Knut Hamsun's birthday, August 4th 2011 (Photo: Niels-Henrik Jensen )

Festive birthday celebration in the name of reconciliation.

Knut Hamsun's birthday, August 4th., was celebrated in Hamarøy with laying of the wrath, photo exhibition, birthday cakes and disclosure of a new Hamsun-bust by Nico Widerberg.

This year it is exactly 50 years since the first Hamsun-bust was unveiled in Hamarøy. The bust, which was a present from the Greek sculptor and Hamsun-admirer Georg Themistokles Malteso, was unveiled on August 13th 1961 by Lars Berg, writer and World War 2 resistance fighter. That of all people Lars Berg, who was imprisoned during the war and who had experienced terrible things himself, that he was the first to support celebration of the writer Knut Hamsun, is the most clear sign of the will to reconciliation and commitment to the constitutional state. It was therefore a scoop, that Hamarøy managed to get Lars Berg's son, Einride Berg, to make the birthday speech at the bust in Hamsund.
After a warm welcome by Bodil Børset, director of the Hamsun centre, Einride Berg told about his and his fathers roots in Hamarøy and about his father, Lars Berg's, hard work and struggle for art in general and also for the commemoration of Knut Hamsun. This, in spite of their being on opposite sides first during the trial of the Nobel price winner Carl von Ossietzky and later during the war. It was very moving, when Einride at the end of his speech read his fathers poem "Der står ei Rose",which Lars Berg wrote in 1943 during his imprisonment.
Then Einride laid the wrath at the base of the bust and we all silently inculcated the wise words and remembered.

Welcome address by Bodil Børset Einride Berg gives the birthday speech ...and lays the wrath

After the ceremony we walked to Knut Hamsun's childhood home, where an exhibition in the stable displayed photos from the disclosure of the bust in 1961. For many of the local people it was exiting to see, if friends or family could be recognized on the old photos. A visit inside the childhood home was off-course mandatory.

Photo exhibition in the stable at the childhood home

In the meantime in the Hamsun-centre a birthday-cake-buffet was prepared. You don't want to know, how delicious all the cakes tasted :-)

As it happened to be exactly 50 years since the unveiling of the bust in Hamsund, it was a scoop, that it was possible to unveil a new bust, a present to the Hamsun-centre from Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen and the artist, Nico Widerberg. And whom could we wish for to do the unveiling other than Hamarøy's popular mayor, Rolf Steffensen. Few people have the gift like Rolf to say just the right thing, in few words he is able to explain why we are here right now and how to comprehend Knut Hamsun as a whole human being, a genius of a poet but also a human being capable of erring, like we all may err and why we must continue to follow Lars Berg's example and dare more democracy, more openness, more love.

Both Rolf Steffensen and Bodil Børset thanked not only the donors but also the owners of Hamarøy Gallery, Siv Reidun Sandnes and Brit Brattbakk, because they succeeded in getting Nico Widerberg to Hamarøy in the first place and because they selfless let Nico Widerberg's bust left out of their gallery, so that it could be given to the Hamsun-centre.

Warm welcome by Bodil Børset Rolf Steffensen unveils the bust Full house in the Hamsun-centre

Hereafter a talk took place in the concert hall of the Hamsun-centre between Einride Berg and newly employed literary intermediary at the Hamsun-centre, Andreas Lødemel about Lars Berg's works and the relation between Berg and Knut Hamsun. Einride told lively and humoristic not only about his fathers works but also about his dedication to art and society. Lars Berg has not "only" written a series of novels on a.o. suppression, sexuality and tyranny and about the liberation of mankind from superstition and exploitation. Berg also fought explicitly for other people's right to expression. He is remembered as one of the initiators of the theatre in Tromsø. It was important for him "to build the nation". Even after having been in the claws of the Rinnan gang and after several years of imprisonment at Grini, always expecting to be transferred to a German concentration camp, even then Lars Berg kept his faith in civilization and therefore it should be a must also in our times to fight for Lars Berg's most important ideals: Democracy, the constitutional state and freedom of speech.

Andreas Lødemel (left) and Einride Berg (right) in conversation

And for those, who needed exercise after all the cakes and for those who still were eager for cultural impulses, an "even-tour" was organized, Hamarøy's well-known and loved combination of hiking, art and literature. This time with theme around the tidal stream Glimma and Hamsun's sources of inspiration here. Andreas Lødemel and the actress Eirin Edvardsen led the tour. Here I had to give up though and just stay and enjoy the Hamsun-centre.

As you may have understood, it really was a warm, solemn and exiting birthday celebration, though everybody were chocked by the assaults shortly before at Utøya and in Oslo, which brought sorrow and grief to many friends.

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen