1920 : Knut Hamsun

1920 : Knut Hamsun

“for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil”

Born

:

August 4, 1859

Place of birth

:

Vaga, Gudbrandsdal–Norway

Died

:

February 19, 1952

Place of death

:

Grimstad, Norholm, Norway

Occupation

:

Author, Poet, Dramatist, Social critic

Nationality

:

Norwegian

Notable award(s)

:

Nobel Prize in Literature 1920

Biography:

After several disappointing attempts fiction (Bjorge, Man secret), Hamsun chooses exile in the United States. On his return he published a few chapters of her novel Sult (Hunger), which is published in full in 1890. This semi-autobiographical work describes the dark months of its narrator, wandering in the streets of Christiania, before it n’embarque on a boat and leaves the Norwegian capital. The criticism has long interpreted the novel as belonging to the naturalistic vein. But the hero of the novel is in no way a poor who can not earn enough money for food. This “hunger”, it causes it and cherishes it is his writing, his muse. The money he can receive newspapers to whom he proposed articles is very quickly dissipated by the narrator, often so altruistic. In many respects, this novel announces the writings of Franz Kafka and other writers of the twentieth century who write about madness and the condition of contemporary man. This book has become one of the most important literature of the twentieth century. The same year, he expressed his interest in psychology and madness in a critical text, entitled From the unconscious life of the soul, which is published in the Samtiden. Follow the novels and mysteries Pan, which will establish the reputation of the writer. At the crossroads of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Hamsun diversify its production and in turn publish collections of short stories, a story of his journey across Russia (In the land of fairy tales), several plays and a collection of poems (The Wild Choir). On 27 April 1907, he gives a lecture, in which he was already up against the tide of well-thinking ideology of his time, triggering great controversy. Published in 1912 in the Politiken, the conference Honor youth claims that youth should no respect for parents or elderly, which opinion will be highly charged thereafter, as soon close of Nazi ideas. With the diptych composed of Benoni and Rosa began the second vein of inspiration from Norwegian, socio-political. It would be worth the Nobel Prize for Literature, received in 1920 for Grode Marken (The awakening of the Glebe). At the same time, Hamsun publishes its two major trilogies of vagabond, one highlighting the character of Knut Pedersen (Under the star fall, a vagabond plays muted, the last joy), the other centered the character of August, the Marine affabulateur (Vagabonds, August seamen, but life goes on). Before ending his literary activities, he published a novel, Ringen Sluttet (The circle has closed), which narrates the adventures of Abel Brodersen indifference. His support for the pro-Nazi Vidkun Quisling, the Nasjonale Samling, during the Second World War, lasting tarnishes the reputation of this writer before adulated in his country. At the end of the war he was interned and his trial is continually rejected. In order not to be forced to try him for all these acts, the Norwegian institutions decide to consider it as “personality mental faculties weakened permanently, that the publication of his latest work, On the paths where grass regrowth , Where he recounts his adventures after the war, when tossed hospice in hospice, clearly contradicted. He was nevertheless sentenced in 1948 to pay a fine of 325 000 Norwegian kroner because of its collaboration with the Nazi regime.

Works:

Works in Norwegian:

  • Den Gaadefulde : en kj?rlighedshistorie fra Nordland. – Tromso : Urdal, 1877

  • Bjorger : fort?lling – Bodo : A. F. Knudsen, 1878

  • Fra det moderne Amerikas aandsliv – Kobenhavn : Philipsen, 1889

  • Lars Oftedal : udkast – Bergen : Mons Litlere, 1889

  • Sult – Kobenhavn : Philipsen, 1890

  • Mysterier – Copenhagen : Philipsen, 1892

  • Redaktor Lynge – Copenhagen : Philipsen, 1893

  • Ny Jord – Copenhagen : Philipsen, 1893

  • Pan : af Lojtnant Thomas Glahns Papirer – Copenhagen : Philipsen, 1894

  • Ved Rigets Port – Copenhagen : Philipsen, 1895

  • Livets Spil – Copenhagen : Det Nordiske Forlag, 1896

  • Siesta : skitser – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1897

  • Aftenrode : slutningsspil – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1898

