Fascination: Knut Hamsun.

Normally, one should start with some deep literary analysis of Knut Hamsuns works. This, however, I dare not, since so many have done that in such excellent ways. Have a look in my links.

I'm going to start from another angle, at the question that I meet most often: Why are you so fascinated by Hamsun?

Well, it starts a bit akward and not with his novels. Though I have been a keen reader all my life, I knew only Hamsun as the man who wrote the novel behind the film Hunger.

In 1992 as we once more visited our favourite holiday country Norway, I found an article in the newspaper that made me curious: "Nazism and Hamsun". As I have allways been interested in history and politics I started to ask among our norwegian friends: What had Hamsun done - apart from writing novels?

Noboby remembered that he should have done anything special, but he did take side with the germans during the war.

Yes, but many did that too and were long forgiven and forgotten.

In fact, I became more curious.

Some time later I found by chance at an antiquarian Thorkild Hansens books "Processen mod Hamsun" (The Hamsun trial).

That did it. The books were devoured, then Hamsuns own novel " På gengroede stier" (On owergrown paths), the book he wrote while he was waiting for the his sentence. I was immideately fascinated by his enchanted way of using words and also curious to know more about the person Knut Hamsun.

I wanted to read all his works, find what was written about him, in short a hunt through antiquarian bookshops started.

Some project, I must say! I didn't realise that so must had been written on Hamsun - books, articles - impossible to find all, but I do try hard.

A book by - or more often on - Hamsun is during the last years allways in my luggage. I love to explain or read aloud passages, Gert is allways a patient audience. Since he started to read Hamsun also we have had stimulating discussions when he sees other nuances than me.

I am amazed, that so many and so different books have been written on that man. One thing I found out immediately: That you can impossibly put one label only on Hamsun. So many layers are to be found in his works and in his life and that is maybe one of the reasons, why researchers are so fascinated by him.

As I live in Germany it was obvious for me to look for articles and books written here. Allready 1907 a Kurt Rotermund has written a book on Knut Hamsun. This book I have not found yet, but I own the next written 1910 by Carl Morburger.


Our next holiday in Norway, led us past Nørholm, Hamsuns home from 1918 to his death. The farm is today owned by his grandchild Victoria and is extremely wellkept and well restored. Standing outside the wrought-iron lattice I imagined life in the house at Hamsun time, the poets cottage laying all alone, history. Here walks Knut Hamsun, stops, mumbles to himself and writes some words on a slip of paper.
Here history is present and one leaves uplifted. A priviledge to walk on Hamsuns "Overgrown Paths".

The poets cottage at Nørholm

In 1996 a weeks stay at the folk high school in Ry followed. Theme: Hamsun. What an inspiration to listen and discuss Hamsun with like-minded. When I speak of Hamsun to my friends I have often the impression that they smile politely and think: "Here she goes again".

Here I also learned, that a Hamsun Society exists in Norway. Do you like Hamsun, it can only be recommended to join the Society. I have had so much benefit from it.

A Hamsun Festival is held every other year in Hamarøy, Norway in the month of August. The festival had just been held as I joined the Society, but in 1998 I participated and it can not be described the experience it was to see the Nordland, that Hamsun so often describes in his works, though he only lived 22 out of his 92 years there, the light, the air, the power and energy in the flowers and trees during the short but intense summer. You understand that it never leaves you again.

A part of the festival is The Hamsun Seminar - arranged by the Hamsun Society - just the right spot for Hamsun lovers with lectures and turbulent discussions. There are so many keys to Hamsun and as one of the participants said to me during the seminar: "If you are trapped in the world of Hamsun, you will never get out again".
The festival also includes a variety of conserts, exhibitions, walks, theatre, music.

In september 1999 I participated in the Hamsun Seminar in Grimstad, which is also held every two years. A fantastic experience especially since many "Hamsun acquintances" started to show up. Thoughts, papers and books were exchanged on a large scale. Everytime one gets a little wiser, but it is certain, that you will never know Hamsun completely. As I read somewhere: If you think that you finally understands Hamsun, he has allready walked past you.

No, that Hamsun said, that "in 100 years everything is forgotten", certainly did not come true. But I have the suspicion that Hamsun himself also felt, that his books would live on and witness on a genius that fascinates with words and opinions.

© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen www.hamsun.at