Knut Pedersen Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111200552-Hamsun.jpg Knut Hamsun. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Born Knut Pedersen on August 4, 1859, Knut Hamsun (HAHM-suhn) was raised one hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle in a land that demanded much of its inhabitants. It was a barren, cruel, lonely environment, which Hamsun, paradoxically, loved so much that fully one-third of his fiction is set there, and all his works reflect the spirit of that forbidding landscape. Hamsun’s characters are solitary figures, cut off physically, financially, spiritually, or socially from the rest of humankind, and Hamsun’s world is a recalcitrant place, improved only by small increments and at great cost to the reformers. His portrayals of both people and places are living re-creations, accounts which even at their bleakest betray a basic optimism that relies on simple values, on humankind’s inevitable, unseverable connection to the land as a source of hope. This vision emerged slowly over the first thirty years of Hamsun’s career as a writer, which began in 1890 with the publication of Hunger, but by 1920, the year he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for Growth of the Soil, he was already recognized as a major European writer. Because the award accelerated the translation of his works into English and other languages, by 1940 his fiction was acclaimed worldwide.{$S[A]Pedersen, Knut;Hamsun, Knut}

Hamsun’s career can be divided into stages. The first, and perhaps the most important, is the earliest, lasting roughly from 1888 to 1898, or from the beginning of Hunger to the publication of Victoria. During this period Hamsun’s vision and his peculiar style grew to maturity. He established his characteristic themes of isolation and of the necessity for hard work, and he built an audience for himself in his native Scandinavia. During the second period, from 1898 to 1917 and the publication of Growth of the Soil, Hamsun’s outcast hero evolved into a wanderer who, instead of being shut out from society, retires from it, seeking peace in the countryside, away from the impersonality and materialism of the modern world. This new thrust softens Hamsun’s sense of isolation without actually compromising it. The novels are more optimistic, as Hamsun at least admits the possibility of a better life, hard though that life may be. Basically, Hamsun establishes himself as a social novelist who attacks industrialism and posits that only a return to the land will save humankind from destroying itself.

Hamsun shifted...

(The entire section is 1008 words.)