  • Victoria : en k?rligheds historie – Christiania : Cammermeyer, 1898

  • Munken Vendt – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1902

  • I ?ventyrland : oplevet og dromt i Kaukasien – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1903

  • Dronning Tamara : skuespil i tre akter – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1903

  • Kratskog : Historier og Skitser – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1903

  • Det vilde Kor : digte – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1904

  • Sv?rmere – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1904

  • Stridende Liv : skildringer fra Vesten og Osten – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1905

  • Under Hoststj?rnen : en vandrers fort?lling – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1906

  • Benoni – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1908

  • Rosa : af student Parelius’ papirer – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1908

  • En vandrer spiller med sordin – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1909

  • Livet ivold : Sskuespil i fire akter – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1910

  • Den sidste gl?de : skildringer – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1912

  • Born av tiden – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1913

  • Segelfoss by – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1915

  • Markens Grode – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1917

  • Konerne ved vandposten – Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1920

  • Siste kapitel – Christiania : Gyldendal, 1923

  • Landstrykere – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1927

  • August – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1930

  • Men livet lever – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1933

  • Ringen sluttet – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1936

  • Artikler / i utvalg ved Francis Bull – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1939

  • Paa gjengrodde stier – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1949

  • Paa turne : tre foredrag om litteratur / utgitt ved Tore Hamsun – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1960

  • Livsfragmenter : ni noveller / samlet, redigert og kommentert av Lars Frode Larsen – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1988

  • Over havet : artikler, reisebrev / samlet, redigert og kommentert av Lars Frode Larsen – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1990

  • Knut Hamsuns brev / utgitt av Harald S. N?ss – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1994-2001 – 7 vol.

  • Hamsuns polemiske skrifter / i utvalg ved Gunvald Hermundstad – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1998

  • Samlede verker – 10. utg. – Oslo : Gyldendal, 2000 – 15 vol.

  • En flojte lod i mit blod : nye dikt / samlet, redigert og kommentert av Lars Frode Larsen – Oslo : Gyldendal, 2003

Translations into English:

  • Hunger / translated by George Egerton – London : Smithers, 1899

  • Shallow Soil / translated by Carl Christian Hyllested – New York : Scribners, 1914

  • Growth of the Soil / translated by W. W. Worster – London : Gyldendal, 1920

  • Pan / translated by W. W. Worster – London : Gyldendal, 1920

  • Wanderers / translated by W. W. Worster – New York : Knopf, 1922

  • Victoria : a love story / translated by Arthur G. Chater – London : Gyldendal, 1923

  • Children of the Age / translated by J. S. Scott – New York : Knopf, 1924

  • In the Grip of Life / translated by Graham Rawson and Tristan Rawson – New York : Knopf, 1924

  • Benoni / translated by Arthur G. Chater – New York : Knopf, 1925

  • Segelfoss Town / translated by J. S. Scott – New York : Knopf, 1925

  • Rosa / translated by Arthur G. Chater – New York : Knopf, 1926

  • Mysteries / translated by Arthur G. Chater – New York : Knopf, 1927

  • The Women at the Pump / translated by Arthur G. Chater – New York : Knopf, 1928

  • Chapter the Last / translated by Arthur G. Chater – New York : Knopf, 1929

  • Vagabonds / translated by Eugene Gay-Tifft – New York : Coward-McCann, 1930

  • August / translated by Eugene Gay-Tifft – New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1931

  • The Road Leads On / translated by Eugene Gay-Tifft – New York : Coward-McCann, 1934

  • The Ring Is Closed / translated by Eugene Gay-Tifft – New York : Coward-McCann, 1937

  • Look Back on Happiness / translated by Paula Wiking – New York : Coward-McCann, 1940

  • Pan / translated by James W. McFarlane – London : Artemis Press, 1955

  • Hunger / translated by Robert Bly ; introduction by Isaac Bashevis Singer – New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1967

  • On Over-grown Paths / translated by Carl L. Anders on. – New York : Paul S. Eriksson, 1967

  • The Cultural Life of Modern America / edited and translated by Barbara Morgridge – Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1969

  • Victoria : a love story / translated by Oliver Stallybrass – New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969

  • Mysteries / translated by Jerry Bothmer – New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971

  • The Wanderer / translated by Oliver Stallybrass and Gunnvor Stallybrass. – New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1975

  • The Women at the Pump / translated by Oliver Stallybrass and Gunnvor Stallybrass – New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1978

  • Wayfarers / translated by James W. McFarlane – New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980

  • Selected Letters / edited by Harald N?ss and James W. McFarlane – Norwich : Norvik Press, 1990-1998 – 2 vol.

