The 4. International Hamsun-conference.

University of Tromsø 20.-21. September 2007

"Intet er som at bli pustet på av det levende liv" On overgrown Paths.

Venue: Auditorium E 0101, Faculty of Humanities.

Admission free, registration at

The University of Tromsø hosts every fourth year an international Hamsun-conference, the first in 1995, the second in 1999 and the third in 2003. The conference proceedings are published in: Hamsun i Tromsø I, II and III.

"Bent Lie har Ret: Tromsø Stift er et Æventyrland. Det er et Æventyrland som Alverden rejser for at se. Ja om Sommeren, vil man svare. Ogsaa om Sommeren. Landet er det samme Aaret rundt, det er bare Varmen og Lyset som skifter, der blir en koldere og mørkere Tid - akkurat som alle andre Steder i Verden. Og Vinter som Sommer er Tromsø Stift et Æventyrland." Knut Hamsun.

It is always with a special anticipation, that I set course for Tromsø. There is something unique about this exceptionally alive and active city, something that inspires and make all the events seen in a special light. As I packed my suitcase I remembered the Hamsun-conference in 2003, where I had left home in too thin clothes and shoes. No, this should not happen to me again, so the suitcase was stuffed with warm jackets and heavy boots. Well prepared, I thought, but the weather that met Martin from Prague and I as we got off the plane was not snow and icy cold but heavy rain. Yes, off-course my umbrella was at home. So we darted out to the waiting car and Nils Magne, who collected us and brought us to the hotel. Good to be indoors again and with anticipation see, which other dear Hamsun-friends would partake in the conference. One of the first to show up was Olga from Georgia, it was a happy reunion as we had just been together in Grimstad.

Some of us had arrived a day early to have time to explore the city and take in the atmosphere. Soon I was in the main street Storgata right in the city centre. My objective was to revisit the memorial plaque hanging in Storgata 106, today a health food shop. Here lay in 1877 the shop of bookseller and publisher Urdal and here came young Knud Pedersen to get his first book "Den Gaadefulde" (The Enigmatic) published. The place just breathe History. Imagine, if Hamsun could see, what we are ready to pay today if we were so lucky to find a copy of that book.

"Tæt ved en liden skovbekrandset Høi, ved hvis Fod en lille Aa snoede sig gjennem den fagre Eng."

No, the starting line of Hamsun's début is not remembered the same way as the start of "Hunger" from 1889 which made Hamsun famous, everybody remembers: "Det var i den Tid jeg gik omkring og sultet I Kristiania, denne forunderlige By som ingen forlater før han har faat Mærker av den.."

But back to today's Tromsø, where the I had a superb fish dinner at the restaurant "Skarven" together with the lecturers and the organizers. Yes, there were intense debates, also on our favourite theme Hamsun.

Full of anticipation we drove out to the university campus next morning, where we during the next days were to listen, discuss and dig into the Hamsunian world.

It became a splendid and very interesting conference with a cheerful atmosphere all the way. One thing are the interesting lectures but also the breaks with all the discussions are very important. Everything went perfectly well, but I was surprised, that so few students and external listeners were present, we were never more than 22! This was really a pity, as the lectures were interesting. There were in total 13 lecturers and I knew 9 of them from before, so it was like a Hamsun family reunion. On top of all the inspiring lectures on all possible and impossible views on Hamsun's works - yes one of the lectures was about SHOES: On the (un) liability of clothes in Knut Hamsun's "On overgrown Paths" and Heidegger's "Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks" - on top of that Hamsun quotations, Schopenhauer's philosophy and so on flew over the desks. In the evenings chat and laughter mingled with food and wine.

After the lectures of the first day we were invites for a buffet with seafood in Nils Magne's cottage and on top of the excellent food, wine and company we had the most beautiful northern lights, a phenomena which some had never seen before like Olga Zhgenti from Georgia and Martin Humpal from Prague.

