land!

If you have been on these pages before, you will see, that it is the 5. time we report from the Hamsun-days in Hamarøy. "But, are those days not the same every time?", you could ask. NO, NO! Every year is different! Though the Hamsun-days in Hamarøy have taken place every other year from 1982 onward, there are always new events, new friends to meet...And after this year will not have to wait for 2 years until we meet again in "Wonderland", no, already next year we will meet to the 150. jubilee of Knut Hamsun's birthday and the inauguration of the Hamsun-centre.

And here you see the start of construction! From these heaps of gravel we will next year see a building, which is not "just" a museum, but in the best meaning of the word a centre: A living place, which gathers and inspires Hamsun-enthusiasts as well as beginners in Hamsun and people, who are driving by and, getting curious by the sight of the building, just have to "pop in and have a look". Here not only book-lovers are addressed but also people interested in architecture and people who just love good style and new ideas. Norway is developing into one of the most interesting places for modern architecture: See the line from the world-famous stave churches of the middle ages and up to Oslo's new opera house, the Atlantic road, the oil museum in Stavanger, the coastal museum Norveg in Rørvik AND to the Hamsun-centre in Hamarøy. I predict, that Norway in the very near future will be THE country to visit if you want to explore contemporary- and futuristic architecture. And imagine, we have had the luck of following the Hamsun-centre from it's birth!

The as-always festive and solemn opening of the Hamsun-festival took place at Knut Hamsun's childhood home in Hamsund. And as always the sun beamed during the entire Hamsun-days. We had speeches by Arne André Solvang as host of the museum, by mayor of Hamarøy and chairman of the Hamsun-foundation Rolf Steffensen, by county councillor for culture and environment Geir-Ketil Hansen from Nordland county, by Vigdis Moe Skarstein from the National Library in Oslo in her capacity of coordinator for the 150. jubilee next year and by Marianne Apold from the Hamsun-foundation Hamarøy as organiser of the Hamsun-days.

All speakers of course looked forward to the events of the coming days and especially rejoiced over the start of construction of the Hamsun-centre. But the world is not perfect - alas. A major disaster has occurred during the scheduling of the ferry connection to the Lofoten islands. This connexion has been cut from 11 departures per day to 1 (sic!). It is of course financially totally without sense first to donate a very high sum of money to a modern and prestigious museum, which entire Norway can be proud of and which will be a magnet for tourism in Northern Norway, and at the same time remove the natural access for tourists from the Hamsun-centre to the Lofoten. It is a disaster for the local population on the main land and on the Lofoten, it is a disaster for the industry in the area and it is a bother for us tourists. It is an evident error, that must be corrected now. If one doubts the number of future passengers, do let the ferry sail it's 11 departures and if a decrease in passengers is observed, then one can cut the number of departures, but only then!

The dark clouds (fig. speaking) were spread by committed music by the young people of Hamarøy Kultur- og Musikskole and by Hamarøy Thespians with scenes from this year's production of Growth of the Soil.

Rolf Steffensen Even Arntzen

As the opening of the Hamsun-days this year fell on the 4. August, Knut Hamsun's birthday, we could continue by walking up to the Hamsun-bust and take part in the traditional laying-of-the-wreath and hear some well-chosen words by mayor Rolf Steffensen and chairman of the Hamsun-Society Even Arntzen.

County councillor Geir-Ketil Hansen Works by Linn K. M. Kalseth Professor Michael Schmidt and Anne Tømmerdal

Then the opening of this year's art exhibitions took place in the barn at Hamarøy open-air museum. Apart from dried fish :-) - original works in glass by Linn K. M. Kalseth on the theme of Power and Morals were presented as well as woodcuts by Friedrich Karl Gotsch and Oskar Kokoschka on the themes of Hamsun. Epilogue. and On overgrown Paths, respectively. The art exhibitions were limited this year in favour of an extended literary programme, but also the private galleries had, as usual, exiting exhibitions.