  • Night Roamers and Other Stories / translated by Tiina Nunnally – Seattle : Fjord Press, 1992

  • Dreamers / translated by Tom Geddes – New York : New Directions, 1996

  • Hunger / translated by Sverre Lyngstad – Edinburgh : Rebel Inc, 1996

  • Rosa / translated by Sverre Lyngstad – Los Angeles : Sun & Moon Press, 1997

  • Tales of Love and Loss / translated by Robert Ferguson – London : Souvenir Press, 1997

  • Pan : from the Papers of Lieutenant Thomas Glahn / translated and edited by Sverre Lyngstad – New York : Penguin, 1998

  • On Overgrown Paths / translated by Sverre Lyngstad – Los Angeles : Green Integer, 1999

  • Mysteries / translated by Sverre Lyngstad – New York : Penguin, 2001

  • Knut Hamsun Remembers America : Essays and Stories, 1885-1949 / translated and edited by Richard Nelson Current – Columbia : University of Missouri Press, 2003

  • The Last Joy / translated by Sverre Lyngstad – Los Angeles : Green Integer, 2003

  • In Wonderland / translated by Sverre Lyngstad – Brooklyn, N.Y. : IG, 2004

  • Victoria / translated by Sverre Lyngstad – New York : Penguin, 2005

Literature (a selection):

  • Ostby, Arvid, Knut Hamsun : en bibliografi – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1972

  • Kittang, Atle, Luft, vind, ingenting : Hamsuns desillusjonsromanar fra Sult til Ringen sluttet – Oslo : Gyldendal, 1984

  • N?ss, Harald, Knut Hamsun. – Boston : Twayne, 1984

  • Ferguson, Robert, Enigma : the life of Knut Hamsun – London : Hutchinson, 1987

  • Humpal, Martin, The Roots of Modernist Narrative : Knut Hamsun’s Novels Hunger, Mysteries, and Pan. Oslo – Norway : Solum, 1998

  • Kolloen, Ingar Sletten, Enigma : the Life of Knut Hamsun – London : Hutchinson, 1987

  • Lyngstad, Sverre, Knut Hamsun, Novelist : a Critical Assessment – New York : Lang, 2005

Awards:

1920: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Harald Hjarne, Chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy, on December 10, 1920

In accordance with the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, the Swedish Academy has awarded the literary Prize for 1920 to the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun for his work, Markens Grode (1917) [Growth of the Soil].

It would be superfluous to give a detailed account of a book that in a short time has spread everywhere in its original form or in translation. Through the originality of its plot and style, it has aroused the liveliest interest in many countries and has found favourable reception with the most diverse groups of readers. Only recently a leading and distinctly conservative English reviewer wrote that this book, which had appeared in England only this year, was universally acclaimed as a masterpiece. The reasons for this incontestable success will no doubt hold the attention of literary critics for a long time, but even now, under the impact of first impressions, they deserve to be pointed out at least in their broad features.

In spite of current opinions of our time, those who want to find in literature above all a faithful reproduction of reality, will recognize in Markens Grode the representation of a life that forms the basis of existence and of the development of societies wherever men live and build. These descriptions are not distorted by any memories of a long, highly civilized past; their immediate effect is due to the evocation of the harsh struggle all active men must in the beginning endure (in varying external conditions, of course) against an indomitable and rebellious nature. It would be difficult to conceive of a more striking contrast with works usually called classic.