Nils Magne Knutsen (UiT): "Hamsun in a North-Norwegian context". If somebody can get us inside the North-Norwegian universe, then it is Niels-Magne. Nobody explains as well a he, how people of the North were looked upon in southern Norway.

Niels-Magne Knutsen and Martin Humpal An eager listener and a passionate Hamsun admirer: Halvard Nesby

Lars Frode Larsen (Gyldendal): "The new Hamsun's collected works". A satisfied Lars Frode Larsen told about the work behind the new and edited version of Hamsun's collected works, which is based on the 1934 edition.

Nina Frang Høyum (The Hamsun Centre): "The Hamsun Centre: Challenges in communication an authorship". Really exiting to hear about all the plans. It will be so interesting to see, how the project progresses.

Tomas Fechner-Smarsly (University of Bonn): "Shoes : On the (un-) reliability of clothes in Knut Hamsun's ´On overgrown Paths´ and Heidegger's `Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks´" During this exiting lecture I thought of something Hamsun wrote on shoes in a letter to Wenzel Hagelstam 3. January 1905: "Jeg var i København Lillejuleaften og da gjorde jeg meget galt, naturligvis. Jeg drev det til at bytte sko med en fremmed Mand midt paa Kongens Nytorv."

Olga Zhgenti (University of Tbilisi, Georgia): "Knut Hamsun and Georgian modernism. About Hamsun's play play "LIVET IVOLD", which was staged by the Georgian theatre and film director Konstantin Marjanov in the Moscow ART Theatre in 1910". Olga Zhgenti, who loves Hamsun so dearly, that she made a film about him, told in depths about the success "Livet i vold " had in Moscow. Afterwards we saw the film, exiting how she had chosen to interpret the influence of the journey to the Caucasus had in Hamsun's life.
Film: Olga Zhgenti (Tbilisi): "Knut Hamsun's Caucasian Mysteries" (Documentary, 87 min.).

Linda Hamrin Nesby (UiT): "The Wanderer and the Rogue". As always it was a pleasure to listen to Linda, she has such an understanding of Hamsun.

Henning Howlid Wærp (UiT): "Mysteries and symbolism". Henning took us on an interesting journey into the world of symbols. He is a splendid lecturer with a very deep knowledge og Hamsun.

Martin Humpal (Charles University of Prague): "Hamsun's Mysteries as an antinovel". A very interesting lecture, which really raised a lot of thoughts. Amazing, how many angles there is to a novel.

Sigrid Combüchen (Lund): "The Hand and the Spirit". From the point-of-view of a Hamsun-biographer". A very fascinating lecture from somebody, who has written a Hamsun-biography in a different manner. Finally a woman, who has taken on this task.

Hanna Eglinger (University of Munich): "'Actually it had started without a beginning': The conquest of land as the opening concept of Growth of the Soil. "The long, long path" as ambivalent introduction". My thoughts went to Knut Hamsun, what would he have said to the innumerable articles, lectures and themes all around "Growth of the Soil"? I guess, he would have been delighted with the abundance of ideas sprung from this source.

Even Arntzen (UiT): "Adaptations for the screen of Hamsun's novels". What a thrilling subject, into which Even gave us a fascinating preview.

Michael Schmidt (UiT): "Painting and Text: Oskar Kokoschka's Pan-illustrations". One just has to see these illustrations, they are unique and really make one's imagination wander.

Last night's dinner at the faculty for lecturer and participants. Over seafood and white wine we again had an enjoyable evening, again I had the sensation of being part of a large warm Hamsun family, all different persons, but with one thing in common: Our love for the fascinating and multi-facetted Knut Hamsun.

The website for the Hamsun-group at the University of Tromsø:

A heartfelt thanks to the organisers for an excellent event. Every time I go home with the feeling of having met skilled and dedicated people, who all join in to enlarge and deepen the image of Knut Hamsun. Many, many thanks to all!


© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen