Friday, April 23, 2010

Growth of the Soil

"The man comes, walking toward the north. he bears a sack, the first sack, carrying food and some few implements. A strong, coarse fellow, with a red iron beard, and little scars on face and hands; sites of old wounds - were they gained in toil or fight? Maybe the man has been in prison, and is looking for a place to hide; or a philosopher, maybe, in search of peace.

"Here and there, where the moors give place to a kindlier spot, an open space in the midst of the forest, he lays down the sack and goes exploring; after awhile he returns, heaves the sack to his shoulder again, and trudges on.

"The worst of his task had been to find the place; this no-man's place, but his. Now, there was work to fill his days.

"He had sought about for a woman to help each time he had been down to the village with his loads of bark, but there was none to be found.....And the man himself was no way charming or pleasant by his looks, far from it; and when he spoke it was no tenor with eyes to heaven, but a coarse voice, something like a beast's.

"Well, he would have to manage alone.

"Spring came; he worked on his patch of ground, and planted potatoes. his live stock multiplied...he made a bigger shed for them...and put a couple of glass panes in there too.

"And then at last came help; the woman he needed. She tacked about for a long time, this way and that across the hillside, before venturing near; it was evening before she could bring herself to come down.

"They went into the hut and took a bit of the food she had brought, and some of his goats' milk to drink; then theymade coffee, that she had brought with her in a bladder. Settled down comfortably over their coffee until bedtime. And in the night, he lay wanting her, and she was willing.

"She did not go away next morning; all that day she did not go, but helped about the place; milked the goats, and scoured pots and things with fine sand, and got them clean. She did not go away at all.

"Inger was her name. And Isak was his name."


Norwegian author Knut Hamsun was a Norwegian author praised by King Haakon VII of Norway as Norway's soul. In 1920, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his 1917 epic novel, Growth of the Soil.

Unfortunately, Hamsun was a devotee of the Nazi movement, both before World War II and even after Germany invaded Norway. In 1943, to show his devotion he mailed his Nobel medal to Joseph Goebbels, and even wrote an obituary for Hitler shortly after news of his death in a bunker in Berlin. After the war, Hamsun nearly stood trial for treason against Norway, but due to his mental state and advanced age, the charges were dropped.


Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun. Not offered for sale by Chewybooks as of April 23, 2010 (retained for personal collection)

1 comment:

museredux said...

thank you for this.

he's a case study, tangled up in zeitgeist! -- bio:
Knut Hamsun was born as Knud Pedersen in Lom,[4] Gudbrandsdal, Norway. He was the fourth son (seven children) of Peder Pedersen and Tora Olsdatter (Garmostrædet). When he was four, his family moved to Hamarøy in Nordland. The family was poor and an uncle had invited them to farm his land for him.

At age nine, he was separated from his family and lived with his uncle Hans Olsen, who needed help with the post office he ran. Olsen used to beat and starve his nephew, and Hamsun would later state that his chronic nervous difficulties were due to the way his uncle treated him. He saw his uncle as "the old colonial power, England", and himself as "young Germany, asking for Lebensraum".

In 1874, he finally escaped to Lom, Norway. In the next five years, he would pick up any job just for the sake of the money. That included being a store clerk, peddler, shoemaker's apprentice, an assistant to a sheriff, and an elementary school teacher. [5]

At 17, he became an apprentice to a ropemaker, and at about the same time he started to write. ...