Nonetheless, this work may rightly be called classic, but in a deeper and more profound sense than usual if this epithet is to express something other and more than vague praise. The classic, in the culture we have inherited from antiquity, is less the perfect which calls for imitation than the significant which is taken directly from life and which is rendered in a form of enduring value even for future ages. The insignificant, that which in itself is of no consequence, cannot be comprehended in this notion any more than that which is formally provisional or defective. But apart from that, whatever is precious in human life, although it may appear common, can be placed in the same category as the extraordinary and the brilliant, with a significance and a form of equal value, once it is presented for the first time in its proper light. In this sense it is no exaggeration to maintain that in Markens Grode Hamsun has given to our times a classic that can be measured against the best we already have. Antiquity does not possess in this respect a monopoly inaccessible to future generations; for life is always new and inexhaustible and as such can always be presented in new forms created by new geniuses.

Hamsun’s work is an epic of labour to which the author has given monumental lines. It is not a question of disparate labour which divides men within and among themselves; it is a question of the concentrated toil which in its purest form shapes men entirely, which mollifies and brings together divided spirits, which protects and increases their fruits with a regular and uninterrupted progress. The labour of the pioneer and the first farmer with all its difficulties, under the poet’s pen, thus takes on the character of a heroic struggle that yields nothing to the grandeur of the manly sacrifice for one’s country and companions in arms. Just as the peasant poet Hesiod described the labours of the field, so Hamsun has put in the foreground of his work the ideal labourer who dedicates his whole life and all his powers to clearing the land and to triumphing over the obstacles with which men and the forces of nature confront him. If Hamsun has cast behind him all the weighty memories of civilization, he has by his own work contributed to a precise understanding of the new culture that our era expects to arise from the progress of physical labour as a continuation of ancient civilization.

Hamsun does not present so-called types on his stage. His heroes and heroines are all very much alive, all in quite modest circumstances. Certain among them, and the best, are unimaginative in their goals and thoughts, the principal example being the tireless and silent farmer himself. Others are drifting, troubled, and often even bewildered by egoistic aspirations and follies. They all carry the mark of their Norwegian origin; they are all conditioned in some manner by the fruits of the earth. It is one of the characteristics of our sister languages that often the same words express very different nuances of meaning by the images they evoke. When we Swedes speak of the fruits of the earth, we think immediately of something fertile, abundant, succulent, preferably in an agricultural region that has been cultivated for a long time. The thought of Hamsun’s book is not oriented in this direction. The earth here is the rugged and forbidding fallow soil. Its fruits do not fall from a cornucopia of abundance; they comprise all that can germinate and grow in this ungrateful soil, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, among men and animals as well as in the forest and the fields. Such are the kinds of fruits Hamsun’s work offers for our harvest.

However, we Swedes, or at least many Swedes, do not feel strange in the regions and circumstances described to us here. We rediscover the atmosphere of the North with all that is a part of its natural and social milieu, and with many parallels on both sides of the frontier. Moreover, Hamsun also presents Swedish characters who are drawn to the newly cultivated land, most of them no doubt attracted by the mirage of brilliant economic success, as the cities on the Norwegian coasts appear on the horizon like snares of the great worldly life enticing defenceless hearts from the heavy toil of the land.

These and other quite human projections, far from weakening, reinforce the impression produced by the classic content of the story. They dissipate the apprehension one could feel in seeing the light of the ideal at the expense of truth; they guarantee the sincerity of the design, the truth of the images and the characters. Their common humanity escapes no one. The proof is in the welcome this work has found among peoples of different mentalities, languages, and customs. Furthermore, through the light touch of smiling humour with which the author treats even the saddest things he relates, he has proved his own compassion for human destiny and human nature. But in the story, he never departs from the most complete artistic serenity. The style, stripped of vain ornaments, renders the reality of things with certainty and clarity, and one rediscovers in it, under a personal and powerful form, all the richness of nuance of the writer’s mother tongue.

Mr. Knut Hamsun – In facing the rigours of the season as well as the fatigues of a long trip particularly arduous at this time in order to come to receive the Prize awarded you, you have given great joy to the Swedish Academy, which will certainly be shared by all the persons present at this ceremony. In the name of the Academy, I have tried as well as possible in the short time accorded me to express at least some of the major reasons for which we appreciate so highly your work which has just been crowned. Thus, in addressing myself now to you personally, I do not wish to repeat what I have said. It remains for me only to congratulate you in the name of the Academy and to express the hope that the memories you will keep of your visit with us will be ties that will link you to us also in the future.

Book(s):

Hunger

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