The theme of this year's Hamsun-festival is "Power and Morals". Based on Knut Hamsun's life and post-war debates we are to discuss the important and unfortunately of topical allusion questions like What is Power? How is Power used - and misused? And what happens to people who gain Power or loose Power? As always we will have exiting days.

The Hamsun-days had this year put even more emphasis on literature and several meetings with authors were scheduled:

- Edvard Hoem and Sødersang, an evening where author-session, poem recital and concert came together.

- The author Rosa Ahmed was interviewed by professor Siri Meyer. Also Sigbjørn Skåden should have taken part, but unfortunately he had to cancel.

- Norwegian Radio,NRK, recorded two programmes for their Studio Socrates titled: Hamsun, jazz and psychoanalysis. Musically the programme was supported by the group Ofotr. Also here was full house, though extra chairs were brought in. The programmes can be heard over the internet under: Knut Hamsun og psykoanalysen del 1 and Knut Hamsun og psykoanalysen del 2 .

- To walk (or the art of living a wild and poetic life...) was the title of a literary hike to the lake of Trollvannet and the peak of Bjørndalsklubben with author Tomas Espedal

- Siri Meyer meets the authors Vigdis Hjort and Stig Sæterbakken

- Jam is not only music: The author Frank A. Jensen and his colleagues of Northern Norway's association of Writers met in a literary jam and recitation.

One of the corner-stones of the Hamsun-festival in Hamarøy is the Hamsun-Society literary seminar.

The seminar was this year opened by mayor Rolf Steffensen and chairman of the seminar Even Arntzen.

- The first lecture was delivered by Nils Magne Knutsen - as always in excellent form. Here we heard about "His soul was both black and white", about power and moralistic dilemmas at Knut Hamsun.

The Hamsun-Society bursary is always awarded during the literary seminar and this year's winner was the Russian literary scientist and translator Eleonora Pankratova. She got the price for her indefatigable work on new translations and new editions of Knut Hamsun's works in Russian. This work is extremely important these years, as the Russian-speaking world traditionally always were one of the places, where Hamsun's characters and Hamsun's universe were most popular and where his works really were appreciated, recognised and understood. Therefore it is so important to make Hamsun's works accessible also to the new generation of Russians. Heartfelt congratulations to Eleonora Pankratova!

Afterwards there was a reception in Hamsun's farm Skogheim and reunions with old Hamsun-friends, meetings with new people interested in Hamsun, lots of talks and discussions on Hamsun and Hamsun's works before some of us went for the midnight concert in the garden of the childhood home.

- Next day started with an excellent and wise lecture by Wenche Rokkan Iversen from Svolvær "On infidelity and sexuality at Hamsun".

- We continued with professor Per Fugelli from Oslo on "The mystery of health. Hamsun as a teacher in medicine".

- After lunch professor Hans Fredrik Dahl, Oslo took us to "Nazism and Morals".

- Last day was opened by professor Stefanie v. Schnurbein, Berlin, who in perfect Norwegian told about "The economy of Hunger. (Im)morality and (im)potency in Hunger".

- The debate on a possible Knut Hamsun Square in Oslo, was covered by Torgrim Eggen, Oslo in "Don't mention the War!"

- Last lecture in this year's literary seminar was an interview with Gerd-Liv Valla, Oslo: "Being in possession of power - loosing power".

Even my travel companion had to listen to this last feature and this feature became at the same time sinister and exiting. Sinister, when it became clear which Kafkan circles a person can be drawn into, if some structure decides to destroy this person. Here networks are used for solely destructive purposes and these networks may include institutions and organisations normally considered positive like for example the press or the health care system (the psychiatry). The interview became exiting at the same time as we were shown, that a structure of power is composed of people and that it is not a law of nature, destiny or something paranormal. The parallel between Knut Hamsun and Gerd-Liv Valla is striking! But both Knut Hamsun and Gerd-Liv Valla have succeeded in their way to maintain human dignity in spite of their experiences. An extremely good contact between Even Arntzen and Gerd-Liv Valla lifted the interview far above a personal case (no matter how unpleasant it may have been for Gerd-Liv) and brought it to question of principles: How is Power used and by whom? The interview was rewarded with enthusiastic applause and provided food for though and discussions for a long time.

Impressions from the literary seminar:

(Mayor Rolf Steffensen opens the seminar; chairman Even Arntzen; Nils Magne Knutsen; Leif Hamsun and Eleonora Pankratova
Even Arntzen Leif Hamsun Nina Frang Høyum Hans Fredrik Dahl; Per Fugelli; Stefanie v.Schnurbein; Gerd-Liv Valla and Leif Hamsun
Per Fugelli and Leif Hamsun; Stefanie v.Schnurbein PerFugelli and Ronald Altinius; Even Arntzen, Gerd-Liv Valla and Torgrim Eggen
interview with Even Arntzen and Gerd-Liv Valla)

But the Hamsun-festival is not only literature. A cornucopia of events took place during this intense week. The opening concert was placed in Hamarøy church as usual, this year with Lill Lindfors and Ketil Bjørnstad, and the church was full - bursting full. Dispensation had been obtained from the fire-department to allow more seats. And the faithful fans got a fine concert with excellent contact between the artists and the audience and a select programme emphasising the beautiful texts by Edith Södergran. Extra applause was given to Ketil Bjørnstad after a formidable solo - he really is an inspired pianist.

My travel companion's favourite concert was a night in the garden of Hamsun's childhood home with Otto Henning Kjelstrup and Ivar Kolve trio. Incredibly moving and intimate, with beautiful arrangements where the trio's orient-jazz circled and deepened Otto Henning's rock-inspired music to Knut Hamsun's texts. The fact that Otto Henning is a relative of Knut Hamsun and that he let older family members tell - through tape recordings - just made the evening more emotional. Only the cold was almost unbearable when the sun had set behind the mountain over the farm - a strange contrast to the warm and sunny days. Many many thanks to the artists, that you kept going and gave us this beautiful experience!

An incredibly enjoyable evening was also the "Sing along" evening at the Hamarøy Fishcamping. An enthusiastic band of local celebrities played and the audience sang. Really a "saying yes to life as we know it" evening with a glass of wine, a perfect location, happy people, laughter and serious debate in between. An evening could be spent worse.

The Hamarøy Thespians is an institution during the Hamsun-days. This year they had dramatised Growth of the Soil. Really a risky business, as the National Theatre in Oslo and the Theatre-in-the-Barn both already have had success with theatre versions of Growth of the Soil. The clou of the Hamarøy Thespians was to make the Hamsun-festival theme the main element of the performance and through tableaux put a magnifying glass on Power and Morals (and the immoral of Power). Excellent done by the Hamarøy Thespians!

The concert of the year was no doubt the concert with Åge Aleksandersen og Sambandet in the bursting full Hamarøy hall. More that two hours without interval they delivered a spectacular show to an enthusiastic audience. 800 raving fans - from teenagers to fans at the same age as the artists - trying to get as close as possible to the stage, trying to touch the musicians, applauding, screamed and singing along on every single tune - old and new. What a charisma and what an energy this band has! Pure, honest and true rock music, yes the audience recognise immediately when quality and enthusiasm is present in the artists - like here. A hammer!

Åge Aleksandersen og Sambandet

Finally we have to mention just SOME of the events, where we did not participate as there were not enough hours in a day:
Market-days in the local areas of Skutvik, Tranøy and Oppeid, writer's course for young people, art workshop for children and young people, the concert with Ida Maria (she has an excellent career in the UK right now and according to all we spoke to gave an excellent concert), folk-songs with Dag Kajander and Kai Larsen, life in the Lofoten isles, literary hike in the mountains, awarding of the August-price (a price given by the municipality for initiative taken), jam, literary jam, open-air service at the tidal current of Nes, book presentation for the youngest by Kod and Tod, concerts in the art galleries, guided climbing, sailing in the tidal streams .... - many apologies to those not mentioned!

Many many thanks to everybody in Hamarøy for some fantastic days. We will meet (if not before) at the inauguration of the Hamsun-centre on:

04. August 2009!

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen